The sun is shining. The weather is getting warm. The patio furniture has been brought out of hibernation. For wine lovers, this means one thing … rosé season has arrived.
As I began to write this piece, I was all set to recommend my favorite pink beauties and perhaps touch on the strange new mindset in which some people refuse to drink rosé that’s more than a year old. But … instead of celebrating the arrival of the newest, freshest wines, and the arrival of springtime in the valley—with all the amazing events, and parties, and social gatherings—life has been put on hold. We are being told to isolate ourselves while COVID-19 takes its toll on society.
Writing about wine in light of everything that is going on seems, well, trite.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized the notion of keeping calm and carrying on might be exactly the thing to do. After all, I’m no expert on the coronavirus or economics, so writing about how all of this will affect the wine industry, or our health, is way out of my area of expertise.
What I do know is wine. And I know that even though, right now, things are uncertain, we can’t stop living life (even if we’re living it at home), and we should not stop doing the things we can to that bring us joy. And drinking rosé brings me great joy. So, in the spirit of moving forward, let’s talk about pink wine, shall we?
It wasn’t all that long ago that the sight of someone drinking a glass of something pink meant that they were wine novices, and their blushing beverage had to be sweet, cheap, white zinfandel. Fast-forward a decade or so, and there is such a glut of bone-dry rosé on the market that you’d be hard pressed to find anything even remotely resembling the Boone’s Farm or Sutter Home of days gone by.
But even with this increase in popularity of rosé and dry pink wine, I’m still amazed at the amount of confusion and the misconceptions regarding just what this wine is.
If you’ve ever wondered why there are so many different hues and varying shades of pink—from pale salmon to deep magenta—it will help to understand just how rosé is made.
In the simplest possible explanation, rosé is created with any red-wine grape that ferments on the skins for a very short period of time. It’s the skins of the grapes that provide the color in a wine, so the darkness and thickness of the grape’s skin, and the length of time you leave the skins in with the fermenting juice, will dictate how pigmented the final product is. Even white zinfandel is really just red zinfandel—the big, hearty wine you know and love—that was taken off the skins early.
Like all things that become popular, everyone in the wine industry was eager to jump on the pink bandwagon and get a piece of the pie. So, with every region on the globe, and every red grape imaginable, offering a pink counterpart, how do you choose?
For me, I always love going directly to the source. In France, specifically the southern Mediterranean region, these wines were created around the sixth century. Called vins de soif or “wines to quench thirst,” these wines were always meant to be deliciously drinkable and, at the same time, sophisticated and every bit as serious as the other wines created across the rest of France.
The two names synonymous with exceptional Provencal rosé are Domaine Tempier and Domaine du Gros’ Noré. These are the crème de la crème of French rosé and worth every penny: If you want to experience the most sophisticated incarnations of pink wine, look no further. Of course, names like Domaines Ott and Chateau Miraval are well-known and elegant wines in their own right, if not a little over-exposed.
If drinking esoteric wines is your thing, then you and I probably already know each other and drink wine on the reg. But if, by chance, we haven’t met, I’ll share with you my favorite rosé’s that are off the beaten path.
The Massaya rosé of cinsault from the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, is a truly special wine. It’s owned and operated by Lebanese brothers who returned to their homeland after the civil war and revitalized their family’s winery, which had been ravaged by the war. They partnered with three of the greatest French houses—Cheval Blanc, Vieux Telegraphe and Chateau Angélus—and create stunning wines. The rosé has beautiful flavors of sour cherry, fresh strawberries and cracked pepper.
The wines of Corsica are also making a big splash, and Clos Alivu is presenting itself as one of the best producers on the island. They create a rosé from the region of Patrimonio using an indigenous grape called nielluccio. Turns out nielluccio is what the Corsicans call sangiovese, so perhaps it’s not that strange after all. With flavors of sweet cranberry, honeydew melon and raspberries, you’ll wonder why you’ve never heard of it!
California remains a source of beautiful rosé, but finding a style that fits a specific palate can be a little more challenging. The rosés made from pinot noir coming from the cool Sonoma Coast appellation are crisp and vibrant. I adore the Jax Vineyards Y3 rosé, with its low alcohol, bright acidity and layers of fresh strawberries, rosé petals and watermelon.
The Bedrock “Ode to Lulu” rosé is a blend from historic plantings of mourvedre, grenache and carignan, from heritage vineyards all across California. Peaches, cantaloupes, fresh herbs and a touch of salinity make this rosé incredibly thought-provoking and unique.
Maybe this time of solitude can be used to learn more about ourselves. Maybe we’ll connect with our families, or maybe we’ll finally fix that broken drawer, or leaky faucet. Maybe we can sip wine from far-off places and imagine ourselves in a beautiful wine landscape. However you choose to use your time, please always try to fill it with joy.
Katie Finn is a certified sommelier and certified specialist of wine with two decades in the wine industry. She can be reached at email@example.com.