What to look for when selecting a new pink wine
The happy fact is that all seasons of the year provide us with foods that pair perfectly with pink wine; and in that sense, “rosé season” is, well, every season.
During the first few months of the year, however, the fresh rosés from the most recent harvest begin to flood the market, and excitement for this particular category of wine is reignited. And why not? The weather is getting warmer, the days longer, and the lighter fare of spring and summer make defaulting to dry and lively rosé almost reflexive. Surprisingly, this has not always been the case in the broader world of food and wine.
As recently as 20 years ago, rosé was an afterthought. While it maintained its food-friendly reputation among the more experienced gourmands in larger markets, it was stereotyped as sweet (which it almost never is--more on that later) and unsophisticated nonsense among an upsettingly large swathe of wine drinkers. Then around the mid-aughts of this century, some important critics began to remind wine buyers and consumers that rosé could be made on the same spectrum of quality as any wine, that the most classic examples were decidedly DRY (read: NOT sweet at ALL), and that there was scarcely a more food-friendly or versatile wine on the planet. They ultimately convinced an appreciable number of influential importers and restauranteurs to reevaluate pink wine, and the rest is history.
Rosé has grown its market share--aggressively--for well over ten straight years now. One only need survey the mountainous grocery store end-caps of Whispering Angel, AIX, and other ascendant “lifestyle brand” pink wines to conclude that rosé is having something of a moment. On the one hand, this has the positive effect of exposing nascent wine drinkers to an important category of wine, and in a place they’re most likely to buy it. On the other hand, the financial imperative that some more cynical wineries have felt to churn out something “on trend” has led to rosy-hued oceans of anonymous and forgettable dreck lining the shelves.
So how to jump on the rosé bandwagon without sacrificing flavor and quality? We’re glad you asked!
Rosé can come in literally dozens of shades, and the intensity flavor can range from barely there, to flamboyant. When selecting a new favorite among our current pink wine offerings, here are some standouts in a few different rosé subcategories:
Ultra light pink (aka Oeil de Perdix) or “Provençal” style rosé:
In the deep southeast corner of France, the region of Provence produces the most famous rosés in the world. Indeed, well over 90% (!!!) of the region’s wine production is pink, and those wines are dominated by a shade of pink the French call “Oeil de Perdix,” or “eye of partridge.” These wines are nearly all easy quaffers, easy apertivo options, and typically perfect brunch solutions. They tend to stay under 13% alcohol, and even with the rise of colossally overpriced lifestyle rosés, Provence (and those mimicking the predominant style from there) still abounds with options under $25. Try the Gerard Bertrand Gris Blanc ($22) this spring, or splurge for an exceptional Chateau des Annibals ($29) and see if the sky isn’t just the tiniest bit bluer after you do.
Medium-bodied and colored rosé:
Shifting from the super light blush of Provençal style quaffers to something a little closer to pink azalea in hue, and riper in flavor, we turn to the “medium” portion of the rosé register. Wines fitting this description are found all over the globe, but to our mind, some of the best are found in the villages comprising the Cotes du Rhone. Nearly always dominated by Grenache, these rosés can sometimes offer a slightly spicier, zestier edge to the still-generous fruit. They are a natural match for some richer cheeses, garlicky pastas, or just a simple plate of hummus and pita. Their slightly more intense flavors don’t diminish their versatility, and they are great to have on hand during the warmer months, when dinner decisions can shift at the last minute depending on what treasures were at today’s farmers’ market. Our fridge is basically never without a bottle of St. Hilaire D'Ozilhan Cotes du Rhone rosé ($19), and once you enjoy a perfectly chilled glass with some prosciutto and truffle Toma, we think you’ll see why.
Since rosé is, pretty much literally, just light-colored red wine, it can be an inexact science determining where rosé ends and red wine begins. The French actually have a precise method and set of metrics for this (because of COURSE they do), but for the majority of us, we simply make peace and exist with the tension that sometimes the lines will blur between “dark rosé” and “light red.” But it’s not the worst problem in the world, since no matter what you call it, these wines do jobs that it’s hard to imagine other wines performing as well. Maybe the most famous spot for full-bodied rosé is Tavel in the southern Rhone valley. Tavel is actually the only wine appellation in France that is only authorized for pink wine. There is no red Tavel, no white Tavel--only rosé. Their rosés likewise defy the stereotype that all pink wine should be drunk as young as possible, and indeed many Tavel wines actually show better after a year of age. Putting lean red meat on the grill, but don’t wanna drink room temp, dark red wine? Tavel has you covered. Making a richer, saucier chicken dish that needs a wine with a little more oomph, but not quite the power of red? Tavel is here for you.
But right now we can't get enough of Bastide Blanche's deeply colored, elegant, juicy and structured Bandol Rosé ($29) and are happy to drink it all ourselves. If you stop in and ask nicely, we’ll see if we can’t find some to share as well. Cheers!
Perfectly Provencal Pink on our Airbnb porch facing the hills of Provence!