WASHINGTON — It’s a typical summer in Washington: it’s hot, it’s humid. You want something cold and refreshing to help quench your thirst during your next barbecue or patio party, or after a tough day at the quarry. Beer can be too filling and some white wines can be too cloying. So, what’s a red-wine loving wine lover to do?
Rosé, of course! Not the ultra-sweet, wine-in-a-box, blushing white zinfandel. I’m talking about the crisp, refreshing, and thankfully, not too expensive rosé wines of from France and beyond.
While some of the most notable rosé wines come from several appellations in southern France, just about every region where grapes are grown are producing world-class rosé wines these days. Most die-hard rosé wine fans tend to be loyal to brands produced in the charming wine region of Provence, where the cooling influences of the Mediterranean Sea blesses the wines with flawless acidity. But the landlocked Rhone Valley to the northwest also produces rosé wines of notable appeal.
There also winemakers right here in the U.S. that are making their pink mark with profoundly delicious rosé wines that offer consumers a slightly different style than their French cousins. However, both styles are food-friendly and both have a place in the fridge and on the table.
Rosés are often made from any number of varietals. Common grapes include pinot noir, Syrah, Grenache, and mourvedere. They get their pinkish hue by leaving the red grape skin in contact with the juice for a shorter period of time than traditional red wines.
A typical rosé is crisp and refreshing. This is due mostly to the high acidity these wines posses. Another characteristic is the lively fruit that makes these wines so approachable while they are young, which is exactly when they should be consumed. Between the bright red fruit and the high acidity, these wines are ideal for picnics and hammocks. They also pair well with cheese and charcuterie plates, grilled chicken and hot dogs, and can even stand up to spicier fare such as Indonesian and Thai cuisines. But whatever you do, make sure you serve rosé cold.
These wines are meant for your ice bucket, not your cellar.
I recently sampled several rosé wines and found them to be a delightful companion while lounging by the pool. My wife joined me on this tasting safari and was amused by their petal-pink color exclaiming, “They’re very pretty!” I suppose they are.
One of my favorite wines from the tasting was the 2016 Arrogant Frog (Lily Pad Link) Rosé from the Pays d’Oc appellation in the Languedoc region of France. It’s made by Jean-Claude Mas, who comes from a family with a long tradition of winemaking in southern France. He uses Syrah grapes to create a wine that is simply light and easy to drink. It has a wonderful front note of fresh strawberry while ripe red raspberry flavors pile up on the back of the tongue. The finish is pleasant and crisp; the wine is excellent with creamy cheeses. $10
Just to the northwest of Languedoc is where you’ll find the Rhone Valley, home to the 2016 E. Guigal Rosé, a simply delightful wine. The charming bouquet of ripe strawberries and red raspberries begs you to gulp instead of sip this refreshing blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Cinsault. But the flavors of strawberry, rhubarb and cranberry will invite you to sip instead of slurp so you can enjoy the crisp, clean, long finish. Try it with a plate of fresh fruit and soft cheese. $16
A light and refreshing domestic version can be found in Sonoma County, California. The Balletto 2016 Estate Grown Rosé of Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley has a beautiful pink, salmon color and sports aromas of fresh red fruit and white floral notes. The palate it is light and bright, featuring fresh flavors of strawberry, raspberry and bright citrus notes. It is perfect to enjoy with lighter fare, such as salads or salmon, or maybe just on its own. $18
It only makes sense that a region that makes world-class pinot noir would also produce a world-class rosé made from pinot noir. The inaugural vintage of the 2017 WillaKenzie Estate Rosé from the Willamette Valley in Oregon sets a high bar. It offers up plenty of ripe red strawberry and citrus-centric aromas on the fragrant bouquet, and lightly textured flavors of bright red berries, cranberry, and watermelon that’s perfect for a hot summer day. The high acidity and minerality keep the wine refreshing and bright on the finish. A delightful match with seafood and rotisserie chicken; perfect for a picnic. $22