Is White Zinfandel a Rosé? And More on Rosé | Wine Enthusiast Podcast
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Wine Enthusiast Podcast: Is White Zinfandel a Rosé? And More Rosé Questions Answered

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What is rosé? Where did it come from? How is it produced and why is the trendy category not dying down? I sat down with Katherine Cole to discuss the diverse category.

Cole is a wine writer, executive producer and host of the James Beard Foundation Award-winning podcast, “The Four Top,” and author of five books including Rosé All Day: The Essential Guide to Your New Favorite Wine.

Together, Topps and Cole explore the category’s aristocratic history, how the pink stuff is produced, why every season is rosé season and the under-the-radar regions that are producing high-quality bottles.

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Episode Transcript

Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting.

Speakers: Katherine Cole, Jacy Topps

Jacy Topps  00:08

Hello, and welcome to the Wine Enthusiast podcast. You’re serving them drinks culture, and the people who drive it. I’m Jacy Topps. This week we’re diving into rose wine. What is Rose? Where did it come from? How was it produced? And why is the trendy category not dying down? I sat down with Katherine Cole to discuss the diverse category.

Jacy Topps  00:32

Katherine is a wine writer, executive producer and host of the James Beard award winning podcast for top and author of the book Rose All Day: The Essential Guide to Your New Favorite Wine. So listen on as we explore Rose’s aristocratic history, how the pink juice is produced. Why every season is really rose a season and the under the radar regions that are producing high quality bottles.

Jacy Topps  01:05

Every glass of wine tells a story. These stories reveal a hidden histories, flavors and passions. And sometimes they unravel our darkest desires. In Wine Enthusiast newest podcast Vinfamous Journalist Ashley Smith dissects the underbelly of the wine world. We hear from the people who know what it means when the products of love and care become the source of greed, arson, and even murder. Each episode takes listeners into the mysterious and historic world of winemaking and the crimes that have since become Vinfamous. This podcast pairs well with wine lovers, history nerds and crime junkies alike. So grab a glass of your favorite wine and follow the podcast to join us as we delve into the twists and turns behind the all time most shocking wine crimes. Follow Vinfamous on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you listen and be sure to follow the show so you never miss a scandal. New episodes drop every other Wednesday.

Jacy Topps  02:16

Hi, I’m Jacy Topps. This week, we’re diving into one of my favorite categories Rose. My guest is Katherine Cole. Katherine is a former wine columnist and author of five books on wine including Rose All Day. She’s also the creator, executive producer and host of the four top a podcast that has won both a James Beard and IACP award. Welcome Katherine. I’m so happy to have you today.

Katherine Cole  02:43

Thanks for having me, Jacy, I can’t wait to catch up with you.

Jacy Topps  02:47

So this is my like third time interviewing another podcast host. So for some reason that really excites me. I don’t know why. Okay, so how did you get into wine? Tell us your wine journey.

Katherine Cole  03:01

Um, you know, I just realized recently that I think I got into wine because my I come from a beer family. My mother’s family back in Montana way, way, way back, owned a brewery. And this is before beer was nationalized. This brewery was called Highlander. And the brand has been revived recently, but but my family owned a brewery called Highlander way back when and people your great grandparents age will remember Highlander beer. And so that was always part of my life. And then my father, when I was growing up, helps the founders of a little brewery called Red Hook ale get started. And so he had this Red Hook varsity jacket. And this would kind of everything kind of came full circle, because between Highlander shutting down and red oak opening, it had just been sort of just cheap national brands like Budweiser and red hooks sort of marked the beginning of the craft beer movement. And I also grew up in Seattle, so my parents knew people who, you know, they they had a friend, Gordon Goucher, who was roasting coffee beans, and he had this little shop called Starbucks where he roasted his coffee beans. So it was just I grew up in this kind of world where there was beverage everywhere. Every weekend, every evening, there would be a beverage on the table, and we would just talk about it. And even as a kid I would taste whatever was on the table. So when I got into journalism, it just seemed like a natural fit. And I’m kind of a nerd as we all are, I know you are to Jacy. So I just gravitated toward wine because there are just so many stories to tell. There’s so many interesting paths to follow intellectually.

Jacy Topps  04:45

I love that story. And I actually didn’t know that about you.

Katherine Cole  04:49

i Well, I’m gluten I am gluten intolerant. I am a celiac person. So the funny thing is I really can’t drink

Jacy Topps  04:59

Anyway, so of course, wine. Yeah, yeah. And you’ve written a lot of books. Why did you want to write about Rose?

