“Sun, sun, sun…here comes the sun…”. Following two years of dark winter days punctuated by the horrors of Covid, we are all ready for a break as we welcome longer hours of daylight and warmer temperatures into our lives. Now, and with thanks to George Harrison and his fellow Beatles, it’s time to start humming their timeless ode to the season—and to start seeking out wines to go with it.
We probably all know people who drink only red wine no matter what the season, the ambient temperature, or what’s on the menu for dinner. Most of the rest of us, however, look forward to enjoying the refreshing white and pink wines that are so emblematic of spring’s warming weather and the generally lighter foods that accompany the season. I can think of no better way to embrace the winter-to-spring seasonal shift than with a glass of invigorating white or pink wine. But since white wine has been the most popular warm weather quaff worldwide for a couple of thousand years, I’m going to focus here on rosé.
Modern rosé is very different from any of the wines created by our winemaking ancestors thousands of years ago. Those earliest vinous potions were made by workers who crushed red and white grapes together with their bare feet, then stored the juice in large ceramic containers. The resulting beverage would have been oxidative, somewhat off-dry, and tannic due to long contact with grape skins, seeds, stems and leaves. Rather than being red, white or pink, the earliest wines were likely pinkish-gray, and today’s wine drinkers would no doubt find their flavors unacceptable. Even after relatively efficient wine presses and such were developed our ancestors mostly favored fruity, pale red wines, which were often watered down to please the palates of early oenophiles who found red wine to be unpleasantly strong and harsh. One can’t say precisely when white wine—wine fermented without skin contact—was first created, but the best guess seems to be 4000 or so years ago, and a thousand years or so after red wine.
Palates kept evolving, generation after generation, along with the development of improved new equipment (barrels, tanks) and viticultural practices. While it’s also difficult to put a date on when rosé became its own thing, we know that pink wine skyrocketed to a prominent position on the palates of wine consumers in the mid-1940s when a new style of sweet, cheap, pink wine was introduced by two Portuguese producers, Mateus and Lancers. Wildly popular almost from the beginning, similar pink offerings including blush wines, and white Zinfandel soon followed.
Today’s rosé wines come from all over the world. They are made from a wide variety of grapes and appear in many different colors, from gossamer pink to hearty rosy-red. If you like rosé today, you are hardly alone. A study of 45 countries by the World Tracking Council found that the consumption of rosé has been rising an average of one percent a year over the past several years, and that the global consumption of rosé wine accounts for more than 27.5% of all three colors of still wine. Rosé’s popularity seems destined to keep on growing according to the IWSR (the Drinks Market Analysis): “Still rosé wine volume in the U.S. has increased by 118 percent from 2015 to 2020—a huge margin over still wine overall, which has grown only 1.5 percent over the same time period.” A recent report by the global market research firm bw166 declares that rosé’s rise in popularity shows no signs of slowing down and that in fact it is “forecasted to grow by almost 70 percent from 2020 to 2024.” This growth has come despite the fact that rosé faces a certain amount of criticism—especially from men—although a recent Nielson report suggests that more US men (and especially younger men) are now drinking more rosé.
The leading rosé drinking nation is France, which enjoys 35% of the total volume. Spain is the world’s second rosé consuming country as well as the leading exporter of vinos rosados. Next is the United States (which drinks 15% of the world’s pink wine), followed by Germany (7%). Australia’s rosé consumption doubled between 2018 and 2019. According to the IWSR, the worldwide amount of rosé is forecast to grow by almost 70 percent from 2020 to 2024.
As The Globe and Mail’s Christopher Waters wrote last year, “The rosé revolution successfully broke pink wine out of its rut of being typecast as frivolous and, in some circles considered a beverage only for women. But it failed to fully bring it the prominence routinely afforded to Chardonnays, Cabernets or Pinot Noir. For many wine lovers, it is still thought of as a seasonal dalliance. Their taste for rosé gets put away each year with the lawn furniture. Consumers have opened their minds that not all rosé is cloyingly sweet and aimed at unsophisticated palates. Perhaps it actually is the case that only a rare few bottles of pink Champagne qualify as being truly exceptional. Or, maybe, we should admit that the very best rosés in the world are still not quite getting their due?"
