The shift in weather suggested it, but the hashtags have positively confirmed it: it's once again the season to #drinkpink. Because once the sun is shining anywhere near a possible picnic spot, it's got to be #roséallday.
What makes this best-served-chilled inbetweener wine such a staple of the spring and summer table? When it first originated, way back in ancient Greece, rosé was more or less made by accident—it was simply red wine that wasn't macerated long enough on the grape skins. The style remained popular in what would become Provence and its Mediterranean neighbors and, fast-forward to the modern era, was put under the international spotlight when the region became a tourist destination. You can imagine the thinking that followed: If this is what they drink in sunny, coastal paradise, then this is what we should drink whenever it feels like that wherever we are.
There was a time when rosés didn't have the street cred of red or white wine, but there's definitely some substance to explore when it comes to drinking pink. You'll find tremendous values from well-regarded producers, as well as a great range of styles to consider—from dark and juicy wines to others that are pale, fresh, and lean, brimming with bright acidity, there's a guaranteed match for whatever dishes are a part of your warm-weather spread. Here are eight favorites to seek out.
Ameztoi 'Rubentis' Rosado, Getariako Txakolina 2014, Spain (~ $20)
Txakolina, the dry, spritzy wine coming out of a tiny bayside section of Spanish Basque country, has held the heart-shaped gaze of cork-dorks for a long moment now, and with good reason. Light, fresh, and positively chuggable, it's the easy-going friend you bring to the party because you just know she'll get along with everyone.
Among the region's producers, Ameztoi reigns supreme. The whites are lovely and full of character, but the rosado (made from the same Hondarrabi Zuri and Hondarrabi Beltza grapes) is its own particular brand of rosé catnip. Vibrant with tons of juicy, tart red fruit, it's balanced by a nervy mineral-lime acidity and a delicate smoked sea salt tinge. The baby-pink wine is bottled to retain a little of the natural carbonation from fermentation, which adds to its bright and lively personality. Factor in that it's screw cap-sealed and tops off at a mere 11% ABV, it's safe to say that this bottle pretty much owns the perfect picnic wine competition.
Drink it with: This wine's effervescent freshness calls for an equally light dish to match. Something simple like a tomato and watermelon salad works wonderfully with the tart red fruit notes—toss in some fresh herbs and chunks of salty feta to pick up on the underlying salinity. Of course the traditional pintxos work too. Marinated anchovies, anyone?
Jean-Paul Brun Rosé d'Folie 2013, France (~ $13)
Rosé can often present a great opportunity to get to know big-name producers at a much more affordable price point. Jean-Paul Brun is known for rockstar white and red Beaujolais—with this bottling he proves that rosé is definitely also in his wheelhouse. Gamay lovers will recognize that grape the moment they stick their noses in a glass: it's strawberry fields forever. This is a pretty wine, with a slight sweet cream quality that gives way to vibrant, round smoky red fruit, tangy acidity, and a slightly spicy dry finish.
Drink it with: A thick filet of hickory-grilled salmon can balance out the ripe strawberry notes with a little rich savoriness.
Broc Cellars White Zinfandel 2014, California (~ $24)
Rosé from zinfandel had a pretty normal, unassuming life here in the U.S. until 1975, when Sutter Home Winery released a bottling of white zin that, unintentionally, had not fully finished fermenting. The resulting cheap, sweet, lower-alcohol wine was a runaway hit. Unfortunately, the style's credibility went with it in the process, branding it with the scarlet letters 'CJ' (for Cougar Juice) that would haunt it for decades to follow.
But thanks to a growing base of talented and impassioned folks, the calling cards for California wine's style, signature grapes, and attitude are in the midst of a major makeover. Berkeley's Chris Brockway of Broc Cellars is among that crew, and his version of white zin proves that it's more than a punchline. Full and meaty but with enough bright, juicy acidity to give it lift, this dry, darker-toned wine really feels like the accurate rosé counterpart to a red from the same grape. It has a lot of tasty, lush red berry fruit with just the right amount of savory nuttiness to balance it out.
Drink it with: The juicy, gamey side of this fuller-bodied rosé has burger partner written all over it.
Try more like this! This wine is a great reminder to seek out the rosé versions of whatever red grapes you like. If you're a fan of big, savory, spicy flavors, why not reach for a Syrah or Grenache-based rosé? Want something with a wild, green note? Think Cabernet Franc.
Moulin de Gassac Guilhem Rosé 2014, France (~ $11)
Of course you can find a lot of tasty, inexpensive dry rosés from Provence, but it's worth remembering that their neighbors to the west, in Languedoc, also make versions that fit a similar (and sometimes even better-priced) bill.
