Everything is coming up Rosé
Harvest season is nearly over now and it was dampened a bit by some worrisome days of rain over the last couple weeks. Overall, the buzz is that it should be an excellent year for many wines in this region, with a cooler summer which allowed for a longer growing season. This makes the grape sugars develop more slowly. The rain concerns the winemakers because the wetness, when mixed with warm weather and little wind, means that rot can set in and destroy the grapes. Some winemakers respond to heavy rains before harvest by having the grapes picked before they reach ideal sugar and ripeness levels, in hopes that they can avoid significant rot and save the crop. One of the ways that some winemakers work with slightly under-ripe grapes is to create rosé wines. With a rosé, you want the higher acidity levels that come from less ripe grapes, the tannins from the seeds and skins play a smaller factor and the acidity works to the winemaker’s advantage in that case.
I visited Scherrer Winery last week, after a day of pretty heavy rain, and Fred Scherrer was making a batch of rosé from whole clusters of syrah. Some of my favorite French rosé includes syrah grapes so I was excited to watch it being created first hand. Rosé is such a food-friendly wine, that I have found myself drinking more of it over the last couple years. It’s a great bottle to bring to a BYOB restaurant because its so versatile. Many dry rosé wines will have the acidity to work with salads and seafood, and enough body and tannin to pair with lighter meats and pastas.
Fred and the crew were loading the whole clusters of syrah into a balloon press when I got there. This press has an inflatable balloon inside that slowly expands to press the grapes gently and expel their juices into a catch basin below. The juices are then pulled into barrels where they are fermented like a white wine. This is called the direct method of making rose. Another method is to lightly crush the grapes in a vat intended for red wine and let them sit with the juices for a short period, somewhere around one to three days. Some of the juice is then bled off and fermented without contact with the skins. Fred had used a hybrid of these methods in processing some grenache earlier in the harvest. The grapes were foot-crushed and allowed to sit overnight before pressing them entirely. This allows more extraction from the skins for a little more color and flavor.
When the grapes are in the press, the juice runs into a trough underneath, as the grapes are gently squeezed. I must say, its a lovely site to watch the pink raindrops fall into their frothy maroon bath and through the hose into the vat for fermentation. They are then fermented like white wines in old barrels on their lees. These wines are consumed young and I know that Fred’s rose always sells out within a few months. I love the style of his rose, which is similar to a Loire rose, completely dry with moderate to high acidity and a delicate strawberry aromas. They are great with food and very refreshing on warm days.
For the day’s lunch, I made a very simple lunch out of the ingredients at the winery to make a Red Snapper Puttenesca. I used garden tomatoes, and olives, which were cured by Fred’s father, and they now sit in the kitchen in a beautiful large jar. I served the fish with diced and roasted potatoes, red peppers and rosemary.
Red Snapper Puttanesca
4 red snapper fillets, about 4 oz (125 g) each
1/2 cup AP flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
2 tablespoons of butter
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
4 large tomatoes, chopped and deseeded
15 Niçoise olives
2 tablespoons drained capers
1 tablespoon minced anchovies
1/4 cup (1/3 oz/10 g) chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup (1/3 oz/10g) chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
Sea Salt to taste
1. Start by making the sauce in a saucepan. Heat the olive oil and add the garlic. Saute until just lightly colored and fragrant. Add the tomatoes, olives, capers and anchovies and simmer for 10 minutes on low.
2. While the sauce simmers, dredge the snapper in flour and dust off any extra. Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet on medium-high and melt the butter. When skillet is hot, add the snapper and cook until lightly browned on each side, about 3-5 minutes per side, depending on the size of the fillets. You want to fillets to just start to flake. Remove from heat to platter and cover.
3. Add the fresh herbs and adjust the salt to taste, keeping in mind that the capers and olives add salt to each bite.
4. Spoon the sauce over the snapper and serve immediately.