Get Swayed By Rosé
Find the right region and bottle for your pink wine style
Provence? C’est bien, absolument. This sunny region in the South of France put dry, crisp, ballet slipper-hued wines on the map. But despite the fact that they might take up the most amount of real estate on store shelves, look around a bit and you’ll notice a whole rainbow of pink shades just waiting to be plucked.
“As rosé has now taken its place alongside red and white as a class of wine... we see dark, almost red wine versions, pét-nats, multi-fruit hybrid wines and all sorts of creative ways of making pinkish wine,” says Ben Jordan, winemaker for Early Mountain Vineyards in Madison, Virginia. “ The 2018 Early Mountain Vineyards Rosé ($25) was produced in an eventful vintage, with early springtime warmth, a record-setting wet spring and summer and sufficient heat in July and August to burn off green flavors, meaning that the winery had to pivot its approach and declass its lighter reds into rosé,” he adds. The current release, made with a an estate-grown blend of 65% merlot, 26% cabernet franc, 7% syrah, 2% petit verdot, is pale salmon in the glass with aromas of herbs, strawberries and white peaches. “The acidity matched with the texture brings a freshness to the fruit and the wine lingers with pleasant citrus pitch character,” Jordan notes.
French rosé is of course still really hot. So much so that last year, Jesse Bongiovi, son of New Jersey rocker Jon Bon Jovi, co-founded a rosé brand as a collaboration with renowned Languedoc biodynamic winemaker Gérard Bertrand. The new vintage, the 2018 Hampton Water Rosé ($25) is the same blend of grenache, cinsault, syrah and mourvèdre as the first, yet the style is a bit different. “[It’s] fresher and crisper than last year, [with] similar notes of strawberry, melon, pear and limestone mineralogy,” Bongiovi says. “[It’s] even more drinkable than last year but the oak aging leaves me always wanting more.” He especially likes its versatile style which can be paired with anything from meat to fish to pasta.
The Mont Gravet Rosé ($9) from the Pays d’Oc region is made with 100% cinsault, with a pale hue, aromas of raspberry and blackberry, a full-bodied and lengthy finish. “It’s southern, sun-kissed, salt-aired France bottled up for you and your patio,” says owner Melvyn Master. Refreshing, savory and well-balanced, it’s great as an aperitif or with salads, fish, bbq and poultry. The 2018 Domaine de Bila-Haut “Les Vignes” Pays d’Oc Rosé ($15) from Michel Chapoutier is a blend of 60% grenache and 40% cinsault with no syrah at all, which means a lighter, drier style that suits as a pink for white wine drinkers.
But don’t overlook the New World, says Braithe Tidwell. “I try and always have a few rosés from California on the list because I think you get a great intensity of flavor but they are still dry and crisp.” The wine director for Brennan’s Restaurant in New Orleans pours the 2017 Matthiasson Rosé ($19), a blend of grenache, syrah, mourvèdre and counoise sourced from Mendocino, Napa and Dunnigan Hills. “[It] has a tinge of grapefruit citrus but is still full-bodied enough to pair with flavorful fish or light meat like fried panned rabbit.” The 2018 Raeburn Rosé ($19.99) from the Russian River Valley blends mostly pinot noir and grenache in a lovely mashup of Old World elegance and New World lushness. Aromas of white flowers and fresh raspberries are followed by a palate bursting with juicy strawberries and guava finished with refreshing acidity. The 2018 Oak Farm Grenache Rosé ($24) from Lodi is light and delicate, with blossoming aromas of fresh jasmine and rose petals with light fruit and bright acidity.
Don’t judge a pink by its color
It’s a great time to be a rosé fan, with sales continuing to soar and more brands on the market than ever. And while Provence is still a go-to for American consumers, there are some many other regions that are equally enticing. “Frankly, I’m excited by just about everywhere else,” admits Torrence O’Haire, corporate beverage director and sommelier for Gage Hospitality Group which runs several concepts in Chicago. “As much fun as it is to explore different regional wines, it can be really exciting to discover everyone’s take on rosé.” He uses big, full-bodied rosé from Southern California, South Africa and Washington as stand-ins for reds during the hot weather, and uncorks or unscrews island wines from Sicily, Corsica and the Canary when guests are looking for aromatic, mineral-driven wines made with unique varietals. The 2017 Santa Giulietta Rosé ($12) from Corsica is a blend of nielluccio (the local name for sangiovese) and sciaccarellu, an indigenous light and floral grape. “The wine is bursting with tropical flowers on the nose, with crackling acidity and an almost salty freshness perfect for cold seafood and salads,” O’Haire points out.
What can be confusing for the wine lover is that a rosé’s color is not always indicative of its style, O’Haire says, but there are some clues that can help. “If you like the lightest, crispest rosés, look to cool climate growing regions [as] barely-ripe grapes turn out delicate subtle wines.” Safe bets are Germany, Austria, northern California and the Loire. He deems the 2018 Von Winning Rosé ($25) “eminently chuggable...and an easy bottle to nurse over an afternoon in the garden.” Fresh strawberries are matched by a bright and crisp texture and uncomplicated and approachable style. Tidwell likes the light, crisp and mineral-tinged 2012 Domaine Philippe Gilbert Menetou-Salon Rosé ($20) with salad, goat cheese, strawberries and/or prosciutto. Another paler pink option to sip is 2018 Bird in Hand ($14), made in the Adelaide Hills region of Australia from pinot noir, with fresh berry flavors and a complex earthy backbone. While this bottling is fairly new on the market, Bird in Hand is a consistent winner in the Melbourne International Wine Competition for its shiraz releases.
On the other end of the pink Pantone spectrum are lush, ripe and round styles from the sunniest and warmest spots like Sicily, Paso Robles, Spain, Argentina and Portugal (last year the 2017 Cara Viva Rosé which hails from Estremadura, won double gold in the NY International Wine Competition). The 2018 Carlos Serres Rosé ($11.99) from Haro in northern Spain has rich notes of balsamic, candy, raspberries violet, while the hot pink-hued 2018 Vega Sindoa Rosé from Navarra carries all the juicy-jammy, berry flavor of red garnacha but can be consumed with a full chill. Santa Julia Organica Malbec Rosé is a canned option from Mendoza’s Uco Valley that tempts with aromas of strawberries and blackberries, an unctuous yet delicate palate and balanced ripeness and acidity. For the fullest style that’s the antithesis of “light and easygoing,” look to the Rhône in France. O’Haire says it’s an area that’s been making bold rosés for hundreds of years. “The style they developed is fuller-bodied and intense, earthy and herbal with powerful structure,” he says. “The southern Rhône region designation Tavel, for example, is [considered] the red wine of rosé.” Try the 2018 Ferraton Père & Fils Samorëns Rosé ($14), made with grenache, syrah and cinsault and bursting with bright fruit.
Whatever your preferred style or favorite region, rosé isn’t going anywhere. Jordan believes there is no danger of a bubble bursting or the category flattening, so fans need not fret. “The embrace of rosé seems here to stay... with a full departure from it strictly as a warm weather endeavor.” In other words, forget any notion of there being a “rosé season.” It’s as drinkable in January as it is in June, and on any day that ends in a “y.”