Spring — and the onset of Memorial Day weekend — practically obligates wine writers to pen a piece on the unofficial arrival of rosé wine drinking season. I’ve no problem capitulating to such requisite; I adore this fermented pink drink — the beguiling pale salmon to vivid fuchsia colors, and the multitude of fresh red berry, watermelon, spice, citrus, mineral, and floral flavors, provide for a million, fascinating permutations in the bottle.
Let’s clear one thing up first: No particular season should claim rosé as its own. Rosé has evolved into a year-round wine due to its versatility with food and vast stylistic differences; consider the range from Muscadet to Montrachet or Beaujolais to Barbaresco. Now that “Real Men Drink Pink” and every region of the world produces it, let’s simply celebrate rosé all year long for the sake of rosé, not the weather.
Last June, we explored rosés from Provence and Rioja, two classic appellations (French and Spanish, respectively) that have long captured a large chunk of the market’s attention. Here are five new places to consider, some with a long history of rosé production, others just breaking into the market with delicious results.
From each region below, I recommend a bottle that I’ve personally vetted during a recent tasting of nearly 20 rosés (in full disclosure, several in the tasting were provided as samples). If you can’t find the wine, however, just ask your helpful wine shop staff (because you only shop at stores with helpful staff, right?) to offer alternatives.
Tavel, Rhône, France: This appellation in the Southern Rhone dedicates its production wholly to dry, Grenache-based rosé. Outside of Provence, Tavel has long been regarded as a premier rosé appellation, its popularity in the 1950s boosting production and price levels. Chilling is essential, but the heartier style and concentrated flavor, as compared to what’s made in Provence, for example, makes Tavel a great red wine substitute in the summer — it’s also a good option for those men who still think they don’t drink pink.
Look for: Lavau, 2013, $17. Grenache, Cinsault, and Syrah lend deep, neon ruby color and bright red fruit flavors to this dry, full-bodied style. Perfect summer BBQ alternative to red, would pair well with burgers or grilled steak tacos.
Finger Lakes, New York, U.S.: Renowned for its Riesling and white wines in general, a few brave farmers continue growing Cabernet Franc, Lemberger (Blaufränkisch), Pinot Noir, and a few other cool-climate red grapes in the region, often with great success. Sadly, if you haven’t heard, the region sustained terrible vine losses this past winter due to the polar vortex. The cooler weather, when not devastating crops, contributes elegance, acid, lower alcohol, and freshness to the wines, including the rosés.
Look for: Fox Run Vineyards, Rosé of Pinot Noir, 2013, $14.99. A strong nose of ruby grapefruit with a wild, earthy undertone engages your olfaction immediately. Fruit-forward strawberry and raspberry notes introduce the palate, but are soon overtaken by the bright, zippy freshness of grapefruit. Perfect for oysters, steamers, clams, or just sipping all weekend by the pool/beach/park.
Columbia Valley, Washington State, U.S.: The Columbia Valley AVA, the largest in Washington, lies in the warm and dry central and southern sectors of the state. For an industry that’s largely built its reputation on reds, often burly, ripe, and tannic Rhône and Bordeaux styles, made from Cabernet, Merlot, and Syrah, the wealth of refined rosés available is surprising and pleasing.
Look for: Gard, Grande Klasse Rosé, 2013, $22. A family-owned and operated winery with Northern European roots (Gard means “farm” in many Scandinavian languages), this 100 percent Grenache-based wine in a pretty Provençal bottle would happily marry its strawberry and orange zest fruit to a bowl of aji amarillo-spiked ceviche or a plate of slaw-topped fish tacos.
Minervois, Languedoc, France: An appellation in western Languedoc known for the continuously improving quality of its characterful reds and enviable Mediterranean climate, the same classic grapes for red are used for rosé: Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, and Mourvèdre.
Look for: La Tour Boisee Rosé, 2012, $14. Grenache forms the base of this surprisingly delicate wine. Pink hued like wisps of cotton candy, the nose blows strawberry kisses on puffs of lavender, while a savory note hovers beneath. Try a meaty fish or pork chops, grilled or broiled, finished with white wine, Dijon mustard, and Herbes de Provence, and relax with this inexpensive quaffer.
Russian River Valley, Sonoma, U.S.: The region developed a cult-following for its premium-priced raspberry and cherry-cola scented Pinot Noirs. With so much Pinot, the occasional cool vintage, and the public’s desire to drink more pink, it seemed inevitable producers might turn, either intentionally or by necessity, to bottling rosé.
Look for: Inman Family Rosé of Pinot Noir, “Endless Crush”, 2013, $25. The winemaker crafted this wine specifically to mark the 20th anniversary of her marriage. Fruit-forward with watermelon, raspberry, and tangerine, the vibrant flavors fade gracefully, like a gently retreating wave leaving just the essence of what was behind. The mouthwatering watermelon notes beg for a fresh feta salad, drizzled with a little olive oil, and adorned with chopped mint.
Where to Buy: Astor Wines, 399 Lafayette Street, 212-674-7500