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In an effort to keep some positive momentum going for the category and get fine rosé wines their due, here are some recommended renditions to try, appearing in rough order of preference:
Château d'Aqueria, Tavel (Rhône Valley, France) Rosé 2020 ($23, Kobrand Wine & Spirits): A toothsome blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Clairette, this rosé is deliciously fragrant as well as complex on the palate. 93
Tenuta di Salviano, Umbria IGT (Italy) Pinot Nero Rosé 2020 ($16, Kobrand Wine & Spirits): This superb Rosé, made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes, is absolutely dry, with a medium body plus subtle red berry and earthy flavors. 93
Maison Saint Aix, Coteaux d’Aix En Provence (Provence, France) "Aix" Rosé 2020 ($20, Kobrand Wine & Spirits): A blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault, “Aix” is a top-notch example of what excellent Rosé from Provence should be. With straightforward fruit flavors plus gentle hints of cinnamon, cocoa and a burst of fresh lemon, the wine is both substantial and refreshing. 93
White Cliff, Hawke's Bay (New Zealand) Rosé "Winemaker’s Selection" 2020 ($14): This silky-smooth dry rosé is satisfyingly hefty in weight and flavor. It offers suggestions of red fruits plus light traces of herbs, citrus and uplifting acidity. 93
Santa Margherita, Trevenezie (Veneto, Italy) Rosé 2020 ($26, Santa Margherita USA): The romantic color of a pale pinkish sunset, this dry Rosé is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco and Pinot Nero. It is a subtle and eminently sippable rosé. 92
Los Vascos, Colchagua Valley (Chile) Rosé 2020 ($13): Fully dry, medium bodied, pleasantly aromatic and fruity, this affordable rosé from Chile pleases with its vibrant red fruit and peach flavors and aromas. 92
Raeburn Winery, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Rosé 2020 ($20): A blend of Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Grenache, this elegantly pale, peach colored rosé offers beguiling floral notes. It is crisp, fresh, layered and relatively long. 92
Château la Mascaronne, Côtes de Provence (Provence, France) Rosé 2020 ($24, International Wine Cellars): A flavorful blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah and Vermentino, this deliciously dry Provençale rosé is an attractive pale color, with enticing aromas and balanced fruit-based flavors. 92
Ippolito 1845, Ciró DOC (Calabria, Italy) Gagglioppo “Mabilia” Rosé 2020 ($18, Cantiniere Imports): Ippolito, the oldest winery in Calabria, is located in the sun drenched toe of the “boot.” Gaglioppo, an ancient Calabrian grape, is most likely a relative of Sangiovese. Ippolito offers inviting flavors including cherry and melon plus a refreshing dose of saline minerality. 92
Chateau Montaud, Côtes de Provence (Provence, France) Rosé 2020 ($15, Monsieur Touton Selection): Powerfully aromatic and brimming with refreshing strawberry and cherry flavors, this Provençale rosé is as affordable as it is delicious. 91
Le Domaine de Cantarelle, Côtes de Provence AOC (Provence, France) “Madam” Rosé 2019 ($16): This rosé’s sun-drenched fruit flavors emboldened by a touch of spice is sure to please, as is the wine’s modest price. 91
Belguardo, Maremma Toscana IGT (Tuscany, Italy) Rosé 2019 ($15, Taub Family Selections): A flavorful blend of Syrah and Sangiovese, this is an elegant wine that can showcase a variety of foods, from delicate seafood to vegetarian dishes. 91
The Little Sheep of France, Languedoc (France) Rosé 2020 ($11, Monsieur Touton Selection): This pleasantly crisp and delicately flavored blend of Cabernet Franc, Gamay and Cabernet Sauvignon has all the hallmarks of a terrific party wine, including reasonable price, low alcohol content, and easy-to-open screw-cap. 91
Baci al Sole, Veneto (Italy) Rosé 2020 (Romano Brands/Familia Imports, $17): An enticingly robust blend of Corvina Veronese, Merlot and Corvinone (a native grape of the Veneto), with the color of a pretty sunset, and savory flavors of strawberry and cherry nicely balanced with acidity. 90