Last month, I invited a few writers here in Houston to my house for what I believe to be was the second largest blind tasting of American True Rosés in history (our tasting last year was technically bigger but too big).
What is a “True Rosé”?
Well, there are essentially three ways to make a rosé wine. The first, which is rarely practiced outside of sparkling wine production, is simply a blend of red wine and white wine. The second, which is widely practiced around the world, is called the “Saignée Method” where shortly after a red grape crush, a portion of the grape juice (after brief contact with the skins) is bled off (“saignée” means “bled” in French). This bled off wine is then vinified as if it were a white wine.
The third option is what I call a “True Rosé.” In this process, the grapes are raised, picked, and processed with the singular idea of making rosé in mind. True Rosés are therefore not a byproduct of red wine production (like saignées), they are intentionally or purposefully made. They are True Rosés.
This year, just a few days after The Largest Blind Tasting of American True Rosés, two articles landed in my inbox. The first was from the online wine ‘zine, Vinepair, and its Executive Editor Emily Saladino who took a rather meandering look at the current rosé market in the U.S.
Among other puzzling points, Saladino claimed: “At this point, we have absolutely hit peak rosé.” I imagine that she meant that after several years of rather dramatic growth, the U.S. market has become over-saturated with pink wine. She continued, suggesting that the market has nowhere else to go but down since the market is now flooded with hundreds of inexpensive, “bad” rosés.
The other article, by Mitch Frank in the June 30th (2018) issue of Wine Spectator, also took a multi-faceted look at the rosé market (which frankly lacked focus, but that is another matter, perhaps). Among many of his claims, Frank suggested that the current rosé “trend” (which he posited was a step above a”fad”) had likely hit his zenith. He also seemed to imply that rosés, were less serious than other styles of Wine:
And rosé can be a lot of fun, its alluring hues often packaged with eye-catching labels and creative bottle shapes. Market research firm Nielsen claims that 40 percent of rosé consumers are women ages 21 to 34, but the pink wine audience is broader in scope-just search the hashtag “brosé.”
While both articles provided interesting points of view and several unsubstantiated assertions, they based their opinions on the bottom of the market, wines that cost $10 or less. The Spectator article did mention that many of the “new” rosés on the market were saignées, which “was an afterthought, and the quality of most of it reflected that.” Neither of the pieces spent much time on the wines at the upper end of the spectrum, on intentional or True Rosés, which for me represent the best of the category, both in the present and future.
Too many continue to see rosé as a niche, a fad, a non-serious wine that does not require much thought. Well, if our tastings these past three years are any indication, there are oodles of wines that prove that some rosés are not only at the top of the genre but should also be considered outstanding wines regardless of hue.
A couple of weeks ago, seven of us tried 54 American Rosés on a sweltering Sunday afternoon, trying to find the best. As promised, I am publishing my actual notes from the tasting, which we tasted in 14 flights of 3-4 wines. Here is the third set of three flights.
2017 Quady North GSM Rogue Valley, OR: Retail $16. 55% Grenache, 40% Syrah and 5% Mourvèdre. Pale pink, with menthol, smokey peach and a hint of red fruit. Initially seems sweet, but I don’t think there is much sugar here and the acidity is pretty high. Tasty. A hint of smokiness on the palate, too; this is quite good. Excellent. 91-93 Points.
2018 Klinker Brick Bricks & Roses Lodi, CA: Retail $16. 41% Grenache, 35% Carignane, 12% Syrah, 12% Mourvèdre. Quite a pale pink with a rather interesting nose of peach and wet rock. Really tart and delicate, with an intense, lasting finish. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2018 Etude Pinot Noir Rosé Grace Benoist Ranch Carneros, CA: Retail $34. Light to medium pink. Fruity and floral. Nice and tart, a bit of heft, solid. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2017 Sassoferrato Rosé of Sangiovese Mendocino County, CA: Retail $32. Slightly darker pink. Lovely nose, tree fruit. Big fruit, but a little light on the acidity. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
2018 Moshin Vineyards Rosé of Pinot Noir Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $25. Light pink, really light. Flinty and white flowers on the nose. Comes off as sweet initially, but the acid comes in on the mid-palate. A bit disjointed on the finish. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
2018 Tongue Dancer Rosé of Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast, CA: Retail $25. On the dark side with a bit of amber. Pretty shy on the nose with hints of red flower. Solid, even really solid. This is tasty. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
2018 Eberle Côtes-du-Rôbles-Rosé Paso Robles, CA: Retail $24. 52% Grenache, 44% Syrah, 4% Viognier. Pink bubblegum color and aromas. Quite fruity and a bit sweet, this is not my style, but might go well with Texas BBQ. Good to Very Good, 86-88 Points.
2017 Quady North Counoise Rosé Applegate Valley, OR: Retail $19. Pale pinkish orange. White flowers and something else that I can’t make out. A bit odd on the palate as well. Good to Very Good. 85-87 Points.
2018 Keller Estate Rosé of Pinot Noir Petaluma Gap, CA: Retail $35. Light, but still brilliant pink. Nice and fruity on the palate, classic, even. The palate is quite mineral and fruity, perhaps more of the former, which stirs a need for food, perhaps. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2018 Tres Sabores Ingrid & Julia Rosé Napa Valley, CA: Retail $30. Zinfandel and Petite Sirah. Light, more orange than pink. Fruity and red flowers. Fantastic on the palate. Really nice and refreshing. Excellent. 91-93 Points.
2018 Michael David Winery Cinsault Rosé Bechthold Vineyard Lodi, CA: Retail $22. Brilliant, bright pink. Sweet and juicy. JollyRancher-like on the palate, a bit light in acidity. Good to Very Good, 86-88 Points.
2017 Real Nice Shallow Seas Pinot Noir Rosé Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $18. Light orange with a bit of petrol, on the nose and palate, which has a bit of sweetness. But it is all in balance. A solid effort. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.