For a long time rosé wines have been considered summer wines. They are traditionally fairly dry, and appeal to both white and red wine drinkers seeking something cool and refreshing and not too expensive, that will pair well with the lighter summer dishes. Most rosé drinkers are not looking for complexity or nuance; what they really want is deliciousness. As a friend sommelier said, “These wines are elegant yet unpretentious.”
Nowadays, the producers in sunny Provence are creating surprisingly versatile rosés that can be drunk as an apéritif or they can go with an impressive array of dishes. The French believe that a rosé can go with any food, but in my opinion they are best with vegetable dishes, seafood—like lobster and grilled fish—and white/light meat dishes like pork or chicken.
Though Provence is widely acknowledged as the birthplace and the largest producer and exporter of rosé (pink) wines, these wines are now made almost everywhere. Worldwide, winemakers are crafting rosés from every conceivable red grape, including grenache, pinot noir, syrah, mourvèdre, cabernet sauvignon, carignan, tibouren, and touriga nacional among others. Many of the resulting wines turn out to be delicious, while a number of others are, unfortunately, also-rans. Some rosés improve with a year or two of bottle age, although most are at their best in their youth.
Most people think that rosé is a wine made one particular way; in reality there are several methods of producing it. In Provence, the preferred method is direct press. This means red grapes are pressed softly and briefly, to produce grape juice that’s often a very pale pink or peach color. The second method, called saignée (or bleeding), involves removing juice from a macerating red wine at the beginning of maceration (steeping grape skins and solids in wine after fermentation). The juice that had limited contact with the skin of the grapes will become a rosé wine. A third method calls for the blending of red and white wines. Though it isn’t permissible in Provence, such mixing occurs in other places including Champagne, Australia, and the United States.
Most of the best tasting pink wines are a peach to pale pink color, but there are a few darker rosés that I think are exceptional. A good example is the 2014 Mas Carlot, a rather rustic but very pleasurable wine from the Costières de Nîmes in France that I had with paella during my recent trip through le Sud.
The 2014 Domaines Ott Château de Selle was a delicate and beautifully balanced wine that my Provençal friends acknowledged as the real thing, though they considered the average $US48 price tag very steep for a rosé. Vines are grown on both espalier and terraced vineyards in the Côtes de Provence. The wines are made from a blend of several varieties: cabernet sauvignon lends the wine complexity and elegance, grenache gives it full-bodied texture, cinsault adds a delicately rounded touch and syrah gives the blend its rich color. The actual blend is: grenache 50 percent, cinsault 30 percent, syrah 15 percent, cabernet sauvignon 5 percent.
One of the better young rosés that I recently had here in the United States was the 2014 Val d’Orbieu Château Ribaute, Cuvée Senhal d’Aric. It is a blend of 85 percent syrah and 15 percent grenache. It is a delicate wine, aromatic with notes of red berries and apricot. It is fruity and elegant on the palate, a light pink color, and is well priced at a suggested retail of $18.
Another good rosé, a bit more salmon colored than the previous Château Ribaute but from the same production group was Château Notre Dame du Quatourze, a blend of 40 percent grenache, 30 percent syrah and 30 percent cinsault. It is an elegant wine, with floral aromas plus peach and raspberries on the nose. The palate is balanced and offers gravelly minerality.
From Spain I very recently tasted Freixenet Mía Rosado a very nice darker wine by Gloria Collell, the well known Barcelona winemaker. The 2013 sample that I had is an easy-drinking and fruity wine made from Bobal, an indigenous Catalan grape. It is a floral tasting wine with a hint of strawberry and raspberry. It is excellent with fatty fish (salmon or mackerel) and spicy Thai dishes. Priced right at about $14.
Also from Spain, Barthomeus Rosé 2013, 100 percent cabernet sauvignon from Penedès. It has a lovely bright scarlet color with pale violet highlights. Lively red fruit aromas with forest berries and hibiscus stand out. The strawberry and hibiscus aromas are mirrored on the palate, which is massive and rather complex. Good acidity and freshness on the finish. This rosé is perfectly suited for al fresco dining and lighter summer fare. It is very inexpensive and very good. Small production, just short of 7,000 bottles. I tasted it last year.
Aurelio Montes makes a lovely syrah-based rosé in Chile’s Colchagua Valley, at El Arcángel Marchigüe vineyards. Montes Cherub is an elegant dry wine, with an intense cherry-pink color. The label is very playful; but don’t be deceived by it, it is a serious rosé wine. It shows distinct syrah characteristics, spiciness and hints of strawberry, rose and orange peel on the nose and palate. Priced between $ 14 and $16.
Both nonvintage rosé Champagne and rosé Cavas, seem to have more cache than their white counterparts and proof is the higher premium these rosé sparklers command.
Vintage Especial Rosé from Freixenet for example is a mix of trepat and garnacha, two Spanish grapes; it is a bright and fruity bubbly with fresh raspberry, cassis and peach aromas, and an appealing color. The toasty palate mixes strawberry and apricot jam and red currant to deliver a pleasant mouth feel, with a light, sweet finish. The price varies between $ 13 and $19 per bottle depending on state, and is an excellent, méthode champenoise sparkler that is a delight on a hot summer day.
Codorníu, located in Catalonia’s Penedés region, is the largest selling Cava brand in Spain—although Freixenet, with its Cordon Negro, is the largest in the U.S.A. Codorníu is the world’s largest producer of sparkling wines fermented in the bottle—selling about 60 million bottles annually, twice that of Moët et Chandon, Champagne’s largest producer. Its Anna de Codorníu NV Brut Rosé is made from 70 percent pinot noir and 30 percent chardonnay; it is quite dry with a pretty medium pink color, creamy texture and pronounced pinot noir flavors. It is priced at $12 to $14 per bottle.
Piper-Heidsieck Cordon Negro makes the exceptional blended Rosé Sauvage as a generous pink nonvintage Champagne. It is a brut (dry) well structured rosé, full-bodied, with a hint of blackberry, pink grapefruit, and blood orange fruits on the palate and mixed mostly from pinot noir wines with some pinot meunier. Current average price is $52 per bottle.
G.H. Mumm Le Rosé is pale pink, crispy, slightly fruity nonvintage bubbly that is splendid at $70 per bottle.
All prices given in this story, are retail exclusive of taxes.
Manos Angelakis is a well-known wine and food critic based in the New York City area. He has been certified as a Tuscan wine master, by the Tuscan Wine Masters Academy, as well as being an expert on Greek, Chilean, and Catalan wines. He judges numerous wine competitions each year and is the senior food and wine writer for LuxuryWeb Magazine, LuxuryWeb.com.