Dirty Secret Alert: I don’t actually believe wine has a season. I especially differ with anyone who thinks you should only drink rosé wines in hot weather. Not that they aren’t wonderful warm weather wines, it’s just that I will happily put them alongside a Thanksgiving turkey or sip them while watching snow fall. However, the vernal equinox has officially passed and for those who do find themselves in need of something pink, here’s a handful of stuff to try when you’re staring down the wine aisle at your local spot trying to select something for a picnic or a party or a Wednesday at 4:45. Some are easily found in your supermarket, some might require a click or two. Some are priced for a Wednesday afternoon and some are definitely priced more for a special occasion. But they’re all good.
Attems Pinot Grigio Ramato 2014
“Ramato” or copper (orange) wine is a specialty of the Venice area and has caught on in many other regions. Though I include it with the pinks here, it’s technically almost the opposite of a rose. Rose wines are pressed from red grapes that have had little to no skin contact. Orange wines come from grapes that normally produce white wines, but whose skins have enough tint that, if left in contact with the juice for a few hours (or a few weeks) will develop a faint coppery sheen (in some cases, an almost electric orange color), a more unctuous texture and a totally different flavor profile than you’d get from the plain-white expression of that fruit. Attems is a traditional Venetian with a wildflower nose and a lot of minerality. Peach and apricot notes are prominent. It’s a great aperitif and you couldn’t ask for a nicer wine with fatty fish, antipasti, or spring veggies. Generally available for about $20, and tastes a good deal more expensive.
Urban Legend Rosato di Barbera 2012
Made in the exotic wine-country known as “Oakland,” this under-$20 rosato is a dream-date for BBQ among other things. It’s wantonly fruity but not sugary – strong strawberry note, a little cherry, a little peach. It is super drinkable, a fuller-bodied pink than you will generally find in Provence with a clear, almost watermelon-flesh color. This is a good wine for people who think they don’t like pink wine – full of surprises, low on attitude, and highly versatile. This wine’s easily found in local supermarkets where I live, but I live in California. In other markets there might be an online transaction required to get it. It’s worth doing that.
Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare 2014
When in doubt about a pink wine, the original Rhone Ranger will never let you down. The 2014 Vin Gris de Cigare is a genre-defining and yet genre-defying little minx with a pale-salmon tone behind which there is an almost dizzying, but still elegant, array of continuously unfurling aromatics. Bergamot and green tea, something almost smoky, something marine, and a base of alpine strawberry and chalk. It is a lithe and vivacious wine with a very firm grip. I cannot think of a single food that would disagree with this stuff. And it’s in the $15-20 range depending on where you encounter it. Like Randall Grahm, the winemaker behind this stuff, this is a wine with serious moxie, epic wit, and a lot of layers. Always correct, always absolutely fab.
Chateau D’esclans “Whispering Angel” 2015
The only wine mentioned here that is higher on the “if in doubt, grab that one” wine is Bonny Doon’s Vin Gris de Cigare. I love Whispering Angel. The new vintage is no exception. This is a very restrained, refined, elegant rosé that kind of defines “drinkable.” It’s a people-pleasing Grenache-Syrah-etc blend with a soft approach, predominantly strawberry and citrus notes, and a lovely berry bouquet. And it’s only about $20.
SIP Rosé 2015
This is a newbie! Barry Gnekow, who is also the zeitgeist behind Klinker Brick, Educated Guess and Seven Deadly Zins among other ventures, is the unseen hand behind the inaugural vintage of this super-dry pink Pinot noir from Napa and Sonoma fruit. It has the barely-looked-at-the-skins pallor of a Provencal Grenache and a youthful demeanor. Very crisp and pleasantly acidic, strawberry on the nose with an undertone of violet; snappy, slightly spicy finish with some red plum. Picnic-friendly “Le Screwcap” technology and a $16 price point make it a park-bound Saturday no-brainer.