This light Grenache-based blend is textbook easy-drinking pull-out-a-couple-bottles-among-friends rosé. It's soft and fresh, with a mellow personality that just blends in seamlessly. It balances lifted acidity, a cool earthy, mineral zip, and a dollop of apple-pear juiciness.
Drink it with: A no-fuss salad made from whatever is fresh at the farmers market: maybe some lightly-dressed greens with shaved raw asparagus and radishes to match the earthy notes.
Teutonic Wine Company Laurel Vineyards Rosé 2014, Oregon (~ $17)
This small Oregon operation, run by a husband-and-wife duo, has accumulated a big geek fanbase thanks to their dedication to making lean, refreshing, food-friendly wines. Theirs are the kind of wines you present to an Old World-drinking snob who still isn't convinced that awesome, focused, cool-climate wines can be made stateside.
This Pinot Noir rosé is a great example. It's as electric as its vibrant magenta hue would suggest. The earthy-herbal-mineral aroma feels almost shy compared to the gush of tart strawberry, cider apple, and slightly bitter cranberry that comes rushing in with each sip. Energetic, dry, and assertive, it has a lively acidity to brighten the fuller, riper fruit of this warmer vintage. It practically begs for food.
Drink it with: A juicy rotisserie chicken (or a rack of spicy dry-rubbed ribs) works wonders with the lush, tangy fruit in this rosé.
Clos Cibonne Tibouren Cuvée Tradition 2013, France (~ $25)
Everything you thought you knew about Provence rosé? Take it and put it in a box somewhere over there because this bottle is not like the others. Clos Cibonne's Cuvée Tradition is the brainy outcast middle sibling with something different to say.
Usually, blends for rosés from this coastal region of southern France include Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvedre, and Cabernet Sauvignon. This estate, however, draws our attention to another, lesser-known grape variety that is native to Provence: Tibouren. But wait! That's not the only atypical thing about this wine. It also spends a year aging under a thin veil of yeast called "fleurette" (sometimes called 'flor' or aging 'sous-voile'), in a process similar to the way that dry sherry is made. The result is one hell of a cool, funky rosé. Pale orangey-pink, it has an intense mushroomy, nutty quality with a bright, saline kind of acidity. While unquestionably dry, there's plenty of fresh apple, pear, and yellow plum notes to make it surprisingly thirst-quenching. (I'd advise against chugging, though: this is the kind of wine you want to hang out with for a while to see how it evolves as it gets some air. You might even want to buy another bottle, stick it in the cellar and come back because this stuff proves that rosé can be age-worthy.)
Drink it with: The salty-earthy sherry-like qualities of this wine call for the types of happy-hour foods that you'd want with a dry fino or manzanilla: marinated olives, roasted nuts, hard, salty cheeses, and a nice selection of charcuterie.
Weingut Jäger Rosé Zweigelt 2013, Austria (~ $17)
When it comes to Austrian wine, Grüner tends to get all of the glory and attention. But in addition to a host of awesome and diverse other whites (floral Muskateller, searingly dry Riesling, minerally Rotgipfler), the country also has a number of indigenous red grapes that are worth getting in your glass.
Case in point: Zweigelt, which is a cross between between Austria's two other main red grapes, Blaufränkisch and Saint-Laurent. I've always felt like it's a best-of-both-worlds kind of grape, which this rosé does a great job of displaying, delivering on the cherry and spice of Blaufränkisch and the subtle, smoky-chocolaty earthiness of Saint-Laurent. Pale salmon pink, this dry refresher has a real lean, mineral-herbal quality that keeps the zesty citrus and crunchy apple notes in check.
Drink it with: Pick up on the earthy and juicy citrus notes of this wine with a big bowl of pesto pasta tossed with green beans and roasted potatoes.
Antichi Vigneti di Cantalupo 'Il Mimo' Colline Novaresi Nebbiolo Rosato 2013, Italy (~ $13)
In the Northwestern Italian region of Piedmont, Nebbiolo is king. It's difficult to grow and notoriously temperamental in the cellar, with thick skins that produce aggressive tannins (and red wines that need years in the cellar before they're ready to drink.) Basically, Nebbiolo is a diva—mindbogglingly delicious when ready and done right, but a diva nonetheless.
Which is what makes this rosé so fun. It lets you see the softer, more playful side of the grape. It's still dry, big and bold, but the typically earthy broodiness you find in the reds has been replaced here with a cheery display of tart cranberry and ripe cherry, with just a hint of that classic minty note adding freshness.
Drink it with: The racy acidity and pithy citrus tannins need something a little more substantial to latch on to, like a simple grilled flank steak.
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