Rosé wine is the Sweet Tea of the South of France. It kinda feels like the (happily) mandatory summer lunch beverage of France – just look around whatever patio you’re on, there’s a bottle/carafe/unmarked jug on almost every table. Most wine regions in the world make rosé, but France is ground zero. Approximately 10% of the world’s wine production is rosé, and France makes almost 30% of that, by far the leader.
Yes, it’s pink, or something close to pink – salmon, pale peach, copper, raspberry – but NOT sweet. (Please don’t confuse a classic dry rosé with a sugary, American White Zinfandel. Two very different animals.) Rosé is mostly made with red grapes, which start off being made like a red wine, then, end their lifecycle like a white wine…oh, it’s kinda complicated, but it all works out fruitfully in the end.
Bobby Flay recently “confessed” to Epicurious that he orders his pink wine by the truckload. This man knows his BBQ, and knows that rosé is fantastic with BBQ, grilled meats and the Great Outdoors in general (kinda like Sweet Tea). Bobby’s shade of pink is Whispering Angel, the ubiquitous coppery confection by powerhouse Provence producer, Chateau d’Esclans. As the introductory wine in this Chateau’s excellent rosé lineup, Whispering Angel is fruity yet dry and undeniably delicious. Priced under $20 bottle – like the vast majority of rosés in our market – this hits my preferred price point, given the quantity our household consumes April to October.
Chateau d’Esclans, located just north of Saint Tropez and considered a top Provencal rosé producer, recently did a lot more than Whisper to me and my wine gals. It won top prize at last week’s highly competitive LBD (Little Black Dress) Rosé Dinner, a dubious but delightful honor. On LBD night, we wine gals blind-tasted seven amazing rosés of our own choosing, with the winner (yup, Maggie again) getting a free dinner outta the deal. It was a perfect summer evening: gorgeous glasses of blush and bashful (click that link, it’s worth it), lots of trash-talk and laughter, and the most divisive conclusion of any of our LBD dinners.
Styles and grapes can vary wildly within the category of rosé (holler at me if you want to geek-out about the merits of saignee vs. direct press methods, or Cinsault grapes vs. Syrah), and the votes were split. But the soft strawberry nose and creamy mouth feel of Chateau d’Esclans Cotes de Provence 2012 deservedly carried the win. At $35+ it may not be the cheap quaffer you want to swig in your porch swing, but it’s a stunner at the dinner table.
Domaine Ott 2012, another top-notch Provence producer, also showed strongly (way to represent, Chef Nancy). Bone dry with stone fruit and grapefruit, Ott’s crispness was awesome with fried artichokes, its zing cutting right through the fatty of the fried. Its sexy, perfume-bottle presentation also makes Domaine Ott a great hostess gift/dinner party/anniversary wine, but again, at $35+ you’ll pay a bit more for the privilege.
Tavels always turn my head, and the 2012 Canto Perdrix we sampled was no exception. Tavel is an area within France’s Southern Rhone Valley and the ONLY French AOC (out of 300 such highly-regulated growing areas) to be designated 100% rosé wines. Tavels tend to be richer, more tannic, more substantial than their Provencal counterparts to the South, and were beloved of the Popes of Avignon and Kings of France. While Provence rosés are most often very pale, Tavels are frequently a deeper hue.
Visiting Tavel in June was definitely a party for the palate – especially a Tavel/ Châteauneuf-du-Pape winemaker lunch featuring 10 vintners, each pouring three or four of their finest. You do the math on how many wines we had with lunch. Oye.
The rosés were all simply gorgeous and just sang with the food, as rosé is known to do, including the grilled salmon starter. (Ever notice how difficult it is to pair wine with salmon? Rosé is your answer.) Incredible that wines this delicious can be consistently had for around $15.
The rule of thumb on rosé is: drink it fresh for maximum punch. Current vintage is what you’ll find on store shelves, though in my opinion, aging for a couple of years is fine, but no more than three. As always, there are exceptions; Chateau Mordoreé, a stand-out producer in Tavel, poured us a 2008 rosé that was simply divine. While not the rule, a top-quality rosé often develops into something even more interesting with a bit of time; look for top names like Bandol (totally badass Mourvedre-based rosés) and Tavel, have some patience and give it a whirl. They just might grow into something spectacular.
Speaking of interesting…America is definitely experiencing a rosé renaissance, with consumption up 10% over the last four years, and rising. We’re finally catching on to what the rest of the wine world is already enjoying. Does it have anything to do with Brangelina? No. But…
The wine press has been abuzz with the release of Brad and Angelina’s first rosé from their Provence estate, Miraval. Now, rosé has been made from this estate for a long time, most recently under the name Pink Floyd. (Seems “The Wall” was recorded in the studio on the estate.) Their new wine is scoring good reviews, and sold out in record time. At almost $30, it’s not the greatest value, but it’s a strange, gorgeous bottle and a good conversation starter.
Unlike pouring Sweet Tea at your next cookout.
Atlanta peeps: find exceptionally good rosé selections at the merchants below. Or, just scoop up an armload at your favorite shop and have a delicious summer figuring out which ones wet your whistle.