Beating the heat with rosé wines

Makers of rosé wine recommend it for quaffing year-round. But let’s face it: A refreshing pink wine is made for summer’s heat.

Rosé sales have been growing at a steady clip for several years, and much of that growth has been among wines priced at or above $12. As sales have grown, more and more rosés have shown up on store shelves. Many of them are serious efforts, but some are, shall we say, best described as novelty brands – White Girl Rosé, anyone?

Although some wine drinkers are still stuck on the notion that pink wines must be sweet – think white zinfandel – the popularity of rosé is being driven by wines that are dry or nearly dry. The wines can be made from any red grapes (sometimes white grapes are part of the mix, too). The color is largely a function of how long the juice stays on the skins of the red grapes, which is where the color is.

There was a time when a lot of rosés were something of a byproduct of red wine production. Juice was bled off a tank of red grapes in an attempt to concentrate the red wine. That pale, bled-off juice was turned into rosé. But the grapes were often very ripe, so rosés made in this fashion could turn out heavy and alcoholic, rather than refreshing. Now, a lot of the best rosés are made from grapes that are farmed specifically for pink wines or at least picked earlier than they would be for red.

Even as rosé’s popularity soars, there’s been something of a backlash from some writers and wine snobs, who complain that many of today’s pink wines are uninspired or inauthentic. Sure, there’s some mediocre pink plonk, but in my book, rosé doesn’t have to be a serious wine worthy of contemplation. Its main duties are to be delicious and thirst-quenching.

The region of the world that’s probably best known for rosé is Provence, in southern France, where there’s a long history of producing pink wines from grapes such as grenache, cinsault and syrah. The region’s rosés got new cachet with the introduction of Chateau Miraval, produced by winemaker Marc Perrin from a property owned by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Another Provencal rosé, Whispering Angel from Chateau d’Esclans, has become a huge success; two summers ago, media outlets were abuzz about a shortage of Whispering Angel and other rosés in the Hamptons. (I haven’t tasted either of the aforementioned wines.)

There are plenty of Provencal pinks that are considerably less trendy but offer plenty of drinking pleasure.

hecht&bannier

For example, the very pale 2015 Hecht & Bannier Cotes de Provence Rosé ($18), which is mostly grenache and cinsault, is fresh and bright, with red berry and a persistent finish. The 2015 Estandon Cotes de Provence Rosé ($12) — which also contains a white grape, rolle (also known as vermentino) – offers delicate strawberry and citrus flavors. The 2015 Chateau Margui “Perle de Margui” Coteaux Varois en Provence Rosé ($25) has a little more body and flavors of strawberry and cranberry, accented by a green apple note. The 2015 Bila-Haut Rosé ($15) – from farther west, in Languedoc-Roussillon – is a zippy grenache-syrah blend with red berry flavors and a slightly drying finish.

Similar blends are produced in California; they’re particularly popular in Paso Robles. Tablas Creek has been making Rhone-style rosé for many years and now produces two of them. The 2015 Tablas Creek Dianthus Rosé ($30) is mostly mourvedre and grenache, all from the estate vineyard. Dianthus is a fuller-bodied rosé with a darker color, and it displays bright berry and plum flavors, an earthy note and a persistent finish. The 2015 Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas Rosé ($25) is mostly grenache and has more of a racy, refreshing profile, with plenty of red berry fruit.

TCV_15_Dianthus_crop

Another Paso pink, the 2015 Halter Ranch Rosé ($21), is mostly grenache, with a substantial addition of picpoul blanc and a little mourvedre and syrah. Made from fruit farmed for rosé, it’s racy and fresh, with cranberry, raspberry and a squeeze of lemon. Other refreshing pink Rhone blends from Paso Robles include the 2015 Adelaida Rosé ($20) and 2015 Chronic Cellars Pink Pedals ($17).

One of California’s best known Rhone-style rosés is Bonny Doon’s Vin Gris de Cigare. The 2015 edition ($18) is mostly grenache and grenache blanc and displays delicate red fruit and a pretty floral note.

Grenache stands alone to make tasty rosé, too. For example, the 2015 Clif Family Rosé of Grenache ($24) is very fresh and racy, with strawberry and cranberry notes.

Pinot noir is another popular grape for pink wine, and there are lots of good versions from Oregon and California. From Oregon, there’s the 2015 Stoller Pinot Noir Rosé ($25), which displays bright raspberry and cranberry with a citrusy note, and the vibrant, persistent 2015 Ponzi Pinot Noir Rosé ($22). From California, the

2015 Presqu’ile Pinot Noir Rosé ($20), from the Santa Maria Valley, is racy, but also has some weight and richness. The 2015 Pfendler Rosé of Pinot Noir ($18), from the Sonoma Coast, is fresh and pretty, with plump wild strawberry. And the 2015 Calera Vin Gris of Pinot Noir ($19), from the Central Coast, is fresh and aromatic, with cranberry and a citrus note.

calera vin gris

Pink wines from Spain are often tremendous values, as is the case with the fruity, fragrant 2015 El Coto Rioja Rosado ($12). And for something a little more unusual, look to southern Italy and the 2015 Castello Monaci “Kreos” Negroamaro Rosé ($16), with its bright flavors of cranberry, cherry and a kiss of watermelon.

There are a few rosés that will age – the rosé from Rioja’s Lopez de Heredia is a famous one – but most are made to be drunk young. Look for 2015 wines.

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