It’s rosé season. The popularity of the pink stuff now transcends the wine itself, with clothing, cocktails and events dedicated to the rosé lifestyle. Much of this can be tied to the success of Whispering Angel, from Chateau d’Esclans. Started by a former Bordeaux property owner, Chateau d’Esclans first made headlines more than a decade ago with a bottling called Garrus that retailed for more than $100, a price unheard of for rosé. Soon every yacht owner needed a bottle, bringing it success. However, Whispering Angel, the entry level wine at $25 from Chateau d’Esclans, took a US trend and made it explode. Three times as much Whispering Angel is imported into the US as the entire Provence region sent a decade ago. Approximately one in five bottles of Provence rosé sold is Whispering Angel. Great marketing and labeling, and following Jess Jackson’s footsteps with Kendall Jackson Chardonnay (adding a little sweetness) made Whispering Angel one of the greatest wine success stories.
Provence rosé can be wonderful, but the success of Whispering Angel flooded the marketplace with imitators and knockoffs. Rosé doesn’t need to be complex or amazing, but it should be fun. And there are so many different types to explore, for much less money than the famous brand. There is literally a whole world of rosé out there to be explored, with different flavors and textures, and made from different grapes. Here are some places and wines to get you started.
Italy: Italian producers make rosé in myriad styles, called rosato, and this is a great style to explore. Here are three outstanding values, all under $15: The Tintero Rosato hails from Piedmont. This producer contends for the best value in esteemed importer Kermit Lynch’s portfolio. The rosato is slightly sparkling, or frizzante, giving the wine a nice zip. It is all bright flavors and super refreshing. This sells out before the summer is over, so find it sooner rather than later. And pick up an extra bottle — it goes fast! Tenuta Sant’Antonio Scaia Rosato is another sure bet. From Veneto, the grape is rondinella. It is super easy drinking, but there is a slight herbal quality and a great balance that brings some depth to this wine, making it a steal for around $14. Li Veli is a producer from Puglia, and their rosato is jam packed with fruit. People often talk about Jolly Ranchers when describing rosé, and Li Veli is a classic example of this, but it finishes completely dry.
France: The French make rosé from all over, not just Provence. The Loire Valley has many different styles. Chinon Domaine de la Noblaie ($16) makes a Cabernet Franc version that tends to have a deep mineral texture. Sancerre rosés are made with pinot noir, which is often a little bit pricey (Romain Reverdy ($24), Lucien Crochet ($35)). However, they tend to be extremely elegant, beautiful versions of the style — a wine more suited to a meal than a pool day. Languedoc is chock full of good values and it’s always worth giving something from this region a try, as they rarely cost more than $15.
Spain: Traditionally, many of Spain’s roses were darker in color, heavier and often benefited from a little bit of age. These are definitely worth exploring. But first, try some of the great values from the country. Armas de Guerra ($14), made of mencia from Bierzo; Siete ($14), grenache from Rioja; and Olivares Rosado ($12) made of monastrell from Jumilla are all fruit forward, juicy, dry and extremely delicious.
Austria: There are so many great Austrian rosés. They are often super bright and easy on the palate, making them easy drinkers. They are sure to please a crowd. Steininger, Mittelbach, Schloss Gobelsburg, Sattler and Landhaus Mayer are all great and under $20.
California: Don’t forget the Sunshine State. Truthfully, many of the inexpensive rosés from California are mass produced, boring, plonk. Sorry. It might not be worth many disappointments to find the rare success like Toad Hollow or Alexander Valley Vineyards. However, there are some great expressions in the $20 to $25 range such as Broc Cellars, Railsback and Copain.
Lastly, you owe it to yourself to grab a bottle or two of the truly stunning wines. These are not swimming pool gulpers, but age worthy expressions full of contemplation and elegance. Pop one open with a nice meal and see the heights that rosé can reach. If possible, look for 2017 or even 2016 vintages, as these wines need some time to show their stuff. Clos Cibonne Tibouren ($27) is a truly stunning example from Provence. Domaine Tempier ($47) and Chateau Pradeaux ($30) make rich, full-bodied examples in Bandol, and Mathhiasson from California is putting Napa Valley on the map for world class rosé.
There really is a world of rosé waiting for you to explore, so dive in, try new places and grapes, and discover its diversity.