Katherine Cole  05:11

Um, well, back in 2015, I was lucky enough, I have to say, I’ve never made much of any book. But I have been lucky enough in that I’ve never had to have an agent or to pitch a book because typically publishers came to me. So I was very lucky in that Michael Jacobs, the publisher at Abrams books in New York, met with me and said, Hey, you should write a white book for us. And we started talking and choosing ideas back and forth. And he connected me with my wonderful editor, Laura Dozier. And we realized kind of I mean, I hope this was my idea. But we realized also collectively that no books had been written in the English language about Rose. And I love Rose. And I know there’s a long history to Rose and no one takes it seriously. So let’s do it. And then, of course, the moment the book came out two other books about Rosae came out at the same time, but at the time, I felt like I was, I felt like I was, you know, treading treading new ground.

Jacy Topps  06:10

You were ahead of the curve.

Katherine Cole  06:12

I thought so. Apparently.

Jacy Topps  06:16

Well, okay, so you are a history buff. Basically, for any listeners who don’t aren’t familiar with Rosae? What is Rosae? And what’s a little bit of the history behind it?

Katherine Cole  06:29

Please shut me up. If I talk too much. This is the part that gets gets me really excited because everyone thinks Rosae is a new thing. And resume may be the oldest style of wine in the world. Rosette, what is it, it’s really, it’s a kind of a loose definition. Anything, any wine that looks somewhat pink can be called a Rosae. And the interesting thing is there are many different ways to get that color. Thanks to the work of the archaeologist Patrick McGovern at the University of Pennsylvania. We know that Paleolithic humans knew how to make a very rudimentary wine. And according to my conversations with him, those rudimentary wines that the Paleolithic humans made very well may have been pink. And if we look at indigenous grape varieties, very much like heirloom apples or heirloom tomatoes, the skins tend not to be like dark purple, or yellow or green, they tend to be something in between kind of that modelled color. If you think of a gala, Apple, that kind of thing. So it’s it’s very, very likely the world’s earliest wines were pink. And in fact, many of the winemaking methods that are very modern, are the only reason we have white wine and red wine as we know it today. Oh, wow. I mean, if you think about it, it takes, it takes a fair amount of technology to you know, not not with all grapes. But with many grapes. winemakers work very hard to get the pigment out of the skins. So without all that technology, just a quick maturation, you’re gonna get a pink wine. So historically, actually, the finest wines were rose A’s. And moving forward, I could I could bore you with stories about the classical era, ancient Rome, ancient Greece, rosy wines. But I will fast forward to Bordeaux because I find this particularly interesting. We think of this term claret, like the English term for Bordeaux wine. Well, that means clear. So the finest wines of Bordeaux were the clear wines for centuries, only with the French Revolution to this change. So it used to be that throughout Europe, the grapes in a vineyard were a field blend, which means a blend of red and white grapes, just kind of a haphazard random assortment of grapes, some were very ripe, and some were not ripe at all at harvest. So if you let the Jews sit on the skins, and of course they didn’t have D stemming devices back then. So if you let the Jews sit on the skins and the stems for too long, the wine would be very bitter. So the, you know, the royalty, the aristocracy, they would get the fresh young wines that were pink. And then as you went kind of down the food chain in terms of income, the peasants and the poor folks would get the wines that had masqueraded for a long time. And so we have examples in the literature. I love that historian rod Phillips on this subject about the pale wines being for the aristocrats and the dark wines being for the rough peasants. And this changed with the French Revolution, of course, but until then, it was really that the best wines in Europe were pink.

Jacy Topps  09:44

Wow, that is so fascinating. I mean, I’m sure a lot of people’s minds are blown right now.

Katherine Cole  09:51

Yeah, I mean, like so into Val to T A VL is one of the kind of famous Rose focused Appalachians, it’s in the goat drone. And I’m trying to remember which King it was. I think it was Louie the 15th, who issued a royal edict in 1737. And he said only the ones of Tavel could stamp CDR meaning Cote de Roan on their labels, because to Val made these beautiful pink wines, and he said, the whites and reds from the rest of the coat drone were just not not as good as the pinks of Seville. So only to Val could stamp coat around on their barrels. So just everything’s turned upside down. Right.

Jacy Topps  10:37

Right. I mean, in like, didn’t isn’t Novell, like the only place where it’s the only produce Rosae now?

