Over the past half-dozen or so years, Rosé has become a serious category in the wine industry, and I couldn’t be happier. Years ago, rosé was thought of as a wine for people who normally didn’t drink wine; it wasn’t a big red, and it wasn’t white, so here was an option for consumers who wanted a wine that was easy to drink, one which they didn’t have to think about.
Of course, the finest examples of rosé were always better than that, as they were flavorful, dry and offered notable complexity. But to be honest, too many cheap rosés from around the world – think Mateus and Lancer’s from Portugal, as well as dozens of dull examples from California – were light and sweet, in some cases syrupy sweet. One has to recognize that these wines served a purpose, but as long as these offerings were how people identified rosé, well, it’s easy to believe that the category would never gain much popularity.
Thankfully, enough producers in various countries started to offer well-made examples of rosé that were dry; a simple idea, but one that has caught on, and now you see rosé seemingly everywhere, from supermarket displays to high-end wine lists.
One of the finest versions of rosé is Tavel, from France’s Rhône Valley, across the Rhône river from the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation. As with the best examples of rosé, Tavel is made from red grapes, as the color of the wine comes from a brief contact (usually eight to ten hours or less) with the skins of the grapes. Tavel is most often produced from local varietals Grenache and Cinsault, while other grapes such as Syrah and Clairette are often incorporated in the blend.
The result is a dry rosé with notable structure and delicious fruit flavors of strawberry and cherry; the lengthy finish is dry and very well balanced. Tavel is for my tastes, about as appealing and as complex a rosé as there is today; another feature is its ability to drink well for longer than a typical rosé, often as long as five years, and in a few rare examples, even longer.
But it is another type of rosé from France that has captured the public’s imagination as of late. Rosés from Provence in the south of France are wildly popular, especially those produced as Côtes de Provence. Made primarily from local varieties including Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Tibouren, Côtes de Provence Rosé is a lighter style of rosé, with a pale blush, sometimes onion skin color and are medium-bodied with a dry, clean finish. These wines are typically lighter bodied than Tavel rosés and typically don’t tend to age as long, but for immediate pleasure with a lighter lunch or just on its own on a warm summer day, Côtes de Provence Rosé is an ideal rosé for millions of consumers.
California has certainly embraced rosé as a serious category, as wineries throughout the state produce versions made from several different varietals; Pinot Noir is a popular choice, as is Syrah, but you’ll also find offerings crafted from Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux and Rhône varietals.
A few producers label their rosé as Vin Gris – literally “grey wine” – that is medium-full and quite dry; the thinking here is that for many years, rosé was thought of as a sweet wine, so the term Vin Gris would help these wines stand apart from rosé. The best versions of Vin Gris are medium-bodied and are quite dry, and tend to be excellent paired with a range of foods from chicken salad to roast pork to seafood such as salmon or tuna.
Here are notes on recommended rosés from France and California:
Minuty Côtes de Provence Rosé Prestige 2022 – A blend of Cinsault, Grenache, Rolle and Syrah. Pale blush, onion skin color; aromas of dried strawberry and pear. Medium bodied with good freshness, a clean, well-balanced finish and impressive balance. Enjoy over the next 2-3 years. (89)
By. Ott 2022 (Côtes de Provence Rosé) – A blend of Grenache (58%), Cinsault (30%), Syrah (10%) and Mouvèdre (2%). Pale orange; aromas of orange peel, pear, dried strawberry and orange roses. Medium-bodied, with good acidity and persistence, this has a tart, appealing finish that is pleasingly dry and well balanced. Enjoy over the next 2-3 years. (91)
E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône Rosé 2022 – A blend of Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah. Bright, deep orange; bright aromas of strawberry, orange zest and pear. Medium-bodied, with very good acidity, and a clean, flavorful, slightly tart finish. Appealing and well made, this is a crowd pleaser to be enjoy over the next 2-3 years. (90)
E. Guigal Tavel 2022 – A blend of several varietals including Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah and Clairette. Bright strawberry/pink; aromas of marascino cherry, red plum and strawberry aromas. Medium-full, this is a beautifully made and delicious rosé with very good acidity, rich fruit and lengthy finish. Here is a wine that shows how beautiful a classic Tavel can be from a top producer in an excellent year. Enjoy over the next 3-4 years; pair with pork chops, grilled chicken salad or tuna. (93)
Sonoma-Cutrer Rosé of Pinot Noir 2022 (Russian River Valley, Sonoma) – Bright, delicate blush; aromas of dried strawberry, currant, orange peel and a hint of onion peel. Medium-bodied with very good acidity and a dry, fruit-driven finish with a light earthiness. Enjoy over the next 2 years. (88)
Robert Mondavi Rosé 2021 (Napa Valley) – A blend of 49% Pinot Noir and 51% Bordeaux varietals. Beautiful, bright strawberry/pink; aromas of dried cherry, pear and orange zest. Medium-bodied with very good concentration and impressive complexity. Quite dry, this is meant for food, not sipping, pair with red snapper, ceviche or chilled gazpacho. Enjoy over the next two years. (91)
Alma Rosa Pinot Noir Vin Gris 2022 (Sta. Rita Hills) – Pale blush; aromas of orange peel, pear and dried rose petals. Medium-full, there is very good acidity, notable persistence and a well-rounded dry finish with subtle complexity. Nicely made – enjoy over the next 2-3 years. (91)