Summer is approaching, which means picnics, sidewalk seating, and dining outside wherever, whenever you can. And as the sun goes down later, that often means drinks outdoors later in the day and into the evening, too. Rosé winemakers have seized upon the astronomical surge in popularity over the last few years, capitalizing on the summer season to keep the pink drink flowing in bars and restaurants even during cooler months of the year. But for most oenophiles and casual wine drinkers, rosé is best appreciated during warm weather.
Given the surge in popularity, there has also been a explosion of new choices on the market, making it difficult to find just the right one for the right time. With that in mind, here are some key things to look for when picking up your next bottle of rosé.
Rosés typically feature fruit-forward and floral aromas. “Some warning signs would be if the wine smells of vinegar or wet cardboard, which points to a flaw in that particular bottle,” says Jeffrey Jindra, winemaker at Scharffenberger Cellars in Northern California’s Anderson Valley.
And, while you’re getting a good whiff of the wine’s scents and smells, this is an important time to take note of color, too. The lighter the color, the less skin contact time the grapes received, advises Dan Panella, a winemaker at Oak Farm Vineyards in Lodi, Calif.
“This means the wine will be lighter in body and contain more fruit in the smell and taste. A darker colored rosè will have more structure, tannins, and darker fruit characteristics like cherry,” Panella explains. “I think consumers should be looking for a well balanced body, there should be some acid, but a little sweetness to balance the acidity out. Strong aromas are also important—to me they portray a greater rosè wine.”
“A dry style rosé is always appropriate, especially if it is sparkling!” Jindra says, noting they are often versatile and fit almost every occasion. “Personally I feel sweet rosés are what gave pink wine such a bad reputation in the U.S. not long ago, which we’ve only recently started to recover from, so I tend to avoid them.”
When it comes to pairings, La Crema’s Head Winemaker Craig McAllister concurs, noting a drier rose is better suited to spicy food than sweeter wines, which he says “are better suited to an 80’s party.”
“Rosé should be vibrant and fun without being too sweet,” McAllister says. “Flavors of rich red fruit—like raspberries, strawberries, and watermelon—as well as citrus—like blood orange and lemon—help give the wine layers and complexity.” Acidity, he adds, is also important in rosé as it helps lift up some of the heavier fruit flavors, leaving the palate better refreshed.
Rosé prices have fluctuated over the last few years, especially as the category has risen in awareness and value. According to Jindra, over the last 25 years, nearly all rosé wines were sweet and cheap—often below $10. But as the dry style became more popular with winemakers and wine drinkers, prices have seen a bump—deservedly so.
Pegging $26 as the sweet spot for a quality rosé—coincidentally, the same price for a bottle of Scharffenberger Brut Rosé Excellence—Jindra suggests looking for a bottle between $15 and $30, or between $13 and $17 per glass when ordering in a restaurant.
For Your Consideration
Long Meadow Ranch Rosé of Pinot Noir: With a brilliant pale pink hue, the aromas on this rosé jump out of the glass, with swirling notes of stone fruits (especially peach) and strawberries. It is full-bodied, yet remains light and mouthwatering, with a floral, spicy core, and bright finish. SRP: $25.
Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut Rosé: Aromas of ripe strawberry with hints of apple and citrus create a crisp sparkling rosé with a light sweetness. The initial impression is lively yet dry with subtle spice and berry flavors followed by an elegant, delicately sweet finish. SRP: $13.
14 Hands Columbia Valley Brut Rosé: A bright coral colored sparkling rosé with aromas of tart cherries and strawberry rhubarb pie. Notes of green papaya and young red fruit mesh with fluffy tannins and creamy texture leading to a bright refreshing finish of mixed berries. SRP: $15.
Erath Oregon Rosé of Pinot Noir: Touted to be the top selling Oregon Pinot Noir, this rosé is made from Pinot Noir grapes. Fruit-forward with aromas of rose petals, melon, tropical fruits, and peach, this bottle is particularly smooth and satisfying. SRP: $14.
JUSTIN Rosé: A bright salmon color wine touted to go well with summer picnic foods, especially a BLT chopped salad and roasted chicken with herbs and garlic. Expect a kaleidoscope of aromas, including red delicious apple, muted strawberry, cherry and tropical fruit character, chamomile, subtle purple floral notes, and even a hint of white pepper. On the palate, look for notes of red berry, apple, and white cherry with moderately long, finely textured finish and lingering savory herbal elements. SRP: $20.
Chronic Pink Pedals: Don’t be scared off by the label. (Or maybe that’s what caught your eye first.) Regardless, the flavor profiles on this Grenache and Syrah blend are unlike most other rosés you might ever come across, including notes of watermelon, pomegranate, cantaloupe, and cherry Jolly Rancher—yes, the childhood favorite. SRP: $15.
Raeburn Rosé: A blend of Pinot Noir and Grenache, this California-meets-Provence rosé begins with aromas of white flowers and fresh raspberries. On the palate, expect flavors of strawberry and guava supported by acidity for a refreshing finish. SRP: $19.99.
Scharffenberger Brut Rosé Excellence: Made in the traditional méthode champenoise (Champagne-style) process, This salmon-colored sparkler from California’s Anderson Valley promises fruity flavors of raspberry jam and wild strawberries elevated by crisp bubbles and an acid-driven finish. SRP: $22.99.
Oak Farm Grenache Rosé: This Provence-style, Grenache-based rosé from California’s Lodi wine region (often best known for its Zinfandels) is a more delicate selection with aromas of fresh jasmine and rose petals with fruity notes of grapefruit and melon, topped off by a bright, crisp acidity. SRP: $24.00.
La Crema Pinot Noir Rosé: Perhaps best known for its buttery Chardonnays and bold Pinot Noirs, this delicate yet vibrant rosé from Northern California’s La Crema is perhaps the best of both worlds. With notes of watermelon, strawberry, and blood orange matched by aromas of pink grapefruit and guava, this is one of your best bets for pairing with favorite summertime foods, such as wild salmon, Dungeness crab, and grilled rock shrimp. SRP $25.00.
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