ROSÉ IS A FAVORITE SUMMER SIPPER AROUND THE WORLD

I have been touting the pleasures of dry rosé for two decades. So, I have been gratified over the last two years to see pink wines finally gaining appreciation in this country.

 

Of course, sweet “blush” wines have been popular for years but industry publications report wines like White Zinfandel have declined in sales, while drier versions modeled after European styles experience double-digit growth. Even rosé wine festivals are popping up, like the one in Denver this past summer.

 

Regardless of the grapes used and origins, the best rosé wines display aromas and flavors that approximate the profile of their red siblings but drink more like white wines. Expect bright, fresh fruit aromas and flavors ranging from strawberry, cherry, raspberry, and cranberry to rhubarb, pomegranate, and watermelon. Occasionally, you’ll find intriguing mineral or herbal shades. (Note, all wines below are 2017 vintage, unless otherwise stated.)

 

Thankfully, this growth has been accompanied by improved quality, as I found in my recent tastings. And I find it interesting that many wineries seem to have latched on to pinot noir as the grape of choice. This is likely because the grape typically produces lighter colored wines anyway and tends to reveal its primary aromas and flavors at earlier ripeness than, say, cabernet sauvignon.

 

From Oregon’s Willamette Valley, I especially enjoyed the tart intensity of the Left Coast ($24), the tangy, balanced Stoller ($25), and juicy WillaKenzie Estate ($23). I also was intrigued by the Left Coast White Pinot Noir ($24): my notes read, “Looks white; smells white; tastes white but somehow drinks definitely pink.”

 

From California, I found several (in order of my preference but all are recommended) from various appellations.

  • Russian River Valley: Rodney Strong ($25) fresh, juicy
  • Mendocino County: Copain Tous Ensemble ($25) intense, earthy
  • Santa Maria Valley: Cambria Julia’s Vineyard ($25) spicy, tangy
  • Santa Rita Hills: Sanford ($22) tart, mineral
  • Monterey County: Scheid ($19) bright, floral
  • Napa Valley: Educated Guess ($17) delicate, lingering
  • Monterey County: District 7 ($16) full, juicy

 

Rhône varieties, especially syrah, also are popular. I was particularly impressed with the brisk, spicy Sidebar Russian River Valley Syrah ($21); the Klinker Brick “Bricks & Roses” Lodi ($15), an enticing blend of grenache, carignan, syrah, and mourvèdre; and the distinctive green apple and rose of the Rabble “Mossfire Ranch” Syrah ($25) from Paso Robles.

 

And there were two delightful rosé blends of mostly pinot noir and syrah: Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve (juicy, round, $17) and Decoy (herbal, intense, $20). I also enjoyed the tart, spicy Edna Valley ($16), blending tempranillo, syrah, grenache, and mourvedre and the slightly sweet 2016 Sterling Vintner’s Collection ($14), blending syrah, tempranillo, and zinfandel. Then there were unexpected varietals, like the full, robust Ladera ($30), 100 percent malbec from Napa Valley’s famed Stagecoach Vineyard and a firm, herbal Scotto ($18), 100 percent sangiovese from Mohr-Fry Vineyard in Lodi.

 

The biggest surprise was Julia’s Dazzle ($20) from Long Shadows Washington State winery. It is 100 percent pinot gris is late harvested to generate more intense flavor and copper color. The result was a model rosé, juicy and vibrant, with hints of spice and green apple.

 

And now some of those imported rosés.

 

Europeans have known for a long time the joy of drinking a good dry pink wine and the French term – rosé – has become the most common name worldwide. The French especially, appreciate a good dry pink wine. There is a dizzying array of French rosés from all over the country, though, most notably the south – places like Provence, Rhône Valley, Tavel, and Languedoc-Roussillon.

