The Northern hemisphere has rediscovered summer’s heat. Now armed with Waring Pro’s vaguely accurate wine chiller (my review), the world of colder wines unfurls before me.
Never on the cutting edge, I heed the last few years’ “Rethink Pink” advertisements. Rosé beckons a redrink.
But a wine’s color carries more gendered baggage than Paris Hilton’s valet. We construct feminine and masculine from birth: painting walls, buying bedding, color-coding clothing to ensure that baby fits into its normative, sexually dimorphic role. We tint adulthood as well. Walk down any clothing, book or wine isle. Pink is for girls. Blue, or with wine, red, is for boys. Wine descriptions and labels are equally laden with tropes divided male (muscular, bold, aggressive) and female (delicate, vivacious, alluring): all in order to align with years of identity programming and wallet opening.
Ever since Sutter Home first turned a purported failure into profit, “white” zinfandel (neither white, hardly zin) not only cornered but fossilized the female wine market in America.
For some, white zin was an entry into wine. Fine. For most, it became a dead end. Their identity was constructed upon it: “I’m a white zinfandel person” and nothing else would pass their lips. Today, pink still means sweet, light, fruity and feminine.
But pink is just a color.
It wasn’t even a word until the 17th century. It wasn’t even female in the US until the 1940s, before which it meant male. In Japan it symbolized fallen samurai (and softcore porn). The Chinese didn’t even have a word for pink (fěn hóng means “powder red”) until Western contact. Even then, they called it the “foreign color”.
So shed your color spectrum segregation and embrace wine in all its hues.
This week: Bandol.
East of Marseille, at the start of the French Riviera, the commune of Bandol holds fast to one grape: mourvèdre. Phoenicians colonized Spain, bringing the grape West around 500 BCE. It jet-setted west along the French coast during the 16th century. After three hundred years of deliciousness, the phylloxera aphid not only wiped out most French vines, but also killed French faith in mourvèdre: except in Bandol.
Mourvèdre ripens late, needy for long summers. Bandol’s coastal warmth makes it a perfect home. Half the wine must consist of it to print Bandol AOC on a label. Mourvèdre is thick skinned, thus often tannic, weighty, alcoholic, and blended to counterpoint the fruit of grenache. Bandol’s low soil fertility means low yields, which means high concentration. Huge, leathery, grippy reds with spice and barnyard are Bandol’s calling card.
Yet before they finish the red, most winemakers -like Michael and Louis Bronzo at Domain la Bastide Blanche– use the saignée method. Skin-contact colors wine. Blending white for pinkness’ sake is frowned upon (bad white zin! down boy!). So after twenty four hours of maceration, tinted juice is “bled” or siphoned into a separate tank, while the concentrated red keeps along it’s merry, darkening way with the skins. This pink product is released early (four to 10 months), ready to drink, and buy barrels for their red’s two years of aging.
But 2010’s Bastide Blanche is no pale reflection. It’s copper clarity glimmers. It’s nose rings with red fruits, wild strawberry, grapefruit. Behind these lurk bell pepper and roasted mushroom (classic Bandol brett.). Waves of tart strawberry, vanilla, ginger, spice, bell pepper and sea salt roll across the palate. Fruit dominates, but there is so much more in this sea.
Bastide Blanche offers a cheap ticket to the coast of Provence. Let the warm, relaxed tide draw you deeper to sea. Here, pink means neither sweet, light nor simple. Like most, this French rosé is reliably dry, medium bodied and food ready. Dip your feet, and summer’s heat will fade off. Dive in, and forget yourself. Forget your prejudice and assumptions about color. Redrink pink with an open mind and open glass .
terroir-france on Bandol