Despite the death and economic chaos brought on by COVID-19, we are searching for normalcy in our world – a time when we went about our business of earning a living and fearlessly gathering with friends and family. We wish “social distancing” had never become a household phrase.
One thing that remains normal, though, is the arrival of spring when our thoughts turn to the outdoors, backyard barbecues, a day on the boat or around the pool. When our thoughts turn in this direction, we think first of rosé, a quaff associated with warm weather like champagne is associated with celebration.
We’ve been enjoying rosé year-round as an aperitif and even alongside fare like smoked salmon, pizza, pasta and fish. It is a drink that pairs best with the lighter fare that spring and summer bring. Cold pastas, cheese, grilled salmon, cold cuts, fruit and vegetables cry out for a good rosé.
Rosés don’t have a long shelf life – a year at best – because their main attribute is their freshness. Bright acidity and youthful fruit flavors characterize rosé no matter where it is made.
Today, you can find rosé made in nearly every wine-growing region and with an array of red grape varieties: pinot noir, tempranillo, merlot and the more traditional grenache, cinsault, syrah and mourvedre. It is the latter four that typify the wines from Provence, where European vacationers buy it by the carafe at seaside cafes.
The rosés of Provence have a special place in our cellar. They are usually crisper with fresh acidity, lighter body and more delicate fruit flavors. Those from the West Coast are delicious, but heavier on the palate and bolder in style. To us, rosé is more than a blast of fruit; it’s about finesse.
Rosé has the power to get you out of your funk. It’s the perfect wine to welcome friends back into your house and the perfect wine to welcome warmer weather. Here are 12 of our favorite rosés to get you into summer:
- St. Supery Estate Rosé 2019 ($16). This Napa Valley rosé uses five Bordeaux-like grape varieties to create a fiesty, generous rosé with watermelon aromas and cranberry, strawberry flavors.
- Gamble Family Napa Valley Rosé ($25). Winemaker Tom Gamble uses cabernet sauvignon as the base for this blend of Bordeaux varieties. Bright strawberry and grapefruit notes with good acidity and long finish.
- Cuvaison Rosé of Pinot Noir 2019 ($30). Fresh strawberry and raspberry notes dominate this crisp rosé from Los Carneros.
- Cenyth Rosé of Cabernet Franc 2019 ($30). We liked the uniqueness of this intense cabernet franc rosé with bright red cherry flavors and hints of dried herbs and citrus.
- Chateau Minuty Prestige 2019 ($30). Minuty takes Provence rosé up a notch with this classy, pale pink version. Delicate floral and melon aromas with vibrant citrus and strawberry flavors. Nice mineral notes. The producer also makes M de Minuty ($23), a classic Provence rosé.
- Domaine de Cala Classic Rosé 2019 ($17.50). This flagship wine of the estate is a perennial favorite of ours. An eclectic blend of cinsault, grenache, rolle, syrah, carignan and grenache blanc, it has a faint peachy pink color, spice and lemon aromas and fresh red berry flavors and a mineral finish.
- Domaines Ott By.Ott Cotes de Provence 2019 ($24). This classic Provence blend of grenache, cinsault, mourvedre and syrah represents everything good about this sunny southern France region. Fresh citrus and peach notes with good acidity and length. Domaines Ott, one of the most notable rosé producers in the region, was acquired by Roederer in 2004. Everything it makes is outstanding.
- Chateau Peyrassol Rosé 2019 ($26). This delicious and fresh rosé from Provence is wild mélange of cinsault, grenache, syrah, mourvedre, tibouren and vermentino. White peach notes with a lot of elegance and charm.
- Argyle Rosé 2019 ($30). From the Willamette Valley, this spirited and delicious rosé blends pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier. Big floral and citrus aromas with notes of watermelon and bing cherries.
- Anaba Rosé of Grenache Sonoma County2019 ($30). We’re surprised more California dryrosé producers aren’t using grenache. This is an example of why it is Provence’s primary grape variety for rosé. Tantalizing stone fruit character with refreshing acidity.
- Ehlers Estate Sylviane Rosé 2019. ($32). The blend for this full-bodied rosé is 60 percent cabernet sauvignon and 40 percent cabernet franc – not your classic rosé blend. Watermelon color, raspberry aromas and peach, raspberry flavors with crisp acidity and texture.
- Hess Select Rosé Wine California 2019 ($12-15). Crafted from pinot noir grapes with all stainless-steel fermentation and aging, from several locations in California. Bright berry fruit with ample acidity create a quaffable uncomplicated rosé that will please a crowd.
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Tom Marquardt (email for questions) and Patrick Darr have been writing a wine column since 1985. They’ve traveled extensively to vineyards in France, Spain, Italy, Greece and the U.S.
Tom lives in Florida with his wife, Sue, where he conducts wine tastings. Patrick is in the wine retail business in Annapolis, Md.