I never need a reason to drink rosé, but I did need a reason to write about it again. “La vie en rosé” was my debut Working Pour two years ago (cue sentimental sniff here). Since then, the once-snubbed pink drink has gone from a seasonal obsession of the few to a summer wine for all. In fact, rosé’s image has undergone such a seismic shift that it’s now considered infallible. But with myriad countries making pink wine from a wide range of grapes, the rosés can’t all be created equal. When Tastings’ newsletter mentioned that its selection of 15 rosés were chilled and awaiting our “delectation,” I decided it was high time for some research.
Flight (n.): A tasting of multiple wines in order to get a feel for breadth or depth and so named because it’s a grouping of similar objects.
As one of the few places in town where you can taste before you buy, Tastings offers a “build-your-own” flight (see Winespeak 101) of all its shades of pink. With 15 on deck (and my daughter already halfway through a piece of cake with ice cream), I had my work cut out for me. Fortunately, owner Bill Curtis takes great pleasure in sharing his wares with knowledge and passion. He methodically grouped my flight, presented each bottle for inspection, introduced each producer without qualifying the wines, left a spittoon and let me get busy.
The first three were all southern French, grenache-based wines. Domaine de L’Abbaye “Cuvée of the Moon” 2010 from Provence was the clearest rosé I’ve ever had, but surprisingly rich in texture. It sports a tall blue bottle and, according to Curtis, is “all the rage in Paris this summer.” Still, for $16.95, I wanted it to taste less like a Sauvignon Blanc and more like a rosé. Ma Couleur 2009, also from Provence and a dollar less than the first, was everything I love about rosé: stony, bright and gulp-able. Chateau de Paraza 2010 from Minervois (in the Languedoc) had a lip-smacking acidity and a friendly $12.95 price tag.
Next were two big boys from Bandol (the “is-it-worth-the-hype?” rosé-famed area of Provence) next to a couple of plain Provençals. Domaine Bunan’s Mas de la Rouvière Bandol 2010 tasted like flinty Ruby Red grapefruit (yum) and at $21.95 trumped the mustier Domaine Tempier Bandol 2010, which cost a whopping $45.95. Score. Domaine Houchart 2010 ($16.95) tasted like über-ripe strawberries. Domaine Bunan’s Le Petit Rouvière 2010 ($9.95) gives you a petit taste of its Bandol at a petit price, and was a pleasant surprise.
Things got spicy with the next two—both syrah, but one from Condrieu in France’s Rhône and one from Washington State. Domaine Georges Vernay Syrah “Rosé De Mirbaudie” 2010 ($16.95) asserted brambly fruit and white pepper. Charles & Charles Rosé 2010 announced its nationality with an American flag label then delivered BBQ-begging watermelon flavor for $13.95.
The next three—one Spanish garnacha and two California pinot noirs—were closer to chilled reds than rosés. Spain’s Borsao Rosé 2010 was all ripe black cherry for a mere $9.95. Copain Rosé 2010 from Healdsburg ($20.95) treats you to some of pricey Pinot’s charms (raspberries and mushrooms) in a more whimsical form. Central Coast’s Calera Vin Gris 2010 left me high and dry—literally, as the 14.5 percent alcohol level and extracted tannins were more than my palate wanted from a summer sipper. It would, as Curtis’s right-hand man Jason Smith remarked, make a great entrée wine for the non-red drinker.
Twelve down and I was tickled pink! Rocche Costamagna Rosé 2009 from Italy’s Piedmont region offered the same rose petal notes that its nebbiolo grape is known for and still tasted fresh with a year behind it—a steal at $9.95. Knipser Cuvée Rosé 2010, salmon in color, is from Germany of all places and was a $22.95 revelation. Low in alcohol (11.5 percent), herbaceous and delectably tart with a slight spritz on the tongue, it reminded me of Pez. I can’t stop thinking about it. Ending my flight of fancy was King Family Vineyards Crosé 2010 ($19.95). Made from merlot, it was woodsy yet thirst-quenching.
Spanning the entire pink spectrum, Tastings’ bouquet of rosés proved that while there were some rosés I could take or leave, there were others I had to take and leave with. I recommend you do the same while the summer swelters on.