Today, I’m recommending that you drink a glass of bull’s blood, and when the men in white coats show up to haul me off, remind me to ask them to explain ‘head cheese’ before we go.
Bodega Torres, the Penedés superproducer who dominates the Denominació d’Origen in Catalonia, Spain, calls its flagship wine Sangre de Toro—Spanish, of course, for bull’s blood—a reference to the wine’s striking fresh hemoglobin hue tinged with a bit of oxygenated, decaying hemoglobin ochre.
Hungary’s Egri Bikavér has the same hot-blooded derivation. Head cheese, which is actually head meat, is not spun away so prettily.
Sangre de Toro is primarily garnacha, a grape which thrives in the Mediterranean climate of northeast Spain and equally, in southern France where it makes up the lion’s share of the sanctified Rhône blockbuster Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
It also has certain physical characteristics that make it ideal for producing rosé wines, among them, naturally thin skins, innate fruitiness, high sugar content and a lack of certain phenols which drive color. Once crushed, if garnacha juice is drawn away from the skins within, say, twenty-four hours, the result is a luminous pink drink with remarkable body and acidity.
Ironic non sequiturs wanted? This drawing-off process is called ‘bleeding.’
For the most part, rosé occupies a stratum in the winosphere not particularly well understood by Americans. Frequently, it’s considered entry-level wine, or a bridge between white and red. In fact, in France (where it was a favorite of the Sun King Louis XIV) it now outsells white wine. It figures high on the French respect meter, and currently, the Association Générale de la Production Viticole, France’s winemakers’ association is fighting the European Commission’s plans to simplify the rosé winemaking process.
In Spain, rosé (more technically, rosado) is a frequent match to tapas and paella, which it tends not to overpower.
Stateside, too often, pink wine conjures up jug blush, wine coolers and gimmicky molar-crumblers from Central California. Okay, so it’s not the only wine-related thing wherein Americans have to do some catching up—and Sangre de Toro Rosé is not a bad place to start.
Still, being a red-sangred American at heart, my plan is to put this stuff in cans and market it as an energy drink. I’m thinking about calling it ‘Pink Bull’. What do you think?
That’s right, white coat guys: Crazy like a fox.
Bodega Torres, Sangre de Toro Rosé, Catalunya, about $9:
Probably the most versatile wine in the Torres collection, it is kept in stainless steel at an even temperature (41ºF) and bottled only when an order arrives–thus keeping the wine fresh and lively. Jazzy and tart, with notes of raspberry salsa, pomegranate and cherry, it is vinified dry and shows notes of strawberry and hay, a long, lime-rich acidic finish and minerality reminiscent of wet stone—which, incidentally, you can’t get blood from.