This country has seen nothing less than a rosé revolution in recent years, with a highly diverse and seemingly endless supply of the wines available from all over the world each spring and summer. With temperatures well into the 90s as I write this, it’s become prime time for rosé.
I’ve tasted several dozen of them in recent weeks from regions far and wide, including California, Oregon, Washington and Long Island in this country as well as France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Austria and Australia. Rosés, which are made from the juice of red grapes but with minimal contact with the skins (the color-producing part of the grapes), are gorgeous to look at with their myriad hues of pink, copper, salmon and ruby.
Beyond their aesthetics, rosés have a great deal going for them. The best of them have lovely fruit tastes that include red berries, stone fruits, such as peach and apricot, and lively citrus. They are generally lower in alcohol than many red or white wines, usually in the 11 to 13 percent range. The better examples have lively acidity, which is what makes them so refreshing and thirst-quenching. With those qualities in mind, there is something else about rosés that is often overlooked: they are excellent food wines.
Grilled chicken, salmon and tuna are natural pairings, and it would be easy to find rosés with colors that match those of the fish. But the wines — and I set out to prove this to myself again — need not be limited to lighter, uncomplicated dishes. Darker, more robust rosés, for example, can be served confidently with beef and lamb. Last weekend, we grilled duck breasts for ten friends assembled for a “rosé night” in which we tasted nine or ten of the wines. Not only did most of them hold up to the duck with its gaminess; they also held their own with a robust sauce I made using veal and duck demi-glace (a concentrated stock), shallots and piquant peppadews, which are wonderful little red peppers from South Africa that are at once sweet and hot.
If that weren’t enough evidence, I also served a rosé of pinot noir from Oregon the other night with my own quick version of a fish gumbo made with just-caught porgy, okra, yellow grape tomatoes and liberal sprinklings of curry and cumin seeds. Ponzi Vineyards’ 2011 Pinot Noir Rosé from the Willamette Valley was a fresh and delightful counterpoint.
Before I get to some of my favorite rosés (I’ll compile another group later this summer), a couple of other things to keep in mind. Rosés are often excellent values, with most priced under $20. When pouring them, don’t serve them too cold because this will obscure the tastes. You’ll notice that as they warm up a bit, wonderfully delicate fruit notes emerge and the wines take on more layers of complexity.
Most rosés on the market now are from the 2011 vintage, with a few from 2010. Here are ten of this summer’s best rosés:
Ponzi Vineyards 2011 Pinot Noir Rosé, Willamette Valley, Oregon. $18. Zesty acidity with blood orange, cherry notes. Very refreshing and a great food wine.
Bodega Ochoa 2011 Rosada Garnacha, Navarra, Spain. $14. Intense raspberry and cherry notes. Rich mouthfeel with some cream on the finish. Bursting with flavor. Imported by Frontier Wine Imports, Dover, New Jersey.
Churchills Estates 2011 Rosé, Douro, Portugal. $17. Lovely, subtle tastes of watermelon and strawberry. Made from the touriga nacional grape. Imported by Frederick Wildman and Sons, New York.
Biokult Osterreich 2010 Zweigelt Rosé, Niederösterreich,Austria. $13. Made from zweigelt grapes grown organically and biodynamically. Bracing acidity with raspberry and lime notes. Imported by Natural Merchants, Rogue River, Oregon.
Gustave Lorentz 2011 “Le Rosé” of Pinot Noir, Alsace, France. $20. Light and fresh with notes of cherry and lime. Lovely on its own. Imported by Quintessential Wines, Napa, California.
Charles & Charles 2011 Rosé, Columbia Valley, Washington. $11. Made from syrah, mourvèdre and grenache grapes. Fruity and easy to drink with ripe strawberry and vanilla notes.
Castillo Irache 2010 Rosado Lagrima, Navarra, Spain. $13. Great value. Made from the garnacha (grenache) grape. Complex, with bing cherry, cranberry and blueberry tastes. Drinks more like a light red. Imported by Chateau Armand, Miami, Florida.
Bieler Père et Fils 2011 Rosé “Sabine,” Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence, France. $12. A blend of mainly syrah and grenache with some cabernet sauvignon and cinsault. Subtle raspberry and spice notes with good minerality. Imported by Michael Skurnik Wines, Syosset, New York.
Attitude by Pascal Jolivet 2011 Rosé, Loire Valley, France. $15. Subtle and sophisticated with cherry, strawberry, herb and mineral notes with a long finish. A blend of pinot noir, cabernet franc and gamay. Imported by Frederick Wildman and Sons, New York.
Patton Valley Vineyard 2011 Pinot Noir Rosé, Willamette Valley, Oregon. $16. Bursts with acidity that provides a backdrop to strawberry and white peach tastes and a lemony finish. Light and refreshing.
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