Have you heard? It’s rosé season!
Of course you’ve heard. It’s what every sandwich board outside every wine and liquor store within a five-mile radius of my apartment (and yours) says. As soon as the temperature hits 70ish and the sun starts looking like it might stick around for a while, we are to drink nothing but pale pink wine.
There is nothing wrong with drinking rosé; I’m not here to tell you not to drink rosé. I drink plenty of rosé. And if there’s any “rule” for drinking that’s worth following, it’s this, and only this: Drink what you like. (Better yet, drink what you love).
I’ve come to prefer my wine the way I prefer my produce: as natural and free of chemicals and additives as possible.
But the next time you uncork or unscrew a bottle of rosé, pour some of that liquid into a glass, and take a sip, I encourage you to pause for a moment and consider: Do I really like this? Is it delicious? Is it giving me pleasure? And: Am I comfortable with how it was produced?
Because if you’re like me, you’re at a point in your life at which drinking is not a good enough reason in itself for … drinking. As my metabolism and constitution have slowed down with age, I have no choice but to drink less than I once did.
But I do have the choice to drink better. And this means not only paying attention to the way a wine tastes — although our palates will always have the most say when it comes to what we do or do not like to drink — but also how it was made, and by whom.
I’ve spent a good portion of the last year working on a book called “Becoming a Sommelier,” and the greatest pleasure of the project was that it meant I got to sit down and talk for hours and hours with a couple of experts in the field. Neither of them embodies, in the least, the snobbish, supercilious caricature of the profession that often comes to mind. And although the two genial professionals featured in the book are very different people — in background, age, gender and sensibility — they both reminded me powerfully of one vital fact: Wine is an agricultural production. Wine, arguably, is food.
That may seem obvious, but I needed to hear it. And maybe you do, too.
I’ve paid close attention, for much of my life, to where my food comes from. When I started eating meat again (after almost a decade as a vegetarian) I wanted to know exactly where it came from, and under what conditions. For years, my major sources of produce have been local farmer’s markets and a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program that serves my neighborhood, in which members share both the joys and the risks of small, local farming with the people who work the land.
This doesn’t mean that I’m perfectly pious about it. If you’re kind enough to invite me over to dinner at your house, I am not going to grill you about whatever you put on the grill. Out to lunch at a nice restaurant, I won’t pull a “Portlandia” and demand that my server tell me my chicken’s name and provenance.
And this is how I’ve come to feel about wine, too. I don’t live a life that allows for absolute inflexibility. But when it’s up to me to get the goods, I’ve come to prefer my wine the way I prefer my produce: as natural and free of chemicals and additives as possible.
One way I do this is by buying so-called natural wine — which is basically wine made the way that most all wine used to be made, up until about 70 years ago, without chemical and industrial interventions. In the rosé category, there are plenty of possibilities. And if “natural wine” sounds expensive, some of my favorite bottles come in under $20.
And if that still sounds pricey, I wholeheartedly endorse ignoring the snobs and making a bottle last even longer by serving spritzers: a couple of ounces of wine, as little or as much club soda or seltzer as you like, a twist of orange.
I feel better drinking wine the natural way, when possible. But again, I always allow for exceptions, especially in summertime: As I said, drink what you love. And there’s no need to stick to rosé, either, or even to wine. Go ahead and have a gin and tonic, when you really want one. Don’t listen to anyone else’s rules, and especially not ones written in chalk.