According to a 2013 story in the Telegraph, the French are now drinking almost twice as much rosé as white wine. This might explain the explosion of rosés here in the U.S.: Go into your favorite wine store and you will be confronted with a wall of pink wine. And these aren’t the sweet pink wines of years past; they’re dry rosés made from black grapes of all different sorts.
Rosés are flirtatious wines. They tickle your palate and tempt your taste buds, all the while keeping you interested and wanting one more sip. They have pleasing acidity, which is the cornerstone of food-friendly wine. But, like a butterfly, they are short lived — two to three years — so look for the current vintage (2013 in this case).
This is just the challenge we needed for a blind tasting. Assembling 20 wines along with appropriate fare (ham sandwiches, chicken salad, goat cheese and crackers, salami, pimento cheese and a goat’s milk brie), we bagged up the wines and went to work, starting with a nice little sparkling rosé from Bolla.
In France’s Provence region, rosé is often made using the “press method,” very gently pressing the grapes, limiting the skin contact, resulting in very lightly colored wines with delicate and nuanced flavors. It seems this nouveau style has taken the wine world by storm, with lighter and lighter wines becoming the norm. It will not take you long to appreciate this style. They are crisp and refreshing and usually have light to moderate alcohol.
Lightly colored wines are not a new phenomenon. When grapes were fermented centuries ago, winemakers didn’t allow much skin contact, which resulted in lightly colored wine. It was only after they discovered that extended skin contact resulted in darkly colored wine, that wine became red as we know it today.
Like white wines, rosés are affable and easy drinking wines, but they take it a step further by being super food-friendly. Being lighter hued wines, though made from red grapes, they have an affinity for a wide range of food, and probably go with an array of recipes more diverse than any other style of wine. They also don’t require or even benefit from aging, nor is a decant necessary. They do benefit from being chilled (45º-55º), but that is what makes them so appealing on a spring of summer afternoon, or at a football tailgate or barbecue.
The French pioneered the dry rosé style but the market has responded quickly. We tasted wine from most European countries, and South America as well as California, Oregon and Washington. Our top wines came from Europe, but we are making compelling wines in this country. And just look at the different grapes. Charles & Charles (last year’s top wine) uses mainly syrah, while King Estates Acrobat is 100 percent pinot noir, both showing nicely. Our favorite wine was a rosé of cabernet franc from France’s Loire Valley, while graciano, tempranillo and sangiovese figured in our other top wines. Just goes to show how versatile (and popular) this style has become.
We mentioned our favorites, but honestly they were all refreshing, enjoyable and quite affordable. So try different ones over the summer and see what you like best, but get with it and get your pink on before summer gets here.
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wine — score — comments — country — price
La Cabriole ’13 Cabernet de Saumur ★★★★ Best of Tasting, Best Buy — France — $9
Rio Madre ’13 Graciano, Rosé ★★★★ Nice & Fruity, Best Buy — Spain — $10
Vitiano ’13 Rosé ★★★★ Another Star, Best Buy — Italy — $11
Ostatu ’13 Rioja Rosé ★★★★ Delicious & Best Buy — Spain — $13
Des Clans ’13 Whispering Angel ★★★★ Lovely Wine, My Fave — France — $22
Les Valentines ’13 Cotes de Provence ★★★★ Tasty, & A Best Buy — France — $12
Acrobat ’13 Rosé of Pinot Noir ★★★½ Another Winner — Oregon — $12
Charles & Charles ’13 Rosé ★★★½ Past Favorite & Best Buy — Washington — $10
Hecht Bannier ’13 Cotes de Provence ★★★½ Nice Color & Aroma — France — $16
Colombo ’13 Cape Bleue, VdP ★★★½ From Provence — France — $12
Dom. Fontanyl ’13 Rosé, Provence ★★★ Group Favorite — France — $15
Chateau La Gordonne ’13 CdP ★★★ Nice Bottle, Nice Wine — France — $14
Our four-star rating system and how it might compare to the Wine Spectator 100-point scale: ★ Good (80-84), ★★ Very Good (85-87), ★★★ Very Good/Excellent (88-89), ★★★★ Excellent (90+). All ratings are only opinions of our tasters and not meant to detract from your personal favorites.
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