Sales of rosé wines have taken off like a rocket in recent years, and deservedly so. Today’s rosés bear little or no resemblance to the sweet candyish still or sparkling pink wines we loved at university (and hated the morning after.) Current versions are dry, refreshing and tasty. Some are surprisingly complex, while others are easy drinkers perfect for quenching thirst on a hot summer day. You can enjoy these wines on their own or with any food you can name from smoked fish and charcuterie to roast meats. If that isn’t enough, rosé is wonderfully inexpensive.
Rosé wine is made from red grapes whose black skins are allowed only brief contact with their colourless juice, staining it rather than turning it red. In Provence, Mourvèdre is the rosé varietal of choice. In the southern Rhone and the Languedoc it’s a blend from Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah. In Anjou, Cabernet is the base for rosé wines. In Spain, Grenache and Tempranillo get the nod. In the New World, many black grapes end up as pink wine. The half-tinted juice obtained from black grapes is fermented like white juice for white grapes. Sparkling rosé adds CO2 to a still pink wine. (In the production of rosé Champagne, adding still red wine to the sparkling white is standard practice.)
Members of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada gathered recently to taste over eighty widely available rosé wines. My favourites were from Provence, the southern Rhône Valley, and the Languedoc where torrid summer weather has driven the evolution of fresh pink wines that pay homage to the celebrated reds of southern France and partner similarly with food. Spain produces fine rosé for the same climatic reason.
The rosés I tasted from New World regions were variable with unwelcome hard red candy and kiddie cosmetic characters. Tread carefully.
Here are my notes on my favourites from the tasting:
Chapoutier Beaurevoir Tavel 2013 (<$20, score 90+) marries mildly pungent mineral and rich ripe red berry aromas and flavours. It’s fresh to crisp with grippy velvet tannins through a long dry finish.
Guigal Côtes du Rhone Rosé 2014 ($18.95, score 90+) has typical elegant stones and cherry berry fruit with fresh acidity and a long refreshing finish.
La Vieille Ferme Rosé 2014 ($10.95, score 90+) flaunts a red berry and subtle mineral nose with a very interesting floral acacia blossom note. It’s crisp and ripely fruity with a long, fresh tasty finish.
Ogier Ventoux Rosé 2013 (<15, score 90+) has pungent minerals dancing elegantly with red fruit. It’s enticing on the nose and mouth-watering on the palate with fresh acidity and gentle velvet-grippy tannins on the palate with fruit and a refreshing bitter note on the finish.
Vignobles Lorgeril L’Orangerie Rosé 2014 ($9.95, Score 89+) serves up intense angular minerality and red berry fruit wrapped in fresh acidity and fine grippy tannins.
Bodegas Muga Rioja Rosé 2014 ($13.95, score 90) is built around strawberry and mineral notes. It’s got good intensity and balance with crisp acidity, fabulous fruit and good persistence
Torres Sangre de Toro Rosé 2014 ($13.95, score 90) has deep red berry and watermelon fruit. It’s slightly grippy on the palate with fresh elegant fruit and fine length.
Campo Viejo Tempranillo Rosé 2014 (<$15, score 89+) flaunts barnyard and decadent cherry berry aromas. It’s fresh with a creamy mouthfeel through a pleasantly fruity finish.
Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada Vice-President Carolyn Evans Hammond ponders one of over eighty bottles of pink wine at a recent WWCC tasting in Toronto.