Why are consumers mad for rosé? The wine possesses the fresh fruit and juicy acidity of a white with a hint of the structure and color of a red. It’s delicious when uncorked young and vibrant, but can be intriguing when it’s left to rest in the bottle for a year or two to glean savory, herbal and earthy notes.
And while some wine fans still consider rosé a warm-weather option, more guests are asking for it in January as well as in June.
France’s Provence region is still the primary reference for rosé in New York, according to Sebastien Auvet, cofounder/wine curator of the four Vin Sur Vingt wine bars in Manhattan. And that’s true in many other markets, as well.
The Vin Sur Vingt locations offer up to 10 rosés (prices fluctuate depending on availability), as well as a rosé Happy Hour during which all are $10 per glass. “Dry in style, [they] seem to get paler every year, really making you want to travel to the Mediterranean coast,” Auvet says.
A popular option is Château les Valentines Côtes de Provence La Londe Huit, which Auvet says is perfect with an octopus salad.
Indeed, Provence has long been the international benchmark for rosé, says Andrew Wooldridge, head sommelier at DBGB in Washington, D.C., a 201-seat American and French inspired brasserie and bistro. He admits, however, that many are “everyday mow-the-grass wines”: light and quaffable but not terribly complex.
But some producers have been moving towards more intense examples, Wooldridge points out. One is the 2016 Clos Cibonne Côtes de Provence Tentations ($14 a glass, $60 a liter carafe). Its “fresh strawberries, allspice, clove, smoked bacon and savory herbes de Provence” go well with pan-seared scallops and sunchokes.
DBGB DC offers four rosés by the glass, priced $10 to $16, and at least 10 by the bottle, priced $55 to $65. It also has a rosé cocktail on the menu called Bad & Bugey ($14), with sparkling rosé, Campari, Luxardo Maraschino and lemon.
While some insist that rosé (Provençal or otherwise) is best consumed when it’s youthful as possible, Lindsay Willey disagrees. The chief sommelier for the Baltimore-based Foreman Wolf Restaurant Group, which operates eight concepts in Maryland, believes that a few standout producers are making wine that can age and evolve several years longer than others.
At Petit Louis, a Foreman Wolf-run French Bistro in Baltimore, the 2015 Clos Cibonne Tibouren Cuvée Tradition rosé ($56 a bottle) is produced from the rare varietal tibouren. It’s aged for a year in a solera-like system that’s similar to that for sherry.
The finished product leans more towards the savory and mineral-driven rather than the fruity, Willey says, with dried red currant, sage and thyme that lend it to pairings including swordfish with olives and eggplant.
In the warmer months, the 120-seat Petit Louis offers up to two rosés by the glass, priced $8 to $12, and six by the bottle, priced $30 to $60.
But Provence is not the only French region producing stellar rosé, Willey points out. Bottles coming out of the Southern Rhône are decidedly riper, color-rich and more concentrated than their peach-hued and citrus-tinged cousins.
That extra oomph allows them to stand up to fuller-flavored dishes, since they drink like a red wine but without the tannic structure, she says.
The 2016 Domaine Pélaquié Tavel ($40 a bottle) is a cinsault and grenache blend with notes of candied cherries and dried roses and a weighty texture balanced by juicy acidity. Petit Louis offers it when peaches and tomatoes are abundant. The wine would also work with pork tenderloin, seared flank steak and cedar-planked spice-rubbed salmon.
France’s Loire Valley is known for its vibrant, fresh wines made from sauvignon blanc, chenin blanc and cabernet franc, and that signature style also translates to the region’s pink versions. Enoch Shully, owner/beverage director of the 150-seat BIN 36 restaurant and wine bar in Chicago, prefers Loire bottles to Provence rosé.
He likes the 2015 Domaine de l’Aujardière Eric Chevalier Grolleau Noir, which is “clean and crisp but also rich with flavor, offering hints of blueberries and spice and a mouthwatering finish.” BIN 36 serves four rosés by the glass priced $12 to $14, and one rotating by the bottle, priced at $50 to $55.
Wooldridge likes the 2016 Berthier Sancerre Rosé of Pinot Noir ($16 a glass, $64 a bottle), which has notes of sour cherries, lilac blossoms, chalk and tangerine peel. He uses it in summer as a pinot noir stand-in for pairing with roast duck breast with wild rice and beets.
“I love how this wine is fragrant and delicate, but still has the verve and zest of a good red Burgundy,” Wooldridge says.
