For the past few weeks I’ve been swimming in rosé. Every other distributor is hosting an exclusively pink tasting, and sales reps are trying to match up pallets of their suppliers' new releases with accounts that will pour enough all summer to not leave any cases kicking around the warehouse in September. Although ratios change, people don’t immediately stop drinking white wine when the leaves begin to turn, so what is it about rosé that is so temporary? Although one or two of the wines below are made in a hurry, to be disposed of via picnic basket as soon as possible, some are quite serious, and might be delicious in November, or even next summer — keep an eye out for late season sales and go pink from now until forever!
Domaine Gros Noré Bandol 2012, Provence, France, $36
“Sometimes I like to pretend I have a lot of money, wear sunglasses inside, and drink Domaine Ott because I like the shape of the bottle,” said me, never. That’s not to say that I don’t occasionally like to use a wine glass to transport myself to the French Riviera, in which case I might reach for Bandol. Here, the appellation regards Mourvèdre in a way that no other users, who favor its dark, acid-driven animalistic nature as a component of Grenache-based blends, would ever suggest. These brooding reds are incredible, and the rosés, made from shorter macerations, have a character that goes beyond primary fruit. It’s as if asking, “Why bother drinking rosé that tastes like white wine,” when you can have this? Domaine Gros Noré sold all their grapes to Domaine Ott, and only made a small amount of wines for themselves and their friends, until the late 1990’s, when Kermit Lynch introduced them to the Unites States market. There is no loss of quality, and it makes it seem like one “O” and two “T’s” are really expensive. Note: this is serious wine — 80% Mourvèdre — that’s been held back a year before release, and will drink well for years..
Première de Figuière Côtes de Provence 2013, Provence, France, $27
For something from the same region with a less coveted appellation, try any of the wines from Saint Andre de Figuière on the Côtes de Provence. Their commitments to sustainable and organic farming, as well as their uniquely schist-driven soils, have produced wine with real personality — and I can actually afford them. At a recent uncorking, the '12s were still delicious; the '13s are coming onto the market now.
Antica Terra ‘Erratica’ Pinot Noir 2011, Willamette Valley, Oregon $55
Maggie Harrison might be best known winemaker to have worked at Sine Qua Non who isn’t named Manfred, and although she still makes the Lillian wines from Santa Barbara, her home estate is now in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, an 11-acre site in the Eola-Amity Hills. Here, skinny, gnarled vines, and a group of investors, lured Maggie north with the promise of incredible Pinot Noir out of the old soil, mixed up, as it is in the region, with volcanic material. The wines are packaged just as well as anything from the Krankl-works of SQN, but they are far more drinkable. Maggie makes her wine by instinct, and something funny happened in 2011. Winemakers typically taste their wines throughout the process, and even before her largest pressings of Pinot Noir had gained enough color to be generally accepted as red wine, a certain perfume filled the cellar that was so magnificent she pulled out the skins and let the juice continue its maturation as a rosé, of sorts. In the glass, this is a hell of a lot more wine than most Oregon rosés are delivering, and Maggie felt so strongly about its singularity that the only truly “red” Pinot Noirs she released in '11 would be the reserve wine she had made in the past. Leave it on the table instead of in an ice bucket, and fear no grilled meat, whatever the weather.
Ameztoi ‘Rubentis’ 2013, Getariako, Spain $22
With almost no contest, the most popular bottle of rosé on The Dutch list among those who work in the industry is the perennially delicious Rubentis, from the legendary producer Ameztoi. Just up the hill from San Sebastian, in the Basque region of northeastern Spain, lies Getariako and this famed estate for Txakolina, looking out over the Atlantic. Technically a blush wine, made from the indigenous white and red Hondaribbi Beltza and Hondarribi Zuri (there will be a quiz on this later), it is light, super bright and, because of the region’s love of fizz, bottled with a little bit of CO2. Best poured from as high as possible to encourage its frothiness, to some, this sibilation is the sound of summer.
Clos Floridène Graves Rosé, Bordeaux, France $13
Don’t count out Bordeaux when it comes to value-driven wines. There are few places producing, in general, better wines for less money than the Bordelaise — and that includes the New World. Denis Dubordieu is best known as an educator who has trained many of the world’s winemakers (including Alvaro Palacios of Spain) at the University of Bordeaux, annd has also consulted with many of the region's best wineries. His home sites, Reynon, Doisy-Daëne and Floridène, produce some of the best wines in Bordeaux, especially considering the inflated prices of the better-known growths. The Floridène estate, in Graves (a region that started growing grapes hundreds of years before the Left Bank First Growths had been rescued from the sea, and named after its particularly gravelly soil) produces very pretty whites, and the rosés transport the perfumed red fruit of Cabernet Sauvignon into something that is possible to drink when it’s more than 90° outside.
San Giovanni Il Chiaretto Valtènesi 2013, Veneto, Italy $18
The Riviera isn’t the only place in Europe to take a leisurely waterside vacation, and the Lago [Lake] di Garda at the foot of the Alps in Veneto, is best known for just that. The wines grown on its shores are often overshadowed by more famous examples in the region (think Amarone or Soave), but there’s evidence of viticulture on the lake going back to 5,000 years before the birth of Christ. The wines of the Pasini family, of the San Giovanni estate in Valtènesi, are a great introduction to the indigenous variety of Gropello, which makes up the majority of this Chiaretto, the local name for rosé. Blended with familiar names like Barbera and Sangiovese, it has all the strawberry fruit you want without being sticky.
Bedrock ‘Ode to Lulu’ Rosé, Sonoma, California $24
Many would be surprised to find that there are 120-year-old vines producing usable fruit in California, but even more would be surprised to enjoy those precious grapes in the form of a rosé. The cue here is taken from Bandol, and Mourvèdre dominates, invalidating what I said just before about Gros Noré, I know. That is exactly what these California kids would want, though, since they are purposefully trying to subvert the very Californian idea that vine-age doesn’t matter. Getting a bit more technical, but keeping with the Provençal inspiration, the wine stays on its lees through its malolactic transfer. This is a good way to add richness to the wine, as the lees begin to add character through the process of autolysis, but it also allows the winemakers to avoid filtering the wine for sterility. If you can find a bottle, drink now. If you can find a few, save some for next year.
Contributor Chad Walsh writes about wine and other beverages. He is also beverage manager for The Dutch in NYC.