 

Rosé from Provence in particular is having its moment. Imports have exploded in the last couple years. Characterized by extremely light salmon color, they are made predominantly using grenache with additions of cinsault and syrah and sometimes a touch of mourvèdre or carignan. I detected a characteristic flavor profile of delicate red berries and citrus fruits, juicy, fresh and a suggestion of creaminess. Here are my favorites from my tasting:

 

  • Château de Berne “Inspiration” ($20) from a property in the hills of Provence where vines have grown since Roman times and that sports a five star hotel and Michelin starred restaurant
  • Ultimate Provence “Urban” ($23) located in the countryside on the outskirts of St Tropez; also part of the Berne portfolio; mostly syrah
  • Fleur de Mer ($20) a 50 year old cooperative near Saint Tropez
  • M de Minuty ($19) an 18thcentury estate using sustainable methods

 

Rhône Valley Rosés, similarly based primarily on grenache, syrah, and cinsault, tend to be a bit richer, offering more intensity. I enjoyed the Ferraton “Samorëns” Côtes de Rhône ($15), from organic and biodynamic vineyards, which adds a nice herbal note.

 

Tavel, a rosé-only appellation in the Southern Rhône, is notable for its darker, more concentrated Rosés. With family connections to this land originating in 1780 and now farmed mostly organically, the Domaine Lafond “Roc-Epire” ($19) as it turns out was my favorite of the tasting. It’s full-bodied with intriguing caramel and spice. From an even older property (1460) in the Costières de Nimes sub-appellation near Tavel, the Chateau de Campuget “Tradition” ($11) is a fine choice in a lighter style with syrah dominating.

 

Continuing southwest I found two good ones from Roussillon. In theCôtes du Roussillon subregion, the great Rhône Valley producer Michel Chapoutier crafts the fresh, lively Les Vignes de Bila-Haut ($15). Nearby, in an area designated Department 66 (an administrative division in the near the Pyrenees and France’s border with Spain), California winemaker Orin Swift own a winery with the same name and makes the firm, round, spicy, alcoholic “Fragile” Rosé ($18).

 

And I found a nice interloper from Burgundy to the north from respected producer Roche de Bellene: the Bellenos Rosé of Gamay Noir ($16) from Beaujolais offers crisp apple and watermelon flavors.

 

Italians also love Rosé, though it is often labeled Rosato. I had two nice ones from Tuscany in my tasting. From the coastal Maremma subregion, the 2016 Aia Vecchia “Solido” ($14) is a flavorful blend of sangiovese and merlot. The Frescobaldi family (who has produced fine wines in Tuscany for over 700 years) offers the delightful “Alie” ($25) is a unique, balanced blend of syrah and vermentino from grapes grown on their estate in also Maremma.

 

Another winery owned by the Frescobaldi family, the Attems estate (which dates to 1106) in the northeastern region of Friuli Venezia-Giulia produced the 2016 Pinot Grigio “Ramato” ($20). This is a rare, charming wine from this white grape. The wine’s copper hue results from prolonged skin contact during fermentation.

 

Also in the northeast, this time the Vento, theTenuta Sant’Antoniowinery (a well-known maker of traditional Valpolicella and Soave) also produces fresh, focused wines from local and international varieties under the Scaia label. The Rosato ($13), 100 percent the native rondinella, is lively and juicy.

 

If you crave pink bubbly, try Cleto Chiarli NV Brut di Noir Rosé Spumante ($15), a Lambrusco from the local grasparossa grape and pinot nero (pinot noir). Made in Emilia-Romagna, Lambrusco produces a range of styles, including this Rosé, with its touch of cinnamon and sea air. Cleto Chiarli has been a benchmark for traditional, honest and high-quality Lambrusco for nearly 160 years in Modena.

 

Although blush wines have now become something of a fad, these are all seriously good wines that will help you cool off during the heat of the summer but will refresh any time of year.

About Rich

I first became interested in wine while I worked in numerous liquor stores during college in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. In the years following college, I researched, tasted, traveled to vineyards in California and Europe, participated in countless tastings. I began writing about wine in 1995 with a column in Out Front Colorado. For me, wine is more than a drink. It is food. It is a connection to the earth. It is culture. There is just something amazing, even magical, about the transformation of grapes into wine. It is also remarkable how drinking wine with food enhances the taste and enjoyment of both. Appreciation of wine has become an integral part of my approach to life, which emphasizes balance, respect for nature, physical and emotional health, and an appreciation of our nature as social beings. In 2006, I was awarded a fellowship to the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers.