Last weekend, I invited a few wine professionals here in Houston to my house for what I believe to be was the largest blind tasting of American True Rosés, This year we tasted 51 wines, which was thankfully lower than last year’s 68 (two years ago we tasted 74, in 2019 there were 54, 68 in 2018, and the first year we had 36), while maintaining physical distance (for the most part).
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 a simple 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 (“saigné” 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 intention of making rosé. True Rosés are therefore not a byproduct of red wine production, they are intentionally or purposefully made. They are True Rosés.
Three years ago, just a few days after the Third Annual Largest Blind Tasting of American True Rosés, two articles landed in my inbox. The first was from the online wine ‘zine, Vinepair, and its then Executive Editor Emily Saladino (who has since moved on to be an editor with The Wine Enthusiast) 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 (2019) 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 a few interesting points of view and several unsubstantiated assertions, they seemingly 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 six 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 51 American Rosés on a glorious Saturday afternoon, trying to find the best. As promised, I am publishing my actual notes from the tasting, which we tasted in 13 flights of 4 wines. Here is the third set of two flights.
2021 Sosie Syrah Rosé Vivio Vineyard, Bennett Valley, CA: Retail $32. 100% Syrah. On the lighter side of pink (but not quite as light as the “typical” rosé from Provence) with just a hint of orange and a gorgeous nose of wild strawberry and rose petals. Whoa. The palate does not disappoint, either as it is light and delicate with subtle fruit and very nice tartness. A fantastic rosé. Outstanding. 93 Points.
2020 Chehalem Rosé of Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $24. Quite light in the glass, even “Provencal” light. A tad funky/metallic on the nose with floral hints (rose). I find the palate quite lovely, however, with good balance and quite tart. Excellent. Excellent. 91 Points.
2021 Rodney Strong Pinot Noir Rosé, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $25. Under screw cap. A little darker than a Provencal rose, but certainly light for a US rosé. Great tropical fruit on the nose, really inviting. The palate follows right along with the nose, tart, fruity, lovely. Outstanding. 94 Points.
2020 Domaine Carneros Pinot Noir Avant Garde, Carneros, CA: Retail $30. A lovely, fruity, salty nose on this light pinkish/orange wine. The palate falls a bit short, however, as the fruit is difficult to find. Fantastic acidity and a lengthy finish, but the fruit was a bit missing. Very Good. 89 Points.
2020 Stoller Pinot Noir Rosé, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $25. Medium pink with a slight orange hue and a beautiful nose of candied strawberry, peach, and melon. Yum. The palate might even be more stunning with an abundance of fruit, perfectly matched with the acidity, and Whoa. Outstanding. 95 Points.
2021 Davis Bynum Pinot Noir Rosé Jane’s Vineyard, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $25. Under screw cap. Another light pink with a gorgeous nose of tropical fruit and peach. Whoa, lovely, rich fruit here on the palate, fantastic. I believe this is the first Bynum rosé I have tried and it is fabulous. Outstanding. 93 Points.
2021 ACORN Rosato Alegría Vineyards, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $35. 20% Syrah, 20% Zinfandel, 15% Dolcetto, 15% Sangiovese, 5% Cinsaut, 10% various Muscats, 2% Blue Portuguese, 3% Viognier, Liatiko, and other varieties. Dark, even really dark, particularly for a rosé. Meaty and fruity on the nose, a bit of mint or eucalyptus here, too. Rich, fruity, big for a rosé as one might expect from the color. Very nice. Excellent. 92 Points.
2021 Girasole Vineyards Rosé, Mendocino County, CA: Retail $15. 51% Zinfandel, 49% Pinot Noir. Lovely nose of ripe strawberry, some melon, and peach, and maybe some mint. Lovely palate w plenty of fruit but also, I think clearly, some residual sugar here. It certainly works, but not sure it’s needed? Outstanding. 93 Points.