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Ask a Somm: What Kind of Wine Pairs Well With Easter Brunch?

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It's the unofficial start of rosé season

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On a nightly basis, one will find Maz Naba considering American and European reds, whites, and rosés to pair beside chef Nicolas Delaroque’s fresh French cuisine at Nico in San Francisco. And with Easter approaching, Naba suggests a seasonally-appropriate pairing: rosé.

Q: What kind of wine should I drink with Easter brunch?

Easter is probably the single most specific holiday that screams rosé! It's around this holiday that producers and wineries typically release their current vintagesso we'll begin to see 2015 rosé available in restaurants and wine shops fairly soon. Easter brunch is rich with foods and tastes that signify the start of spring. From sweet to savory dishes, rosé is an extremely versatile and perfect pairing to help bridge the spectrum in flavors.

There are two specific styles of rosé: vin gris and saignée (French for bleed). Vin gris wines are made from the immediate pressing of red skin grapes without any maceration time—or, as many call it, direct to press. This creates a lighter style wine with grapes grown specifically for this production, and characteristically vin gris is looked upon as a higher quality wine of the two styles.

Easter is probably the single most specific holiday that screams rosé!

Rosé made in the saignée method is perceived and understood as a byproduct of producing red wine. As red grapes macerate during the production of red wine, some of the juice is "bled" off to allow for a more delicate or refined wine style. This juice is subsequently either used to top off barrels during élevage (wine maturation), or it's fermented separately to make a deeper and darker style rosé.

As the popularity of rosé has risen and developed past the days of white zinfandel, many winemakers are beginning to successfully experiment with and produce both styles. Below are some of my favorites.

Rosés to Drink With Easter Brunch:

  • Clos Beylesse, Côtes de Provence, France, 2015 ($25): Made from a blend of syrah, cinsault, and grenache, this wine is a knockout! From the cobalt blue bottle (protects the wine from UV light), to its high content of cinsaultwhich offers a highly aromatic bouquet reminiscent of wild mountain flowersthis wine can be opened at any time of the day or for a special occasion. Pair it with cured seafood such as salmon, or lox, or egg dishes like a quiche. Lighter poultry and game dishes like grilled chicken, glazed quail, or roast rabbit are phenomenal with this wine, too.
  • Lieu Dit, Pinot Noir Rosé, Santa Ynez Valley, California, 2015 ($25): Made from all pinot noir fruit in the Santa Ynez Valley, this wine is very French in style. Aromas of fresh picked strawberries and juicy watermelon rind make this a great selection as an aperitif, or with dishes revolving around fresh fruits, including tarts.
  • Andre Clouet Brut Rosé, Grand Cru, Ambonnay, Champagne, NV ($50): Made from 100 percent pinot noir, this Champagne is stellar. It is both delicate and structured, with plenty of bright red fruit flavors along sweetened brioche. Open this for the sheer joy of celebration and pair with seafood platters that contain oysters, shrimp cocktail, and lobster. Or try it with sweet dishes, such as cross buns, glazed pastries, and Bundt cakes.
  • Antica Terra Angelicall, Pinot Noir Rosé, Dundee Hills, Oregon, 2013 ($80): This wine, made by Maggie Harrison, is atypical in production, as it lands somewhere between a saignée and vin gris approach, and additionally is released with some age. It's vin gris in style, as the fruit is picked specifically for the wine, yet saignée as in the grapes are macerated for an extended period. The fruit is macerated for a little over a week, and just before it becomes a red wine, the juice is siphoned off where it finishes fermentation. The result is an astonishingly floral, aromatic, and fruity pinot noir rosé. Expect notes of rose petal, violets, and preserved red fruits. This wine is deeper in color, and pairs perfectly with honeyed hams and heartier roasts.

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