Like millions of people, I’ve been immersed in Olympics viewing this week. The beautiful unity of people from all corners of the world in one place attempting to hit their highest levels of performance is always incredibly inspiring. While some find the Parade of Nations slow moving, I’m always fascinated by the countries I’ve never heard of (Micronesia?) and the incredible diversity of cultures, brilliant colors, and mannerisms of the various nations. Everyone has a story laced with heart wrenching moments of triumph and tragedy to get to this Mount Everest of achievement.
While a wine’s journey is not as awe-inspiring, it too has a long and winding road to come into being with many diverse styles and final results. One of the more diverse wine styles is rosé, a wine as often scorned as it is beloved, and one that comes in a spectacular array of vivid colors and flavors. Like many others, I was in the camp of rosé being too light and one-dimensional until I tasted one in Germany that knocked my socks off (Gebruderkauer). I’m still mourning the fact that I’ll likely never see that wine again unless I return to Germany so I started sampling other interesting rosés here in the U.S.
Rosé is typically made from red grape juice that sees a limited period of skin contact, hence the various colors ranging from blush pink to salmon to pale garnet. The wine’s color is determined by the amount of time the juice is in contact with its skins (grape skins contain color, flavor, and tannin) as well as the grape variety used. Some grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon have more anthocyanins (responsible for color) in their skins which contribute to more deeply colored wines. There are other ways to make rosé as well like actually blending white and red wine together but this is less common and forbidden in some quality wine making parts of the world.
Rosé also comes with different names depending on where in the world it is made. Spain calls them Rosado, Italy Rosato, and Germany Weissherbst or Rotling. Southern France, particularly the Languedoc, Roussillon, and Southern Rhone areas, is well-known for rosés which are typically made with Grenache and Cinsault grapes. Bandol (also a part of Provence) often uses Mouvèdre which produces a more robust style.
Spain’s rosados are often made from Tempranillo and Garnacha grapes while Italy uses Sangiovese and Lagrein among many others. The German Gebruderkauer Rosé above was made from Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir). The Loire Valley in northern France is also well known for its elegant rosés typically made from Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Gamay.
As you can see, there is a rosé out there for every palate. The best way to start is to find one based on a grape you already know you like. Other reasons to drink rosés are that they are refreshing and easy to drink. Many also pair very well with a variety of foods. Rosés can be quite complex and nuanced which makes them not just a summer drink but something to be enjoyed year-round. Finally, they are relatively low in alcohol, beautiful to look at, and you don’t need (or want) to age most rosés so there is no waiting involved.
Five rosés I tried recently are below. All are from the 2015 vintage and most were priced at $15-$25. I enjoyed them all and was continually intrigued by the wide range of flavors, colors, and complexity levels.
Bernard Baudry Chinon Rosé –The lightest and most delicate of the bunch, this wine was made from Cabernet Franc grapes from Chinon in the Loire Valley, France. A soft blush pink color, it tasted of crisp red apples, stony minerals, dried herbs, and green leafiness finishing almost too lightly on a soft mineral note. 12.5% alcohol.
Domaine Bunan Bandol Moulin des Costes – This wine was fascinating in that, had I tasted it without seeing the color, I could have thought it was Sauvignon Blanc due to the prominent grapefruit and citrus aromas. Pale coral in color, this wine tasted of lemon, lime, wet rock, and earthy minerals with medium acid plus acidity and a zippy finish. This wine was made from Mouvèdre, Grenache, and Cinsault from the Bandol region of Provence, France with 13.5% alcohol.
Iris Pinot Noir Rosé – Vibrant coral-colored with copper flecks and medium flavors of brambly strawberry and cranberry, smoke, wet stone, game, sweet spice, and savory notes. Medium soft tannins and medium acid interweave harmoniously with the gentle 12.5% alcohol. This wine is from the southernmost point of Willamette Valley in Oregon (near Eugene) and made from 100% estate grown Pinot Noir grapes. The grapes were picked early to preserve higher acidity and lower sugar content than their other (excellent) Pinot Noirs. The fruit was destemmed and the juice was left on the skins for 12 hours before pressing. This was my favorite of the bunch. You can buy this Rosé directly from the winery site while all others here can be found at local wine shops and grocery stores around Chicago.
Alois Lagader Lagrein Rosé – Medium garnet red with medium plus zesty acid and flavors of smoke, petrol, game, strawberry, raspberry, earth, and tar. This was the earthiest of the wines I tried with a pleasant stony finish. Made from Lagrein grapes in northern Italy with 12.5% alcohol.
Domaine de Nizas Rosé – Pale salmon in color with flavors of red apple, smoke, tar, and black pepper. Medium plus mouthwatering acid, medium plus alcohol, and a long spicy finish. This wine is made from 40% Syrah, 40% Grenache, and 20% Mouvèdre. This is one of the most robust Rosés I tried likely due to the Syrah and Mouvèdre presence. Made in Languedoc, France with 13.5% alcohol.