Katherine Cole  10:45

Well, you know, that’s subject to debate because you and I met in Bardolino on Lago di Garda, northern Italy. That was a very fun trip. And, you know, they have an appellation called Kira, though which interestingly, so many Rosae terms come back to this term, Claire a key though is the Italian for Clara a clear wine, same as clarity, same as claret de in Spain. But, you know, there are Appalachians like Kira, though, where there are other wines from that region, but the appellation only refers to pink wines. So it’s yeah, it’s you can dive down a deep rabbit hole in terms of nomenclature. Gotcha.

Jacy Topps  11:32

So let’s fast forward, like wave like, to the future to the 80s and the 90s. Yeah, is white zinfandel a rosette?

Katherine Cole  11:43

Sure, yeah. White Zinfandel is certainly a Rose. Yeah, it came from Sutter Home winery in St. Halina, California, Bob Trinchero was trying to make his red Zinfandel richer and redder in the early 1970s. And so he was he did what’s called bleeding off some juice to allow the proportion of, of juice to skins to be lower. And if that makes, I probably explained that wrong. But if you imagine a smaller cup of tea is going to get more color from the tea bag, right? So if you pour off some of that liquid in the beginning, then what’s left gets that darker color. So this is one of the many methods you can use to make Rosae. And so he had this pink juice, and he said, Well, why don’t I just ferment it. And then he thoughtlessly, at the time, added some juice to this fermenting tank and stopped the fermentation. So it was kind of sweet, and it was pink. And he didn’t know what to do with it. And he bottled it. And it turned out to be the most popular wine in the United States.

Jacy Topps  12:53

Yeah, because I feel like this was the introduction to Rosae as far as the United States, is that safe?

Katherine Cole  13:00

Yeah. Yeah, I mean, it was around there during World War Two and after World War Two there, there was two Portuguese wines that were very popular also a little bit sweet and, and kind of silly. Lancers and Matusow both from Portugal. So yeah, Rosie was very, very popular, but it got to be too popular and it wasn’t made in a an intentional way. It was made in a way to be just kind of mass produced and a lot of people enjoyed it. But because first there was Lancers and Matusow and then set her home white zin, America, an American audience thought oh, Rosie is cheap Rosie is not a good one. When in fact, historically, there are these amazing Rosae wines that are long lived and, and have fascinating stories. And we just kind of had this cultural issue where we didn’t get it. I also want to add, when I was a little little kid, there were these commercials on TV for riuniti which was a type of Lambrusco from Italy. That was there was definitely a very popular pink version. And it was riuniti. Nice. So nice was the advertisement.

Jacy Topps  14:05

And we have a piece about that and our next issue.

Katherine Cole  14:13

Yeah, like the I love you too, because those old advertisements just live on. So yeah, that’s what Americans thought oh, pink wine. riuniti Matusow Lancers, and set her home Watson Oh, I don’t like pink wine. But we had we just didn’t have the full story.

Jacy Topps  14:29

Right? Definitely. So let’s talk about styles. You mentioned a song a method, right, which is the bleeding method. And there’s another method I feel like a lot of people aren’t familiar with as well. That’s the the gentle press.

Katherine Cole  14:46

Yeah, so this is used in shit. You know? One of the first things we all learn when we become Wine Enthusiast is that Champagne is actually made from mostly from black grapes Pinot Noir. and it’s just the juice if the grapes are pressed very, very gently or not at all, the flesh of of most grapes is pale is white. So you can take a red grape and you can make a white wine or you can make a pink wine. And so one of the styles for grapes with more pigment one of the styles is to just use the free run juice, which means you don’t even press the grapes at all you just let them sit in the press and juice starts to flow out just from gravity and the weight of the grapes. And I love it in Italy in Spain, they call it wine from tears like in Spain, they call it vino de la Grima. It’s like, oh my gosh. That sounds like a poem or a song, right anyway. But yeah, so that’s one way to do it. That’s where, in Provence and some of these better known regions. Typically, it’s a gentle press of first press of free run juice that that becomes Rosae. And then in regions like the Willamette Valley, where I’m from, we’re starting to do more of that. But really, traditionally, our roses were sun, yay, which is that method I mentioned earlier, because here in the Willamette Valley, we often have trouble getting our Pinot Noir to be dark enough because we have kind of cold growing seasons. And Pinot Noir is a thin skinned grape so we often get some yeas here and in Provence where Rosae is a big deal. It’s a Sunday a Rosae is a no no. But here, it’s it’s okay, because it’s what we’re dealing with so.

