I stopped by a friend’s wine shop this morning and was immediately greeted by a brilliant pink table glimmering in the sunlight filtering into the store through a large window. The table was covered with bottles of rosé from around the world and the lavishly filled table was as sure a harbinger of spring as the arrival of any bird or a bouquet of any seasonal flower.
Summer arrived in the Northern Hemisphere a few days ago with the promise of 2017 being a very hot year, meaning we wine lovers need to build up a cache of thirst quenching wines that satisfy on many levels.
Rosé has a prominent place on my summer rotation because the best examples are refreshing, not too heavy, and very food friendly. Gone are the days when rosé had a tough time gaining a foothold in the US because of the popularity white zinfandel scared off many wine lovers who thought all rosé were cloyingly off-dry and neon pink in color. Over the past few years, rosé has seen a huge resurgence however as top-notch (and very dry) examples have poured in Provence, the spiritual center of rosé production, and many other regions as well. I’m clearly not alone in believing this: rosé wine is the fastest growing wine category not only in the US but in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Hong Kong and South Africa as well. And among all the rosé wines available in the U.S., wines from Provence clearly have pride of place, though other regions are aggressively vying for attention.
I’ll revisit rosé over the months of summer in the Northern Hemisphere and we can explore the nuances of how it’s made and how various styles differ. But it’s hot and time for a refreshingly chilled glass of shimmering pink wine so let's get to the wine. Here are three wines I count among my favorites for summer sipping. All three are from the 2016 vintage – most rosé wines are for near-term drinking and while 2015 was an excellent year and still drinking well, you are most likely to find the 2016 vintage in your local wine shop. Prices for good rosé vary, and if you are accustomed to seeing white zinfandel for $5 a bottle, these will seem pricey. It is ironic to me that while $35 is considered a bargain price for red wine by many, and several of the most popular chardonnays in the market (at least in my market) sell in that price range as well, rosé is considered expensive if it goes about $20. For a wine that, on a hot summer day or evening, is generally more satisfying than either an oaky chardonnay or a heavy cabernet, perhaps it’s time to think about value for what we receive.
Château Saint-Maur L’Excellence Rosé Cru Classé 2016 AOP Côtes de Provence
Dazzling bright pale salmon pink color with a hint of blue, this wine is all elegance and finesse. Made near St. Tropez, this is as quintessential a Provence rosé as you are likely to find. The classic combination of syrah, grenache, rolle (a local name for vermentino) and the local grape tibouren gives it a nice flavor spectrum. L'Excellence is luscious and delicious, with a crisp freshness to balance the red berry and white peach aromas and flavors. It is pricey at $45 a bottle in the U.S. though there is a less expensive (and somewhat less intense) Château Saint Maur available for about $30.
Chêne Bleu Rosé 2016, IGP Vaucluse (South of France)
Made from grenache, syrah and a smidgen of cinsault, the grapes for this wine come from 60 year-old-vines. Ninety minutes of skin contact give it a gorgeous pink color with a hint of lavender. In the mouth, crisp acidity is nicely balanced with wild strawberry aromas and flavors. There is a savory note in the background that makes this a really satisfying glass of wine. No, make that two glasses! It sells for about $32 a bottle.
Hacienda de Arinzano Rosé 2016 DO Navarra, Spain
Deep salmon pink, this 100% tempranillo wine has the color of a Tavel rosé but much more c9mplexity on the palate. Red fruit, especially wild strawberry and peach notes all jostle for attention. It has 13.5% alcohol so it has some strength but it has the palate impression to back it up, and with its refreshing acidity this is a great rosé to pair with grilled foods and other strong flavors. It retails in the US for $20 a bottle, and is available in a few markets in magnum, which is great fun for an outdoor gathering of friends.