One of my favorite things at this time of year is a glass of cold, dry rosé. The wines have really caught on in the past few years, so I have more choices than ever. I've even managed to win over my friends who, in the past, looked at pink wines with suspicion, believing that the wines would be sweet or cloying.
It seems that pink wines have finally gained respect. They've even developed some celebrity cachet: One of the most publicized wines of the past 18 months was a rosé from the French estate owned by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
Most dry or just off-dry rosé is fruity and made for quaffing, although there are some serious efforts out there, too, with price tags to match. An anonymous bidder even paid more than $42,000 recently in an online auction for a bottle of 1995 Sine Qua Non rosé from California. To each his own -- but if you're drinking rather than collecting, you can get some delicious rosés for $20 or less.
Most high-quality rosé wines are made from primarily red grapes. (A notable exception is rosé sparkling wine, which often entails blending a little red wine into the base wine for color.) Some juice is drained off from a tank of red grapes after the liquid has had only limited contact with the grape skins, which is where the color is. The resulting juice is light to deep pink, depending on the length of skin contact.
Sometimes the grapes that remain in the tank are made into red wine, and the pink wine is really a byproduct. But a lot of rosés now are made from grapes picked expressly for pink wine, when sugars are lower and acidity is higher. That avoids the problem of an overly alcoholic, flabby rosé.
Dry rosé can be made from any red grapes, but in California, Rhone varieties such as grenache and syrah -- and often blends -- are particularly popular. Bonny Doon Vineyard has been making its rosé, a blend of Rhone grapes called Vin Gris de Cigare, since the mid-1980s and was something of a pioneer in California dry rosé. The 2013 Vin Gris de Cigare ($18), which contains a portion of white grapes (roussanne and grenache blanc), is bright and fruity, with raspberry, cranberry and a slight tannic edge. Tablas Creek in Paso Robles produces the 2013 Patelin de Tablas Rosé ($20), which is lean and racy, with cranberry and lemon notes. (Tablas Creek also makes a more expensive rosé called Dianthus.)
Sangiovese is the key ingredient in one of my favorite rosés, the 2013 Bernard Griffin Rosé of Sangiovese ($12) from Washington state, which displays fresh, lively cherry and raspberry with a nice roundness. And pinot noir produces some good rosé, like the 2013 Testarossa "Cuvee Los Gatos" Pinot Noir Rosé ($19), which tastes of bright raspberry and cranberry with a hint of creaminess.
Considering the baggage that white zinfandel carries, some consumers might flinch at the notion of a dry rosé made from zin. But Pedroncelli in Sonoma County makes a really good one, year in and year out. The 2013 Pedroncelli Dry Rosé of Zinfandel ($12) is bright and fruity, with raspberry and a lemony note.
Spain is a treasure trove of affordable rosé, called rosado in Spain. In Rioja, tempranillo is the main grape, and it can produce some wonderfully quaffable pink wines. I particularly like the 2013 Cune Rioja Rosado ($14), which has aromas of strawberries and licorice, zippy flavors of cherry and strawberry and a slightly drying finish. Another rosado from Rioja, the 2013 Muga ($12), is dominated by garnacha (the Spanish name for grenache) and contains a sizable portion of viura, a white grape. The wine is very refreshing, with lively strawberry and apple notes.
Rosé has long been a summer wine of choice in France, particularly southern France. Two good ones from the Cotes du Rhone appellation are the 2013 Paul Jaboulet Aine "Parallele 45" ($15), with its racy berry and apple flavors, and the 2013 M. Chapoutier "Belleruche" ($15), which displays pretty cherry and cranberry flavors and a tannic edge.
I'm not sure how much that 1995 rosé from the online auction has faded, but in general, it's best to drink your rosé young -- no older than the 2012 vintage. (A notable exception is the Lopez de Heredia rosé from Rioja, made only in the best years and capable of aging for 10 years or more.) Older rosés tend to lose their exuberance, which is one of the qualities that makes them so attractive.
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Here are some other reasonably priced rosés to consider:
From California, the 2013 Adobe Pink ($14) from Paso Robles is a blend that's bright and fruity, with strawberry and cranberry fruit and a lemony note. The 2013 Lange Twins Sangiovese Rosé ($15) from Lodi is fresh and bright, with cranberry and raspberry flavors. From Washington, the 2013 Charles & Charles Rosé ($12), which is mostly syrah, is fresh and persistent, with raspberry and a whisper of tannin.
During a recent visit to Spain's Navarra and Rioja regions, I tasted a number of good rosados. One of the biggest bargains from Rioja is the 2013 Marques de Caceres ($9), which brims with cherry and strawberry fruit. The 2013 El Coto Rioja Rosado ($13) offers refreshingly tart flavors of cranberry and cherry. From Navarra, the 2013 Artazuri Garnacha Rosado ($11) displays lively cherry and strawberry flavors and a persistent finish.