Kathleen Inman remembers the time when she had to twist arms in her tasting room to get people to try her rosé. Too many people had associated a pink wine with the sugary blush wines that had finally passed out of style. But in 2013, “suddenly people turned on a light switch and rosé was a great wine to have,” she said.
Rosé is well past the arm-twisting stage as sales show. The new challenge, Inman said, is to get people to see rosé as a food wine.
“I’m an evangelist of getting people to treat rosé as a wine to take seriously year-round,” she said.
Eschewing producers who make rosé as an after-thought, Inman has created Endless Crush Rosé of Pinot Noir that goes well beyond a sipping aperitif. Using grapes from her prized OGV Estate, she vinifies her rosé like a white wine. Most producers bleed off a portion of the juice – a method called saignee – and use the rest for a red wine. Inman, like rosé producers in Provence, crushes the grapes only for rosé and gets greater complexity.
“Those made in the saignee method aren’t intended to last long. But made my way, it has potential for aging. And the flavor profile changes. In year two you get a lot of secondary flavors,” she said.
Skin contact is minimal – “about the time it takes to get two tacos from the taqueria,” she said.
Endless Crush – a name trademarked because it has been copied so often – was a last-minute decision for the winemaker. One year, she didn’t have an anniversary gift for her husband and she was desperate for an idea.
“I was quick on my feet and told him I was making him a special wine. It’s a gift that keeps giving.”
Her rosé is more like one from Sancerre where pinot noir is also used instead of the traditional Provence varieties: grenache, syrah, cinsault and mourvedre. After sampling a number of Sancerre rosés, we have become bigger fans of those made from pinot noir.
For many producers in Sancerre and Loire, rosé is relatively new. Greg Doody, president and CEO of Vineyard Brands, said several of the producers in his firm’s portfolio have been making rosés for only a few years.
However, pinot noir is not new to the Loire Valley.
“Before the phylloxera epidemic in the mid-19th century, Sancerre mainly produced red wines,” Doody said. “Today, producers like J. de Villebois and Domaine Delaporte have really become experts in growing Pinot Noir in the Loire Valley. For them, it’s not about popularity of a wine, but about making wines that express the terroir. It just made sense to produce a wine that is another expression of pinot noir in the Loire Valley. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that rosé is popular and shows no signs of slowing down.”
Here are some serious rosés that use only pinot noir:
- Inman Endless Crush Rosé of Pinot Noir 2019 ($38). One of a few single-vineyard rosés, this rosé attacks the palate with a burst of lively, fresh strawberry and watermelon flavors with a dose of mineral and grapefruit. Beautiful watermelon color and bright acidity excites the senses. This is a good rosé to serve with chicken, pasta, salmon and other grilled fish.
- Domaine Delaporte Chavignol Sancerre Rosé 2018. Very spirited rosé made entirely of pinot noir grapes. Lots of bright raspberry and white peach flavors, intense red berry aromas and a dash of citrus.
- Patient Cottat Anciennes Vignes Sancerre Rosé 2018 ($25). Faint salmon color, strawberry aromas and citrus flavors with a dash of spice on the finish.
- J. de Villebois Sancerre Rosé 2018 ($37). Serious aromatics with bright acidity and raspberry, cherry notes.
- J. de Villebois Val de Loire Rosé 2018. More peach like in color, this concentrated rosé shows off raspberry and grapefruit flavors and aromas of currants and cherries.
Just when you think that there is nothing new to discover about wine, along comes Ramato. No, this is not a wine designed to pair with tomato but a wine that falls somewhere between orange wines and the ever-popular roses that are peaking in interest this summer.
Crafted from the pinot grigio grape grown in the Friuli region of northeast Italy, the gray and copper-colored pinot grigio grape skins are left in the grape must for up to a day, which gives the wine a hue ranging from copper to the typical pink rose. The wine is refreshing and quaffable with bold scents and flavors than typical pinot grigios.
Many ramatos also display a light tannic quality that is the result of contact with the pinot grigio’s grape skins during fermentation. We found these wines to hold our interest more than the typical mono-dimensional pinot grigio and they are much more food-friendly to a wider variety of foods.
Pinot grigio vines originated in Alsace in France and were imported to Italy in the mid 1800s. According to Decanter, the ramato-style of pinot grigio dominated the Friuli region until the wildly successful Santa Margherita brand released a non-skin contact white version of pinot grigio in the mid 1960s.
We recently tasted two ramato-styled pinot grigios and were very impressed with quality and savory qualities.
- Attems Pinot Grigio Ramato Friuli DOC 2019 ($20). A very rose like color with strawberry and cherry notes and an underlying minerality and hint of tannins.
- Lagaria Pinot Grigio Ramato Vignetti Delle Dolomiti IGT 2018 ($12). Paler than the Attems with peach and melon notes in a very attractive package.
- Mer Soleil Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir 2017 ($40). This layered pinot noir from a prime growing region in the Central Coast exudes ripe black cherry and cola flavors with hints of black licorice and cocoa.
- Vinas del Vero La Miranda de Secastilla Garnacha 2014 ($40). From the Spanish village of Somontano, this rustic and delicious garancha comes from old vines grown in rugged, wind-swept soil on the northeast border with France. Generous raspberry and lavender aromas with forward plum and raspberry flavors with a dash of licorice and mint.
- St. Supery Virtu 2018 ($30). We cannot recommend this wine highly enough. The base is semillon – a grape that comprises only 3 percent of what is grown in Napa Valley – all of which is barrel fermented. Forty-six percent of the wine is sauvignon blanc. The lees are stirred and the semillon undergoes partial malolatic fermentation, which results in a highly textured wine with a generous mouthfeel and a long, creamy finish. Winemaker Michael Scholz said that the semillon is delicate in its approach but develops in the bottle over time. It is one of few white wines that can be easily aged for five years. We loved the grapefruit, lime and lemon grass flavors.
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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.