Auvet turns to the Beatrice and Pascal Lambert Chinon Rosé Cuvée Mathilde, also from the Loire. A 100% cabernet franc wine that’s biodynamically farmed, it boasts light fruit aromas and enough structure for turbot in a butter cream sauce with lentil salad and saucisson en brioche.
Corsica is also known for producing stellar rosés. Auvet calls the Domaine Vico Corsican rosé ($12.50 a glass, $50 a bottle) a “perfect introduction to the island, with notes of fresh fruits and flowers” that cozies up to tapenade, warm goat cheese tartine or cucumber gazpacho.
Rosés Around the World
And what about other rosé-dominated regions around the world? Willey says those wines from Spain offer “a huge stylistic range, from the sheer savory mineral rosé from Bierzo, to more concentrated, barrique-aged rosé from Priorat.”
At Dahlia Lounge, a 150-seat Asian-Pacific fusion restaurant in Seattle, operated by the Tom Douglas Restaurant Group, chef Brock Johnson offers the 2013 Jané Ventura cava brut rosé for $11 a glass, $48 a bottle. “I love it with our Dungeness crab cakes with cucumber yogurt, curried cauliflower, cabbage and dill,” Johnson says. “The freshness from the herbs plays well with the rosé and also helps the wine really show beautifully with the crab.”
A few other of Johnson’s favorite dishes with bubbly rosé include fava beans with a poached egg, pea shoots and parmesan, and an arugula salad with d’anjou pears, ruby beets, sheep’s cheese, pistachio and herb relish. Dahlia Lounge carries five rosés by the bottle, priced from $48 to $63.
Willey says Italy’s most successful rosé hails from the South, with grapes like montepulciano in Abruzzo, primitivo in Puglia and gaglioppo in Calabria. “These wines are outstanding with late summer produce and often offer excellent value,” she says.
Argentina is definitely more known for its malbec rather than its rosé. But the Michelini brothers are making some of the most exciting wines in the country, including high-altitude offerings in Mendoza, says Booth Hardy, sommelier/owner of the 45-seat wine bar and shop Barrel Thief in Richmond, VA.
The 2016 Zorzal pinot noir rosé ($12.99 a bottle) “will surprise you with its minerality and lack of overt fruit, which makes it perfectly versatile at the table,” Hardy says. He suggests trying it with medium-bodied, savory and earthy foods such as pork shoulder banh mi tacos with crunchy root vegetables.
Barrel Thief has a rotating rosé by the glass at all times ranging in price from $6 to $14, and 25 by the bottle priced $6.99 to $61.99.
Domestic producers in California, Washington and Virginia are crafting high-quality rosés as well. Hardy calls the easy-drinking, merlot-based 2016 Early Mountain Vineyards rosé (priced at $18.99 a bottle) from Virginia, “fresh and lively, with tension and balance,” with notes of candied strawberries, minerals, honeysuckle and white peach.
Shully is especially impressed with rosé coming out of Washington state, as “the climate in that area has improved, the terroir is fantastic and they are producing some really unique rosé varietals.”
At BIN 36, the 2015 Barnard Griffin sangiovese rosé from Washington’s Columbia Valley is vinified in an Italian style, with a “delicate bouquet of floral aromas and hints of pomegranate and strawberries,” Shully says.
Johnson has several Pacific Northwest rosés on the list at Dahlia Lounge. These include the 2015 Patton Valley rosé ($48 a bottle), with notes of watermelon, pear, jasmine and white flowers, and the 2015 J.K. Carrière rosé ($63 a bottle) with notes of lime flowers and melon, both from Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
Wooldridge says that Lioco Winery in Santa Rosa, CA, makes beautifully balanced wines of terroir. The 2016 Lioco Indica (priced at $60 a bottle), made with carignan, has “rhubarb, blood orange, pickled watermelon and rose, [and] is a great match with fresh food and spice.” He suggests it either with tuna and watermelon crudo, or fried chicken with fresno chilies and spicy honey.
“Ripe styles with intensity of flavor and fleshy texture seem to dominate [California],” Willey says. But since growers have the flexibility of working with a variety of grapes from sangiovese to pinot noir, the variations are endless.
Now that rosé has finally transcended gender and age stereotypes, and more than ever, people are embracing drinking pink. “Men, women, young, old—no one is feeling a stigma about drinking it,” Auvet says. “If anything, it might have a cool factor that definitely wasn’t there before.”
Kelly Magyarics, DWS, is a wine, spirits and lifestyle writer and wine educator in the Washington, D.C. area.