Jacy Topps  16:35

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Katherine Cole  17:24

Yes. And actually, you know, getting back to the other methods of making a rose a you can actually make a rose out of white grapes. Because I consider orange wine to be a rose a and many of the grapes we think of as white like Pinot GRI aka Pinot Grigio actually have what they call gray skins, which actually means they’re the skins are kind of Pinky lavender. So if you just let a Pinot grey masquerade on the skins, then it’s a pink wine. And in France, they have a term for this, they call it green degree, which is a grey wine from grey grapes of a glow. Fascinating. Yeah. So the other thing is, it’s sort of frowned upon to actually blend red and white wine to make a pink. But the funny thing is, the one place that does it is champagne, which is so snooty. And yet they add still red Pinot Noir at the end, to make pink champagne. They also do a mass aerated champagne style, which confusingly is called Sunday, even though the term is used in a different way. And then another very, very common way of making a pink wine that’s very historic. Going back to that story I was telling earlier about Bordeaux is going back to kind of the field blend days is just co masquerading red and white grapes. You see that a lot in Provence in Spain. You see it a lot in the Rhone. So that is another way of getting there. So I love Rosae because it’s this all encompassing category, but there are like 12 different ways to make it and get to that end result.

Jacy Topps  18:58

Exactly. I mean, Rose is so versatile. I remember before I was actually staffed with Wine Enthusiast, I wrote this piece for Wine Enthusiast about pairing different styles of Rosae with different cuts of steak. Now of course they’re going viral. Yeah, people are like what, you know, and then other people like yes, absolutely. Because I think what you said earlier about, it’s not really taken seriously, it’s just people just think that it’s just a sipping drink, which of course you can just there are tons of styles where it’s very easy sipping, but also there are different styles where you can pair with heavier types of foods depending on preparation and herbs and all that so I mean Rosae is very versatile.

Katherine Cole  19:50

Oh yeah. And I mean, I don’t even eat steak anymore. These days. I’m more of a pescatarian slash vegetarian, but I never understand why If people think they need to pair rich wines with rich foods, I love the way it Rosae just kind of cuts through with that bright fresh fruit and that acidity it just cuts through a heavy food and just every every sip refreshes your palate. So you can have another bite of that heavy food.

Jacy Topps  20:17

Exactly. I mean, they’re sparkling rose A’s. I mean, there’s so many different types of Rose A’s that can pair well with anything. Also that you could just hanging by the pool and sip, but it’s also I kind of want to go on the record to say that Rosae is not just a spring summer wine. It is year round, correct?

Katherine Cole  20:38

Oh, absolutely. In fact, it’s too bad. We’re not on video right now because I brought up some examples. I have 2009 Lopez to edit dia Rio has Rosae and I believe 2009 is the current vintage of this wine. This is a long lived wine that you definitely would want to drink in the winter. I have a chateau Seimone from pallette, which is a little mini appellation of its own in Provence. Similar just this is a wine that you could drink in the depths of winter by a roaring fire. And same thing for close the bone. The T Balraj. Clue class say this is a historic indigenous grape variety. It’s a wonderful wine that has kind of sherried notes due to some interesting kind of oxidative winemaking and some wonderful yeast that grows on the top of the casks. They call it the floor it. So yeah, these are really really complex wines, they can stay in your cellar for decades and still be delicious and get better and better over time. And you can enjoy them all year round, for sure. And in fact, I’d rather drink them than most red wines these days. I hate to admit it, but I am that person who gets headaches from red wine, I did not think it was possible. And now I’m that person. So I’m so glad that I am a Rosae lover because I still get my, my tannic fix a little bit of it anyway.

Jacy Topps  22:04

Well, I’m glad you brought up a bunch of different styles of Jose because I want to talk about basically under the radar regions, you know, like, obviously, we all love Provence, and I love Provence I was just named and the new reviewer for Provence for Wine Enthusiast. So I will be doing exciting today. And I’m excited about that. But there was a case from so many other winemaking regions. And I kind of want to talk about those. What are your favorites?