JM Cellars Cinsaut 2014
This Washington State beaut is a new discovery for me and I will tell you it’s probably the hardest to come by of anything on this list, so know that I included it because I think it’s worth trying. If you’re in striking distance of the Emerald City, get you to Woodinville and belly up to the bar; their site is splendid. Otherwise, take your chances online to get this small release Cinsaut. Rhone-ish style, full bodied but delicate, with a lush strawberry jam nose and fine acidity. Great seafood wine.
Quivira 2015 Rosé
If I didn’t say something gushy about Quivira you’d know I’d been abducted and replaced by robots, right? I swear they don’t pay me. This is a Provence-leaning pink based on rosé rockstar Grenache, with supporting roles played by Cunoise, Mourvedre and Syrah. It’s medium-bodied, very crisp, but with more grip and and a lingering, softly unfurling finish. Red berries, but also hints of tart and astringent fruit such as cranberry and citrus, plus a bit of watermelon. I dare you to stop at one glass. And just $22.
Benziger Family Wines de Coelo Rosé
At $45, this is an amazingly high price point for a California pink. I am the first to note that. (They had a very low yield from the De Coelo vineyard this year but apparently the fruit quality was top notch.) Anyway, if biodynamic farming is a thing for you (and it arguably ought to be), you might like to experiment with Benziger’s Demeter Certified wines including this shockingly-pink and highly-tasty wine. The De Coelo rosé is made from Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, and has a very zippy acidity with notes of pomegranate, black cherry, and the fraise des bois note that crops up in a lot of Pinot pinks. Like almost everything on this list, it’s wildly enamored of a wide variety of foods but perfectly happy to go stag.
Domaine de la Mordorée Tavel Rosé 2014
When you see “Tavel” on the label of a French rosé you know you are dealing primarily with Grenache and Cinsaut. Tavels are all pinks – in other words people in this AOC are super-specialists and they know from rosé. This one’s a deeply-colored iteration, almost ruby, and it has aromas of raspberries, orange blossom, soft white flowers and wild strawberries. Rounded palate, soft finish. Beautiful. $30.
Falesco Vitiano Rosato 2015
This rosé is packed with summer strawberries, watermelon, white pepper and rose petals (the latter thanks to 10% Aleatico in the blend). It is a vibrant coral color with juicy acidity. I don’t know about you, but rose petals are one of the wine notes that just make me incredibly happy. Yum. And just $12.
Herdade do Esporão Vinha da Defesa Rosé 2014
Adorável! Pinks from the Iberian Peninsula are not shrinking violets, generally speaking, and this baby’s no exception. Deep pink with violet reflexes in the glass, this is a burly Syrah rosé with the watermelon core common to many Spanish and Portuguese pinks – it also sports a nose full of earth notes and nifty spices with a little blue-note of raspberries. $13
Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé NV
If you missed that day in Sommelier school, “cuvee” can have a few different meanings but in Champagne it generally denotes the best juice from the initial pressing of the grapes. (It can also refer to a blend). Laurent-Perrier’s non-vintage cuvee is intensely pink with copper undertones. Made from 100% Pinot Noir, it has a vivid spice-accented bouquet of fresh strawberries, red currants and black cherries. Special occasion price ($99), but with good reason.
Champange Taittenger Prestige Rosé
Taittenger is also not a Monday night wine for most of us, but this elegant and racy cuvée is well worth your attention for a special occasion. It’s is a blend of 85% vinified-white wine and 15% red (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier). The delicate color and intense vibrancy on the palate is obtained by adding a small proportion of still red Pinot Noir. The final cuvée is blended from an extensive range of at least 15 diverse crus. After second fermentation in the bottle, the wine spends three years on the lees in the bottle to develop complexity and bouquet. This cuvée is a vibrant pink color with fine bubbles and persistent foam. The full and wonderfully expressive nose delivers aromas of crushed raspberries, cherries and black currants that lead into crisp, fresh red fruit flavors on the palate. Velvety, full-bodied, romantic, and around $70.