People are risk-averse. Weirdly so where wine is concerned. They fear what they aren’t familiar with and worse, they tend to make the very incorrect assumption that stuff that’s more expensive is that way because it’s better. Folks: up to a certain tipping point that can be true, especially in the sense that it costs more to grow and make and distribute wine that’s made in small quantities and under strict and high standards. But I have sad news: Cabernet and Chardonnay command Ginormo prices because they can get away with it because they have dominated the market for decades. If you think it’s the “best” wine and that the more expensive it is the better it must be you are, to be blunt, what is known as a “fashion victim.” (Ask a Merlot producer. Again, more on that later.)
One place where some of the Le Snoot factor can be shunted aside is in the Eternal Casual Friday zone where pink wines dwell. You can make rosé wines from any red wine grape (some blends are primarily white varietals with a little red splashed in; also valid) and you can do it in a number of ways, of which the most common is simply limiting skin contact with the juice because that’s where the pigment (and much of the tannic acid) in red grapes lives. Depending on varietal(s), skin time, and other factors, you can have a wine with ghostly, barely-there colors, electric cherry-red and everything in between. Degree of color might but very much might not correlate with degree of intensity in the wine so don’t assume a boldly hued Tempranillo will be assertive and an ethereal-looking Grenache will be demure because you could easily be wrong.
Rosé Road Rules (lay level; I am assuming you are not a master sommelier)
•Pink wine is best enjoyed chilled. That and its general light and juicy nature make it seem “summery” and indeed it is, but so is a big inky Zinfandel, and it’s not like your white shoes that you are supposed to put away after Labor day. I Rosati are always in season. Always. Always. Thank you.
•Pink wines are, with few exceptions, easygoing companions to all kinds of food and also delightful aperitifs, which is French for “you drink it without bothering with solid food calories.” Along with dry sparkling wines they are in this wine-geek’s opinion the most versatile class of wines on the planet.
•Les Pinks tend to be of lower Le Pricepoint than their red counterparts. Don’t believe for un minuto that this means “wine equivalent of sausage meat.” They are largely less expensive because they don’t take up valuable real estate in expensive oak barrels for several years. They are probably often a little less spendy because of what I noted above: The peanut gallery effect. Because rosé does feel quick and casual it is perceived as less important or like a byproduct. (Oh, occasionally it is a byproduct! Sometimes that can be a fine thing, like how bread pudding or chawan mushi or, yes, sausage is a repurposing-oriented food. Sometimes it’s Beringer White Zinfandel, which damn near ruined the whole category for anyone who attended a wedding in the 1980s and has never forgotten the vicious hangover they suffered.)
•While, as I said you can make pink wine from any red wine grape (as well as a few grapes that are naturally pink versus purple to black), some wines seem especially born for low-skin-contact expressions and some are relatively touchy about being treated like that. Some of the most commonly-awesome rosé grapes are: Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Carignan and Sangiovese (and although you’ll be hard put to find it, if you do come across a pink Nebbiolo grab it.
•The Mount Olympus of pink wine is Provence, France. But it’s made everywhere wine is made and trust me, it doesn’t have to be French to be awesome.
Following are 52 rosé wines to try. Please note I have not called out vintages. That stuff matters with long-aging wines but you’re not aging this stuff. In fact, to quote Ser Alliser Thorne yelling sarcastically at his recruits in Game of Thrones: “What you waitin’ for? Summer?” In just about all of these cases, the currently available vintage is the one I’m talking about and if it’s a wine that has a tendency to be really different year to year, I’ll mention it. Otherwise: Grab, Chill, Apply Corkscrew, Bottoms Up. Dig?
A to Z Wineworks Rosé (Oregon, $12)
The Pacific Northwest is the “Land of The Rules Don’t Apply to Me,” and that can be a good thing. This is a brash but somehow still approachable wine with a vivid color and extreme juiciness. Citrus, plum, a little pomegranate. There’s even a touch of hibiscus, which is funny because this stuff looks a lot like the “Jamaica” hibiscus agua fresca at your local taqueria. In fact, I’d call it a very sane choice for pairing with good Mexican food. Big personality, a little eclectic. Very tasty.
Alpha Estate Rosé (Greece, $21)
You’ve never heard of Xinomvaro? That’s okay: It’s good. In this case it comes in a liquid-strawberry color and that’s the dominant note on both nose and palate, along with fresh roses. Juicy, refreshing, pleasing finish. Winemaker suggestions for pairing include light tomato-based pasta dishes but I’m going to disagree on that one (hey, we like what we like) and make the oddball counter-suggestion that this wine would pair beautifully with lamb if that is a thing you eat. If you don’t, I’m sure it wouldn’t mind hanging out with a wide range of foods especially if they are of Mediterranean descent.
Angels and Cowboys Sonoma Rosé (Sonoma County, $16)
The 2017 release is, like its predecessors, a Grenache-fest made in the dry and light Provence style. Vegetarians and lovers of shellfish take note, this is a wine that will pair with some of the more difficult-to-pair veggies (and spices!) but it handles simple stuff just fine too. Ethereal, delicate, acidity in the “racy” or “zippy” range balanced with strong mineral presence. Tangerine, pomegranate, a ghostly floral note that might be almond or peach blossom. Epic deliciousness.
Argiolas Serra Lori Rosato Isola dei Nuraghi (Sardinia, $15)
This rosato is composed of four Sardinian grapes that are ideally suited to rosé styles. Cannonau (one of many aliases for Grenache) and Monica lend strawberry fruitiness, while Carignano and Bovale Sardo bring freshness and aroma. Serra Lori is a beautiful rosy-pink wine full of juicy, vibrant raspberry and alpine strawberry flavors. It’s vivacious and affable and while it can certainly stand on its own, it’s a wine that’s happiest paired with a bunch of friends and a nice dinner party. It is a fan of outdoor cookery, and will hang out happily with grilled veggies, oily fish-it has enough body and structure to hold its own with grilled meats of the red variety.
Artner Blaufrankisch Rosé (Austria, $14)
As always, I try to concoct these lists without too many wines that are difficult to locate; this is probably one of the more obscure ones, but it did pop up on the wine list at my local pizza joint. And (again) this is where we all give thanks that there is this Internet Shopping Thing. Blaufrankisch (Lemberger, if you’re in Germany) is a tasty grape that makes very aromatic and spicy wines. This one has a blushy rosepetal hue, fairly light body but with enough tannin that you notice it. The nose is predominantly black cherry and spring flowers, and on the palate, there is a spicy overlay on a strawberry jam character, with strong minerality and lots of backbone. One of those “But seriously, pair it with anything” wines, it also stands its ground as an aperitif. Fairly high acid, in a good way-it’s bracing and fresh.
Bairaktaris Monolithos Rosé (Greece, $17)
I’ve said it before: France may rule the wine scene in many situations, but back when it was called “Gaul” and was the most godforsaken armpit of the Roman Empire, Greece already had centuries of viticulture under its belt. This delectable Greek rosé comes from Assyrtiko and Agiorgtiko grapes, and has an eye-popping clear cherry-red color. It’s a great addition to a summer meal, providing both refreshing fruit and fuller structure that pairs excellently with fruits and grilled meats. The nose emits intense aromas of cherry and strawberries. Gentle tannins provide structure in the mouth, and the finish is full and fruity. This family-operated winery is very sustainability-focused, as well, for those who care about the footprint of their wine (arguably this should be everyone). This is one of the planet’s most ancient and venerable winemaking regions-take advantage of centuries of knowhow at a fantastic price point.