A ROSÉ BY ANY OTHER NAME
Written by Bonnie Graves
Once dismissed as sticky-sweet zinfandel juice – an American product accidentally invented during a fermentation disaster at Sutter Home Vineyards – pink wine has since made a huge market comeback in its more traditional, dry style. A “dry” wine is not to be confused with oak aging or other winemaker finishings; it’s simply defined as a wine in which all of the sugar present in the original grape juice is fully converted to alcohol during fermentation. Most of today’s more popular rosé wines follow this model, although some wineries still make sweeter pinks in which some residual sugar is allowed to remain in the completed wine.
There’s a reason dry rosés first rose to prominence in the south of France, and it’s largely due to climate. As the temperatures rise, a dry pink wine refreshes in the same way that tart beverages like lemonade or margaritas do. Not too many folks want to sip on a dark, brooding Amarone or a high alcohol Napa cab while sitting poolside or lounging in St. Tropez. When the weather gets hot, we instinctively reach for something lower in alcohol and higher in acid, and rosé wine fits both requirements beautifully.
What’s cool about rosé wine is that it is a style that allows a wide variety of grapes to shine; no one grape or winemaking region dominates the sector. For the intrepid drinker, there are loads of rosé (or rosato and rosado) wines out there to discover. If you’re stuck buying that one familiar pink wine at your local grocery store – you know, the one that’s near the produce section, that costs about ten bucks and is a guilt-free indulgence – then you need to broaden both your palate and your horizon. The best way to do that is to shop independently. Find a local wine retailer, not a liquor store that happens to stock some wine too. Ask that nerdy young lady working in the shop to suggest her favorite rosé and buy it! People fluent in wine like to drink well, but they usually have less disposable income. (Not wine writers of course...)
We’ve jumpstarted your search for you by highlighting five amazing bottles of rosé wine, none of which will break the bank, and all of which are made with care and attention. Industrial pink wine is generic, made from leftover grapes, and the literal bottom of the barrel. Learn to check labels. Find an importer you like and track down their wines. Wine-searcher.com is also an easy resource if you’re not familiar with it yet so that you can find your favorite new rosé based on geographical proximity or your state’s shipping regulations. Cheers! 2019 G.D. Vajra, “Rosabella” Rosato
This beautiful Italian rosato from the Vajra family is made mostly with nebbiolo, the noble grape of powerhouse reds like Barolo and Barbaresco. Here it is blended with small amounts of barbera and dolcetto and is gently pressed in the saignée style. It’s floral and spicy, with notes of dried rose petal, cherry blossoms, and star anise.
Côtes de Provence, France
Château Minuty is one of the most iconic producers of Provençal rosé, and is credited for designing the uniquely shaped bottle that is now a hallmark of the region. Each year, they select a contemporary artist for their “M” cuvée. In 2019 they partnered with the Barcelona based duo of Zosen and Mina to create a bottle that is itself a collectible work of art. The wine offers notes of orange peel and red currants with a distinctly saline tang.
Willamette Valley, Oregon
Here’s a super unique and delicious spin on rosé. Winemaker Jim Prosser essentially makes a fully extracted, barrel-aged pinot noir from which he eventually erases the color, a technique pioneered centuries ago in Champagne. Accordingly, this wine is saturated with classic pinot noir flavors of cranberry, Bing cherries, and earthy Oregon soil – a rosé for red wine lovers indeed.
Ready to explore? This exceptionally delicious Corsican rosé is made from the indigenous Niellucciu grape – a kissing cousin to Italy’s sangiovese - from a special parcel planted over 50 years ago. Farmed organically and harvested by hand in the Patrimonio appellation, the Clos Alivu offers aromatics of strawberry leaf, jasmine, and crushed seashells. SRP: $22
2019 Liquid Farm, Rosé of Mourvèdre Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara, California
In a world full of wine Goliaths, Liquid Farm is a scrappy David. Making miniscule quantities of exceptionally high-quality wine, owner Jeff Nelson’s vision is one where the French concept of terroir is married to California sunshine. Liquid Farm believes that the wine is made in the vineyard, not the winery, and their winemaking style features minimal intervention. This rosé is an homage to the mourvèdre wines of the Bandol region in France, and is grown in the sunny, aptly-named Happy Canyon in Santa Barbara County. On the nose, the wine suggests stone fruits like apricots and peaches with a bone-dry, mouthwatering finish.