Spring and summer are two of my favorite times to drink wine, because springtime signals that rosé season has finally arrived. Thanks to changing attitudes toward rosé, more and more is being imported or made in here in the United States, which means consumers now have lots of lovely, affordable rosé to choose from in restaurants, wine shops, and well-stocked grocery stores.
Wine lovers in the know love rosé because it’s versatile enough to drink on its own, pairs easily with a range of cuisines, is a fab “front porch wine,” and can just as easily be served at a formal dinner party as a casual poolside barbecue.
Rosé comes in a wide range of pink and ruby hues and offers great values, with retail prices ranging from a low of $8 per bottle to more than $25. Here is what rosé is not: It is not sweet, insipid, or remotely similar to the white zinfandel plonk your granny may choose to drink. Devotees love it because it is almost always delicious, crisp, refreshing, and food-friendly. There is a style of rosé to suit most any palate and pocketbook.
From bubbly to bone dry, off dry, and still, great-tasting rosé is produced in every quality wine region around the world. In Italy and Spain, look for deep pink and ruby red rosé made with native and international grapes, while in Provence, arguably the benchmark of quality rosé, pale coral or salmon rosé is the norm. But don’t let the wine’s deceptively pale, piqued color fool you: These wines pack a lot of flavor and style. To get the skinny on how rosé is made, the grapes used in the wine, or the regions, be sure to read Making the Case for Rosé.
Let the Tasting Begin
For your pleasure, I’ve pulled together five fab wines that offer a wide range of styles, colors, grape varietals, regions, and price points, and there is more to come. Each week, until the end of August, we will feature five great-tasting rosés for you to try.
Ameztoi Getariako Txakolina Rubentis Hondarribi Zuri and Beltza Rosé Basque Spain 2014 ($17)
The name of this wine may be difficult to pronounce (its alternate spelling, chacolí, is a little easier to decipher), but it’s worth learning how to say it properly so you can request it at your local wine store. If the cool bottle shape and label don’t grab you, this fun, slightly prickly, lightly bubbly wine’s body and taste will. Bone dry, lower in alcohol, and clean tasting, txakolina hails from the Getaria D.O. region in the far northern reaches of Euskadi, or Basque Country in Spain. The Ameztoi vineyards lie within sight of the famed coastal city and gourmet capitol San Sebastián. This perfect summer sipper is made with one indigenous white grape, Hondarribi Zuri (90 percent), and one indigenous red grape, Hondarribi Beltza (10 percent), and is fermented in stainless steel to keep the wine light and fresh. Residual carbonic acid left behind during bottling accounts for the wine’s slight effervescence, but it’s the bright watermelon, tart cranberry, and racy mineral-driven acidity that make this a lip-smacking wine you’ll return to again and again.
Renegade Wine Co. Rosé Columbia Valley Washington 2014 ($12)
Trey Busch’s wines are proof that price isn’t always an indication of quality, because this is a delicious wine. It’s what I like to call a “bluff wine,” which means it tastes so well-made you could serve it to the biggest wine snob and she or he would think it was a more expensive wine… really. The winemaker, Trey Busch, is also co-owner of Sleight of Hand Cellars, an award-winning winery in Columbia Valley, and if you’re smart, you’ll keep at least two chilled bottles on hand the entire summer. Renegade’s pretty in pink, and that perfect blush color comes from the grapes being put through a cold fermentation in stainless steel. Thanks to the blend of 50 percent syrah, 21 percent cinsault, 18 percent grenache, 6 percent counoise, and 5 percent mourvèdre, there are enticing aromas of tart strawberry and rhubarb as well as ripe flavors of blood orange and red raspberry. Thirsty yet?
Alexander Valley Vineyards Rosé Sonoma County California 2014 ($14)
Although the grape used to make this wine is Italian (100 percent sangiovese), the style, color, finesse, and strawberry/raspberry notes are classic New World rosé. Alexander Valley Vineyards’ rosé is so popular with critics and consumers that it quickly sells out each spring. Hints of tart guava and ripe berry make this wine beguiling, compliant, and irresistible. There isn’t any setting or occasion where this wine won’t be a hit. Just be forewarned: The flavors and aromas will haunt you until next spring, and if you see it, buy it, because it’s a rare treasure.
Left Coast Cellars Rosé Willamette Valley Oregon 2014 ($16)
For those who long for Burgundian or Oregon pinot noir but want something on the lighter side for the summer, this rosé from Left Coast Cellars hits several notes you will find appealing. Made with 100 percent Pinot Noir using the saignée method, classic dark cherry notes, underlying tendrils of earth and wet leaves, and tart Damson plum are complemented by the minerality typical in Willamette Valley.
Château du Rouët Rosé Côtes de Provence France 2014 ($18)
Last, but definitely not least, is this lush, fraise de bois-scented, salmon-hued rosé that will make you a convert to pink wine. At the foothills of the Rouët Mountains, the Rouët family has been making wine at their château in Provence since 1840. This rosé is a blend of 20 percent grenache, 20 percent cinsault, 5 percent carignan, and 5 percent tibouren and is bottled in the traditional amphorae-style bottle once used by the ancient Occitan and Romans. Bright raspberry, strawberry, and notes of fennel flesh out the aromas and flavors while the mineral verve and acidity make it a wine for memorable dining.