March 26, 2014 at 3:36 PM ET
For me, a rite of spring is the arrival of the first rosés, and even if the weather doesn’t quite suggest it, tasting these often-delicate and subtle pink wines certainly does. Rosés have soared in popularity in recent years and with good reason. They are among the most versatile food wines and can be served with everything from fish to meat.
As in most years, I received some of the season’s first rosés from Frederick Wildman and Sons, the venerable New York importer that has its hand in just about every corner of the wine world. Three from France and one from Spain stood out, all of them from 2013.
Since rosés are generally not made for aging and are appealing in part for their freshness, you’ll want to stick with the most recent vintage. They are made, of course, from red grapes with only minimal contact with the color-producing skins during fermentation. As for price, you’ll almost never have to spend more than $20 on a rosé, and many are much cheaper than that (although I have included one that’s a bit more expensive here).
Marc Roman’s 2013 Rosé from the south of France is an $11 bargain, bottled under the non-specific “Vin de France” designation. But that doesn’t matter. This is delicious, fruity, easy-to-drink rosé made from 100 percent syrah, with cherry and raspberry notes and minerals on the finish. It’s great on its own and will work well with all kinds of foods, including burgers and hot dogs on the grill.
From Spain, El Coto’s 2013 Rioja Rosado is a 50-50 blend of tempranillo and garnacha (grenache) with a beautiful, smoked salmon color and a suggested price of $13. El Coto is a well-known brand and the rosé almost always delivers. The ’13 is dominated by raspberry tastes and has herb and Graham cracker notes and a vanilla touch. The flavors emerge as it warms up a bit.
Another popular and widely available rosé is Paul Jaboulet’s “Parallèle 45” Côtes du Rhône from France. The 2013 is one of the best vintages I’ve tasted in this wine and is a blend of 50 percent grenache, 40 percent cinsault and 10 percent syrah. The fruit is mainly strawberry with lemon and spice notes – fresh, racy and delightful at $15.
A step up is Pascal Jolivet’s 2013 Sancerre Rosé from France’s Loire Valley. Like the reds from Sancerre, it is made from pinot noir and is a beautifully elegant and delicate wine. Supported by mouthwatering acidity and a good deal of minerality, its color is light copper, its tastes evoke ripe raspberry and yellow peach and there is a subtle creaminess on the finish. It’s a great apéritif wine and will pair well with all kinds of lighter dishes, including grilled chicken and shrimp, salmon, tuna, lobster and sushi. While steep for rosé at $27, this is a serious and impressive wine for a special meal.
It’s worth noting that rosés are generally lower in alcohol than many red wines, often just 12.5 or 13 percent, which is part of what makes them so easy to drink.