For many out there, it is now what they call “Rosé Season.” The weather has turned warm, if not hot, and despite the fact that I drink rosé all year, I have to admit that there are few greater pleasures than a cold rosé on a blistering hot day.
But all rosés are not created equal.
First, there are saignées, rosés that are a byproduct of red wine production. The concept is rather straight-forward: after brief contact with the skins, some of the juice is “bled off” (saignée is French for “bled”) so that the juice that remains has more contact with the skins, resulting in a more highly concentrated red wine.
Originally, that bled off juice was usually discarded–either sold off as bulk or simply poured down the drain. At some point, some enterprising winemaker realized that the bled-off juice could actually be vinified, bottled, and sold as a rosé.
Perhaps. The problem, however, is that the juice that was bled off came from grapes that were intended to be red wine. What’s the big deal, you ask? Well, one of the elements of a great or even good rosé is a high level of tartness or acidity that holds the wine together. Red wines, generally speaking, are lower in acidity than whites or rosés since reds have another element in their favor: tannin. Those tannins, like the acidity in whites and rosés, form the backbone of the wine and make it a great accompaniment for food.
Thus, the problem is that many saignée rosés lack the requisite structure (either acidity or tannin) to hold the wine together.
Having just spent a bit of time in Provence, the heart and soul of rosé, I am more convinced than ever that the best rosés are those that were intended to be pink from the get-go. The fruit was raised, picked, and pressed all with the mindset that the resulting wine was going to possess some degree of pinkish hue.
The odd aspect, at least to me, is that while there is a single, widely accepted term for the inferior method (saignée), there is no accepted and universally used term for the superior process. I have heard “pressed,” “intended,” “dedicated,” even “bespoke” all referring to this style of rosé, which only serves to confuse a public that seems to be increasingly embracing pink wines.
When I move off to Texas in a few weeks, leaving my snow shovel behind, I know that I will likely increase my rosé consumption. I will also be much more vigilant in determining the process by which those wines were made. For now, here are a few intended rosés that I have sampled that should convince any wine lover to dedicate more time to rosé.
2015 Elouan Rosé of Pinot Noir Oregon: Retail $22. This is Joe Wagner’s new venture, (after recently selling Meomi) and I have to say, he may be on to something. First of all, they refer to this dedicated rosé as a “bespoke rosé” which is a term that I think I like, but I will have to use it around a few of my wine geek friends first and see if I get verbally abused for using it. The fruit comes from three regions along the Oregonian Coast: the Willamette, Umpqua, and Rogue Valleys, thus the broad “Oregon” appellation. It is also one of the few Pinot rosés that I have tried that is actually a dedicated rosé. Since Pinot is naturally high in acid, many (most?) Pinot rosés are saignées. Not this one. Beautiful pale salmon color with red berry (and a bit of citrus) fruit. On the palate, this is a wine that requires attention. Resist the urge to throw it back casually and hold it in your mouth for a while. If you do, the reward will be significant: great acidity, depth, and an impressive finish. $22? You bet. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2015 Vitiano Rosato Umbria IGT: Retail $12. 30% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Sangiovese, 10% Aleatico. A bright clear scarlet, almost red in fact, with luscious strawberry and just a hint of funk (which is a good thing in my book). Wonderfully balanced on the palate with playful fruit and an omnipresent tartness (think rhubarb). This is well done on many levels regardless of its friendly price point. Plus it has Aleatico, which you simply do not come across everyday. Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2015 Les Vignes de Bila Haut by Michel Chapoutier Pays d’Oc: Retail $15. 55% Grenache, 45% Syrah. Pale pink color with an expressive nose of strawberry, peach, a touch of mango, and even a flinty aspect. On the palate, this is everything one would want a dry rosé to be: subtle fruit, brilliant acidity, a touch of minerality, and a fairly long finish. This wine delivers all over the place, particularly on the price. The Languedoc is one of the few regions in France that I have not visited, but the area really seems to be taking off with many fantastic wines being produced. It is also a region steeped in history, and I hear there are countless great roads for my bike to meet. What’s not to like? Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2015 Gary Farrell Russian River Valley Rosé of Pinot Noir: Retail $28. I have an affinity for Gary Farrell that I have expressed on several occasions. There are several reasons, but his is a prime example. Balance. This is not the fruitiest Gary Rosé I have had, but this wine might be a bit young. Yes. A rosé can be too young when it is dedicated to be such. Strawberry and cranberry on the nose with a driving acidity. Really, really nice. Outstanding. 89-91 Points.