Nice weather, shorts, flip-flops, BBQ and…...Rosés!!!! The start of spring means only one thing in the wine business, the arrival of the latest vintage of Rose’s from around the world. While we do look forward to the new vintage of whites being released, for those of us in the trade, nothing gets us more excited than the pink stuff.

Historically speaking, Rosés were the first and only type of wine available. Just take whatever was in the field, red and white grapes, press them together, have them sit for a little while, and then drain off the juice. The pink color comes from the skins of the red grapes, and the longer they are in contact with the juice, the darker the color.

Currently there are three methods primarily used to make rosé wines. The first, skin contact, is described above. The second, Saignée (French for bleed), is where a portion of the juice is bled off of the must (skins, seeds, stems and juice).  The difference between simply macerating the wine and removing the must and saigneé is that the wine left after the bleed-off is oftentimes still being made into a more concentrated red wine, and the rosé is a byproduct, often sold cheaply. Thirdly, you can just blend finished red and white wines together. Let’s not go there, shall we.

Rosés can be made from any red grape, but the most common grapes used are Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre, Cinsault, Carignan. Other varietals used are Cabernet Franc, Tempranillo, Malbec, Pinot Noir, Gamay and Barbera to name a few. Rosés in particular benefit from the blending of multiple varieties to acheive balance; in fact, it’s a rarity to see a single variety rosé. One of those rare single variety rosés is Yves Cuilleron Syrah Sybel 2014(SKU 21184), the famous producer of world class Viognier. This is northern Rhone juice, and is darkly colored(think Beaujolais).This is your steak rosé for those hot summer afternoons, when you have some rare to medium-rare primes coming off the grill, but it’s too hot for red, and a white will never work. This is what you grab.

Below are some of the characteristics you will find in these grapes.

Grenache- Color is usually rudy red and have notes of strawberry, orange and sometimes a hint of spice. Medium to high acidity levels, with medium body and
Mouvedre- Color can be deceiving, and the Mouvedre grape does an excellent job of it. Many are pale colored, but the fruit can be rounder and fuller bodied than many other Roses. Floral and rose petal notes on the nose, but the palate can have red plums, cherries and dried herbs as well as some meatiness to it.

Syrah-Darker colors tend to show when using Syrah grapes for rose. Strawberry and cherry are part of the palate, but bolder notes of pepper and black plums can show also. Fuller in body and best served slightly warmer than other roses.

Pinot Noir-The most finicky and most prestigious of grapes. Fresh and bright on the nose, with watermelon and raspberry flavors in addition to strawberry. Cool and crisp acidity make a Pinot Noir rose very versatile.

Cinsault-Widely planted throughout southern France. With its lighter skins and soft perfume it is particularly suitable for fruity, early-drinking reds. Cinsault is used to add perfume and fruit to wines such as Minervois and Corbières. Where it really shines though, is in the supporting role when blended with Grenache in Rosé, like in Domaine de La Fouquette 2015 (SKU 22251). Light in color, with hints of strawberry and mandarin orange on the palate with darker fruits developing toward the finish.  

France-The Queen of Rosé
France is the world leader in rosé wine production, with Languedoc-Roussillon the largest producer of rosés followed by Provence. Made primarily from Grenache, Cinsault and Carignan, these are primarily easy going wines to drink with local stews like bouillabaisse, and of course cheeses and charcuterie.The wines will show mostly a salmon color with the aromatic profiles leaning toward light strawberry and cherry, with fresh and crisp acidity, and a clean finish. We have a few recommendations from these two A.O.C’s. First is the Devois de Perret 2015 (SKU 22298), this is a smooth, easy-drinking rosé blend with aromas of grapefruit zest and strawberries that are lifted by bright acidity and a clean menthol note on the finish.

And lastly,  the Domaine Reine Juliette 2015 (SKU 22298), an equal blend of Grenache and Syrah from clay soils, the nose hints at watermelon, strawberries and even a bit of canteloupe followed by classic minerality and fine texture.

Leading into somewhat heavier rosés, we can jump over to the Rhone Valley. Here we have a lovely, albeit grippier blend, from the Cotes du Rhone called Domaine de La Bastide. We refer to it  as the “fig wine” as it has a fig on the front label. It must be noted though  that there are some dark and earthy notes to it, much like figs, because there is a portion of Mouvedre grapes in the coupage. Lovely and earthy all at the same time. And Domaine de La Baside “Fig” Rosé 2015  (SKU 22297) is a steal.

If you want to get serious about your rose, pop a cork on the roses from Tavel, located in the Rhone valley. Tavel was Ernest Hemingway’s favorite pink for your trivia buffs out there.  Tavel is an unusually dry Rosé and has significant body and structure as well as a higher alcohol content and lower acidity on average. Tavel roses are a majority of Grenache and Cinsault, but can contain an additional 7 varietals.  It has more body and structure than most pink wines and is considered to have all the character of a good red wine, just less color. It is made primarily with Grenache and Cinsault, but nine varieties are allowed in the blend.

The other apex of rose is Bandol, located on the Mediterranean coast. In Bandol, a minimum of 50% Mouvedre must be used and is rounded out usually with Cinsault and Grenache, but Syrah and Carignan can be used as well, but as long as those two grapes don’t account for more than 15% of the final blend.

Spain-No Pasa Nada
In the land of the siesta, nothing sums up the character of Spain like “No Pasa Nada”. Loosely translated as “nothing happens” or “don’t worry about it”. Garnacha is the key grape in Navarra and Monastrell(Mouvedre in France) in the southern regions of Jumilla and Utiel-Requena. Darker hued roses are the norm for Spain, with more fruit and weight on the palate, and a rounder finish, but recently a shift has begun toward paler shades of rose with more zip on the palate. This is evident by bottlings from Rioja featuring Tempranillo grapes, but also Trepat grapes from the Barcelona area. Trepat grapes are mainly used in sparkling Cava production, and our recommendation is a tasty and unique offering from Spain, the elegant Don Roman Rosado NV (SKU 21737) made from 100% Trepat grapes. A nose of light strawberry and raspberry, the palate is easy with fine bubbles that make a great aperitif wine to go with lighter styled cheeses and charcuterie.

Red, White and Blue Roses-Really?
Yes, really. In what was historically a category of overly sweetened (artificially or not) rose wines, we can say this about American roses, “you’ve come a long way baby!”. Trending in the direction of its European counterparts of drier and with more complexity, we can find great examples from California, but also Oregon and Washington State, as well as New York!

In fact, our pick is this year’s New York’s, or more specifically, Long Island’s Wolffer Rose 2015 (22128)  .  An interesting blend of Merlot(46%), Chardonnay(a whopping 35%), Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Riesling, Pinot Noir and Vignoles?!?!  Light salmon color, and because of the high Chardonnay content, notes of white peach and pear with crisp acidity and texture.

New Zealand, you ask?  You bet!  Mantua Pinot Noir Rosé (22140) is made from 100% Pinot Noir (there’s that rare single variety again) and tastes like it too, only in a crisper, lighter more energetic style!  And you drink it chilled.

If you haven’t been drinking roses lately, or thought it wasn’t for you because it was that sweet pink stuff, give it another chance. We have plenty of options for you to explore in the shop to go with your springtime cookouts or your weekday takeouts.

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