Growing up, “rosé” was a bad word in my house. My dad loathed the stuff, calling it “the bastardization of wine.” In fairness, he developed his bias honestly. Like so many Californians in the ‘80s and ‘90s, he had fallen for the misconception that rosé is white and red wine mixed together. Rosé’s bad reputation wasn’t all based on ill-informed rumors. I recently sat down with French winemaker Julien Fayard and he told me, “Even ten years ago, “quality” and “rosé” really didn’t go together in the same sentence.”
Thankfully, the times have changed and rosé is no longer shunned. That’s not to say that all are created equally. Like any wine, there is a decent amount of swill masquerading as the real-deal. To sidestep the pink-hued landmines, follow these two simple steps.
- Choose wisely. Pick a rosé that is made by an actual Frenchman, or at the very least, an ardent Francophile who was trained in France. Even in France, rosé is considered a “fun wine” – but it should still be made with grace and intention. I have yet to find a decent “table” rosé, so gauge your price point expectations accordingly.
This is a good time to address the current trend of canned wines. I did my fair share of research on canned rosés for this column; my verdict is simple: Don’t do it. I won’t name names, but I cannot in good conscience recommend any of the ones I tried.
- Drink wisely. By this, I mean drink like the French. Rosé in France is sipped in the warmth of spring and summer. It’s a light, carefree wine meant for light, carefree moments. Pair it with a fresh tuna nicoise salad, or enjoy it as a pre-dinner, al fresco sip in the sun.
Still need a little direction? Here are my top three, in alphabetical order, because simply put, I could never rank these beauties.
Azur Rosé 2016 ($32): Frenchmen Julien Fayard makes this aromatic rosé under his Azur label, at his winery, Covert Estate in Coombsville (Napa’s newest appellation). He uses the traditional method known as “direct press,” which means instead of using leftover grapes, he grows and harvests Syrah fruit specifically for this wine. The light salmon hue is a byproduct of his deliberate process – the grape skins are left on for a mere hour, imparting a light tint that alludes to the fresh, bright flavors.
Tasting notes: “Delicate bouquet of white flowers with seductive peach accents. Fresh and focused, the sophisticated palate offers elegant layers of raspberry, strawberry and watermelon. An alluring mineral finish completes this purely harmonious wine.” – winestreet.com
Ehlers Estate Sylvian Rosé 2017 ($36): Described as a classic, old-world rosé, Francophile winemaker Kevin Morrissey had to convince Sylvian LeDuc, his French boss and owner of Ehlers Estate, that this was a wine worth making. Kevin retold the moment to me: “She said to me, you know Kevin, rosé is not a serious wine, and Ehlers is very serious.” Kevin’s reply? “Well if it’s the best, then it’s serious, right?” One sip and she was convinced.
Tasting notes: “Aromas of watermelon, raspberry and cotton candy mingle with orange sorbet and fresh red cherries. Sparkling acidity, low alcohol.” – ehlersestate.com
Viver 2015 Rosé of Pinot Noir ($19): Like many French winemakers in Napa Valley, Stephane Vivier fell in love with the American girl and the California sun, but missed a taste of home. For him, home tastes like Pinot Noir—even more specifically—Rosé of Pinot Noir. “I grew up with Rosé of Pinot Noir in Burgundy. I would come home and sit outside with my parents. My mom would bring in things from the garden, and my dad wine from the cellar. We would talk about the day, and most everyday have a bottle of rosé.”
Tasting notes: “The floral result offers notes of citrus fruit and plum, and a fine, harmonious nose. Red fruit brings an almost flinty power to the palate, while the structure is fresh and sophisticated with concentration at its core.” – vivierwines.com
À votre santé!