Rosé continues its bid for summer supremacy

The picture continues to be rosy for rosé wines. Nielsen retail figures from April found that sales of rosés grew more than 50 percent for the third consecutive year. Although France dominates the market share, the domestic category is experiencing phenomenal growth and closing the gap.

The picture is also rosy for rosé fans, who have more choices than ever. New brands crowd store shelves. But there’s a downside to all this success for rosé. The first is that prices are on the rise. I can’t believe how many pink wines these days cost $30 or more. Sure, some of these wines (but not all) are well-made, even serious. But for me, rosé’s biggest obligations are to be delicious and refreshing, not profound. And there are plenty of pink wines that fulfill that goal for a lot less money.

I’m seeing another unsettling trend: Sweetness levels are rising. It took years for rosé wines to shed their association with white zinfandel and other confected pink wines. Although I love bone-dry rosé, I don’t mind just a touch of residual sugar. But I’m tasting a lot of proprietary blends that are downright sweet, and the labels don’t give any indication of that. So buyer beware.

You can rosé all day for 12 months of the year, of course, but I really appreciate the wines’ refreshing qualities when the weather is hot. Which is why I also tend to write about pink wines during the summer.

What follows are 10 domestic rosés, all costing $25 or less. Some are more complex than others. In addition to deliciousness, I’m looking for refreshment. For me, that translates into tension and energy. Something with real zip.

Rosé wines can be made from any grape that has color in the skins (usually that means red grapes, but more on that in a minute), because that pale pink or salmon color comes from brief contact after harvest between the grape skins and the juice. Pinot noir is a popular variety for rosé and can produce snappy, refreshing wines. From Oregon, the 2017 Stoller Pinot Noir Rosé ($25) is always one of my favorites, with its juicy cranberry and raspberry, hint of watermelon and persistent finish. For a more affordable choice, there’s the very pale 2017 Erath Rosé of Pinot Noir ($14), which displays racy red berry and a hint of apple.

I can also recommend a pair of pinot rosés from the Russian River Valley: the 2017 Rodney Strong Rosé of Pinot Noir ($25), which tastes of racy, delicate red fruit and watermelon, and the 2017 Sonoma-Cutrer Rosé of Pinot Noir ($25), with its strawberry and citrus notes and bare hint of creaminess.

Julia’s Dazzle is a rosé from Long Shadows Vintners in Washington state made from pinot gris, which is traditionally thought of as a white grape but is actually a variety with some color in its skins. The vibrant 2017 Julia’s Dazzle ($20) offers pretty red fruit and an apple peel note.

Rhone grape varieties are frequently used in rosé. A good example is the 2017 Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas Rosé ($25) from Paso Robles, a blend dominated by grenache. It brims with wild strawberry fruit, accented by a mineral note. The 2017 Decoy Rosé ($20), which is mostly syrah, has ample juicy red fruit and a hint of watermelon.

Carignane is a common grape in southern France (where it’s spelled carignan), and m2 Wines in Lodi uses that variety in its delicious rosé. The 2017 m2 Rosé of Carignane ($20) is racy and fresh, with pretty flavors of cranberry and red currant.

A number of California wineries are producing rosés made from a proprietary (secret) blend of grapes. One that I enjoyed at this year’s Critics’ Challenge wine competition was the 2017 Sea Siren Rosé ($13), which combines strawberry flavors with a hint of sauvignon blanc character. And we were more than a little surprised to see that we’d given a platinum medal to the 2017 Bota Box Dry Rosé ($23 for a 3-liter box), another mystery blend, which displays mouthwatering cranberry and watermelon flavors and great tension. And it does, indeed, taste dry, especially when served properly chilled.