Fill your glass, gentlemen: rosé season is upon us, and while we generally advocate for consumption of pink wine year round, the same warm weather that begs for draping oneself in white linen and opening too many shirt buttons demands the freshness of a crisp, vibrant rosé. Fortunately, the world of wine is finally in recovery from its post-traumatic-White-Zinfandel disorder, leaving breathing room for rosés that are some of the most versatile, dependable and flat-out desirable wines out there. In the spirit of good will and BBQ, we’ve put together a list of a few of our favorites along with some quick food pairing ideas.
What Rosé is…and isn’t
Rosé, also known as rosato and rosado, is pink wine that’s usually (but not always) made from red grape varietals. In the most common method of production, the grapes get crushed and vatted with the skins for a short time — when the juice gets its pink color — and then the skins are removed before it goes on to fermentation. Red wines are fermented with the skins. (For further reading and details about other rosé production methods, go here and here.) – Editors
2012 Clos Cibonne ‘Cuvée Special des Vignettes’
This wine is the real deal, plain and simple. Clos Cibonne has a history dating back to the early 1700s, and their Cuvée Special des Vignettes is crafted from the estate’s oldest vine holdings of a rare, native grape called Tibouren and matured in old oak foudres under fleurette. (Sherry lovers will recognize fleurette as the unique, protective yeast cap the Spanish call flor that biologically ages the wine and requires crazy-specific climactic conditions to occur.) The combined intensity of Tibouren’s expression and maturation under fleurette produces a deep, heady rosé with waxy notes of citrus oil, orange blossom and white spice. Sit alone with this for a few hours.
FROM: Côtes de Provençe, France. Provençe, with its sultry Mediterranean climate, is the heartland of rosé production. Although it’s also a known source for easy-drinking, beach-friendly rosés, some of the longest-living and serious pink wines in the world are borne from this tiny coastal appellation. If Tibouren isn’t immediately available, look for Mourvèdre-based wines for the same depth and structure we love from Clos Cibonne.
DRINK WITH: Your best-effort Bouillabase. Don’t skimp on the good saffron.
2013 Mas Cal Demoura Qu’es Aquo
The gateway rosé for the die-hard red wine drinker. Mas Cal Demoura is an estate doing its fair share to fan the flame of affection for a rugged, oft-overlooked growing region in southern France. Though known for producing deeply expressive reds unique to their terrain, the estate also produces this rosé, a blend of five different grapes that focuses mostly on Cinsault and Grenache, two bookends for a wildly rustic, ferrous wine that seems proud of its roots in the glass. It’s a rosé of substance and weight, with strong herbal aromas and deep, dark fruit.
FROM: Terrasses du Larzac, Languedoc. Southern France is red wine territory for sure, but the rosés produced here have a combination of power and finesse Sugar Ray Leonard would envy. Look to this region year-round for rosés that can stand up to heartier dishes, cooler temperatures and your buddy’s “Cali-Cab-only” palate. Dinner party fact: “Qu’es Aquo” translates to “What’s this?” in Occitan, the endangered Romance dialect unique to this region of France.
DRINK WITH: Whatever manner of dry-aged goodness your buddy wants to throw on the grill.
2013 Domaine Richou ‘L’R osé
Cabernet Sauvignon gets a new lease on life in this humble but complex rosé from one of the Godfathers of the Loire Valley. Didier Richou and his brother, Damien, are masters of their vines in a way few men are; urbane and soft-spoken, their energy comes out in the glass. The L’R osé is dynamic — all spice and earth with ripe plum and raspberry notes, iron and solid structure. It’s quiet power.
FROM: The Richou estate is located in Anjou, a small appellation in the Central Loire Valley. The sleepy villages here are deceptive birthplaces for the compelling wines they produce, however, and we suggest you start drinking more of them. Start with the nuance of Chenin Blanc and graduate to the complexity of Cabernet Franc.
DRINK WITH: Fresh chèvre, boudin noir and the crustiest baguette you can get your hands on.
2013 Domaine de Vaccelli ‘Juste Ciel!’
We’re confident that a certain diminutive French general would have proudly drunk himself under the table on this stuff. We would happily join him. Ripe peach, clementine zest and a perfectly crisp, slightly salty finish make this the rosé we’ll be reaching for when the mercury starts to rise this summer.
FROM: Corsica. Look to this island for well-made, value-driven wines made from unpronounceable grapes (Nielluccio? Sciacarello?). The region’s unique cultural heritage blends French and Italian winemaking traditions, resulting in nuanced wines with great balance.
DRINK WITH: Oysters and 90 percent humidity.
2013 Gai’a ’14-18h’
We’re aware of all the nasty, retsina-ridden gossip you’ve probably heard about Greek wines. Forget it, please, and join us up here in the front row. Just like all rosé is not White Zinfandel, all Greek wine is not retsina (and retsina’s actually not all bad, but that’s a story for another day). Greece is turning out some of the most interesting, value-driven wines in the world right now, and we owe a lot of that to Yiannis Paraskevopoulos and Leon Karatsalos, the guys behind Gai’a and two big players in the small revolution happening in the vineyards and cellars of Greece right now. Start with the 14-18h, a rosé made from Agiorgitiko (it also goes by St. George, if that’s all Greek to you) that’s a vibrant fuschia color and a perfectly ripe cherry-fest in the glass. Hold on tight to your masculinity and dive right in.