Katherine Cole  22:36

Yeah, and I hate to do this, but I feel like when people ask me about rosacea and how they want to explore Rosae, I usually steer them away from Provence because it has been so I mean, it almost to its own detriment, it has gotten too popular and it’s kind of become commercialized, and the prices have gone up. And the other thing that sort of irritating to me as someone who supports sustainability initiatives is the bottles have gotten bigger and bigger and heavier and heavier as it’s become more of kind of a prestige wine. And so and it’s just become, you know, they’re always amazing, beautiful wines from Provence, but I do find overall results from Provence to be a little less interesting because they’ve gotten a little too much attention. So I definitely steer people toward other regions. There are so many wonderful historic Rosae styles in Europe to explore. Famously from Switzerland, there’s an appellation called New Chatel, that’s known for its blade to pedigree, and that’s spelled P E R. D. Rix and that’s I have the partridge and in fact, there are many, many historic Rosae styles that are either called I have the partridge or I have the rooster. Which is kind of crazy. And the funny thing is, that can be two different colors because as I was researching the book, I started looking at Partridge eyes and rooster eyes, and they tend to have like, dark pink eyelids and kind of golden pink eyes. And so you hear this term or you see this term in different countries in different regions used in different ways. But that’s a really fun one. Let me think there you know, throughout the lower valley and burgundy you find all sorts of interesting rose A’s. Gosh, Italy has so many wonderful historic Rosae is a brute so has has a style called Jetta swallow. And it is the Montepulciano grape only it’s kind of the fresh young version. And there’s a famous producer Valentini that makes one that you know, you have to kind of basically win the lottery to be able to taste it Yeah. They’re just so many interesting ones.

Jacy Topps  24:52

In your we were talking about and Bardolino

Katherine Cole  24:55

Yes. Oh, I love those. I love those cute at those from Barbara Martin. Tierra de I guess we should say from Barbara Leno. And then also there’s a different style of Kira, though from the other side of Lego to get into. And they also use that term and that’s from the Lombardi side, not the the Veneto side. So it’s just really fun to kind of dig deep. Honestly, I think you can dig deep into any historic European wine region and find it interesting. Rosae Let’s see, oh, one of my favorites, for a long time was domain W E. It’s just a Pinot green that’s fermented on the skins and this is from the Eastern laoire. But yeah, also other parts of the world. I know they’re really interesting. Rosae is coming out of Chile one that’s really, really fun is Miguel Torres has done a wonderful job. Do you know the sparkling wine as the lotto?

Jacy Topps  25:47

Yeah, yes, yes. Yes.

Katherine Cole  25:49

So they may win.

Jacy Topps  25:52


Katherine Cole  25:53

Yes, kind of revitalize this kind of village grape that people weren’t subsistence farmers were just kind of growing in their backyards. And Miguel Torres went around and said, hey, we’ll buy your grapes. We want to do something with these and kind of created a new economy for countryside farmers in Chile. And they’re typically farming these grapes organically dry farming them not not irrigating and this is a Fairtrade certified wine. It’s sparkling. It’s yummy. It’s affordable. Lots of fun things out there.

Jacy Topps  26:23

We can talk all day about Rosie. It’s so much. Yeah, so I just have one final question for you though. Yeah, you’re not drinking Rosae what is in your glass? What are you drinking?

Katherine Cole  26:40

Um, well, I love champagne. A lot. I just saw my friends Dan and Jean of corollary wines here at the Willamette Valley and I love their sparkling wines. They are making a Rosae out of carbonic maceration grapes, which is something that oh gosh, I’m forgetting the name of the one winery and champagne that does this. They’re like the only people in the world making a carbonic traditional method sparkling. And then my friend Andy Lytle, at ladle Barnett is making amazing Willamette Valley sparkling so probably champagne or Willamette Valley sparkling. And then of course, you and I are talking as the weather’s warming up so I got a shout out to my local lady gin producers at Freeland spirits here in Portland. I do love gin as well. So how about Yeah, what are you drinking this time of year?

Jacy Topps  27:41

Oh, this time of year. I’m drinking. I am drinking rosacea. Yeah. What I’m drinking a lot of Pinot Noir as well. Definitely. West Coast Pinot Noir. So I am having fun with that. And you know, it’s kind of it’s just now nice in New York. So I love peanut Gree. And I love champagne as well. So it’s gonna be a great spring summer. I’m looking forward to all the lines.

Katherine Cole  28:13

We’ll come on out to Oregon. We got lots of lots of Pinot Noir, lots of Pinot Gree and lots of sparkling wine. So

Jacy Topps  28:19

ABS already. Catherine, thank you so much for joining us. It’s been such a pleasure.

Katherine Cole  28:26

Thanks for getting in touch Jacy it was good to catch up.

Jacy Topps  28:33

The roads a trend and then us peaked in 2018. But that doesn’t mean rosacea or going out of style. In fact, it’s just the opposite. And as consumers are learning more about its history, its various styles and versatility. Its popularity is only going to continue to grow. So go ahead and rosy all day. If you liked today’s episode, we’d love to read your reviews and hear what you think. And hey, why not tell your wine loving friends to check us out to remember, you can subscribe to this podcast on Apple, Google, Spotify, and anywhere else you listen to podcasts. You can also go to wine backslash podcast. For more episodes and transcripts. I’m Jacy Topps. Thanks for listening.