FROM: Peloponnese, Greece. As we mentioned, there’s a bit of a revolution happening in Greece, so we’re going to generalize here: You should be drinking wine from all over Greece. The Peloponnese, Santorini, Drama, Naoussa, Samos… There are few better values for unique and well-made wines in the market right now. Get them while the getting’s good.
DRINK WITH: That quail that’s been in your freezer since your over-excited trip to Ottomanelli & Sons.
2013 Quinta da Raza ‘Dom Diogo’
Portugal, like Greece, is fast becoming one of the world’s most interesting growing regions, particularly when you’ve got your wallet in mind. Quinta da Raza is a reliably excellent, traditional producer, and their rosé is damn delicious. It has a slight effervescence — paired with deep, ripe berry notes, it drinks like adult soda. Indulge your inner child in a way that won’t earn your dirty looks from the woman in your life.
FROM: Vinho Verde, Portugal. Surprise! Vinho Verde is, in fact, both the name of a region in Portugal and a super-cheap white you probably bought once by accident. Pay better attention. The wines coming out of Portugal right now deserve it.
DRINK WITH: Bocci and burgers.
2013 Montenidoli Canaiuolo Rosato
Elisabetta Fagiuoli is a woman who doesn’t care what you think about her wine, and we love her for it. The whip-witted proprietress of Montenidoli once told us she prefers culture over fashion, and her wines are filigreed, contemplative testaments to her ideals. The rosato is supremely elegant with fine wildflower and citrus blossom notes over white peach and minerals.
FROM: Tuscany, Italy. Tuscany can do way more than just Chianti. The whites of San Gimignano are unparalleled, and Italian rosés have good structure and complexity tableside.
DRINK WITH: Handmade pasta.
2013 Ameztoi ‘Rubentis’ Getariako Txakolina
This wine is the pinnacle of shameless refreshment. It’s fizzy, it’s fruity, it’s briny, it’s crisp and it’s perfectly pink. It’s almost vulgar in its perfection. Say “Chalk-oh-lee” and try not to feel suave.
FROM: Getariako Txakolina, Spain. Look to any of the sub-appellations of Txakoli in Spain’s Basque country for wines of overt drinkability. Made in a slightly effervescent style from grapes like Hondarribi Zuri and Mune Mahatsa, the wines are traditionally poured from glass porrons (thin-spouted carafes) into small cups or — if it’s a really great party — directly into the mouths of revelers.
DRINK WITH: Gold lamé and pintxos.
2013 Bedrock Wine Co ‘Ode to Lulu’ Ancient Vine Rosé
Morgan Twain-Peterson has maverick winemaking in his blood: his parents started Ravenswood, one of the first organic estates in California, and he made his first wine at the age of five. Twain-Peterson is carrying the progressive wine torch as a grown-up, too, with old-vine wines that look to the Old World for their inspiration, honoring balance and freshness over blown-out fruit and alcohol. Twain-Peterson took his cues for this wine from Domaine Tempier, a revered Provençal estate. The result is a stunning, rich rosé with serious architecture and complexity. He named for the wine for Lulu, the estate’s proprietress. Grapes are sourced from vineyard plantings dating back to the late 1800s, and its pedigree is obvious in the glass — this is serious stuff, with deep ripe berry and citrus oil notes under a layer of fresh herbs and rocks.
FROM: Contra Costa County, California. California winemaking is seeing a return to its roots as a small band of young producers are looking to the state’s undervalued vineyards for unique, rare fruit. Contra Costa doesn’t get any more off-the-beaten-freeway, with hidden patches of centuries-old vines crammed in between fast food joints and manufacturing plants.
DRINK WITH: Something truly badass, like that duck you confited yourself using a recipe your great-grandmother carried in her pocket all the way from the Old World.
2013 Donkey & Goat ‘Isabel’s Cuvée’
Jared and Tracy Brandt are the husband and wife team behind Donkey & Goat, and we look to them as touchstones for the changes happening on the California wine front. A garage winery in Berkeley, foot-stomped fruit, biodynamic vinification, old-vine sourcing and pet-nat production are innovations that keep us wanting more from this duo, who learned their trade from Rhône Valley master Éric Texier. Isabel’s Cuvée is earthy and luscious, and the delicate herbal aromatics that pull around at the finish feel like a secret reward after the mouthful of perfectly ripe strawberry fruit up front.
FROM: The Brandts source much of their fruit from vineyards with cool microclimates, allowing them to hit desired ripeness levels without sacrificing acidity. Mendocino County was the birthplace of Isabel’s grapes, and it’s an excellent region to scour for naturally produced wines with freshness and balance.
DRINK WITH: Whatever’s at the farmer’s market right now. This wine loves fresh vegetables.
THE LAST SIP: You should be drinking rosé today. And tomorrow. The same acidity that makes rosé so refreshing and versatile at the summer table also means that the wines stand up to some time in bottle. It’s true that they’re freshest right out of the gate — usually when they’re released in the spring following their harvest the previous Fall — but the best (especially those produced via direct-press) will develop complexity and depth over a year or more, making them appropriate companions to cooler weather and heartier fare. Few people cellar their rosés, meaning they’re missing out on a whole range of oenological experiences.