The Reach of Rosé

The Reach of Rosé
Vineyards in Provence (D A Barnes/Alamy)
Jun 15, 2019

Pink wine, once pooh-poohed as an unserious drink for unsophisticated palates, has in recent years gained complexity in the bottle and respect in the marketplace. With its popularity at an all-time high, rosé has also become a marker for a broadly shared lifestyle, signaled by celebrity labels and some 3.7 million Instagram posts and counting, using one rosé hashtag or another. Not least, the wine's refreshing character makes it a perfect partner for a variety of cuisines.

Some industry observers express concern over an abundance of past-vintage inventory and believe pricing will be a major factor in rosé's continued success. But Marc Perrin, winemaker at Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's Provençal rosé estate, Château Miraval, predicts demand will continue to rise. "In France, we drink more rosé than white wines," says Perrin. "It goes with all kind of foods; it is also great by itself." And a 2018 study by Impact Databank, a sister publication to Wine Spectator, found that rosé imports to the United States are projected to reach 3 million cases by 2020.

PROVENCE

The rosés from Provence, in the south of France, have set the style that is most popular today. Based mostly on the red grapes Grenache and Syrah, often blended with a touch of the white grape Rolle (also known as Vermentino), Provence rosés are pale in color and bright and fresh on the palate, with little or no sweetness and a minerality that comes from the region's limestone soils.

"Provence [is] to rosé what Champagne is to sparkling [wine]," says Sacha Lichine, owner of Château d'Esclans in Côtes de Provence. A leader in Provence rosé, d'Esclans offers a range of cuvées, from Whispering Angel, a regional blend, to the high-end, single-vineyard Garrus.

LANGUEDOC & THE RHÔNE

France's Languedoc region, to the west of Provence, produces pale, full-bodied dry rosés using red grapes that can include Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Cinsault. Vintner Gérard Bertrand, one of the most successful in the region, has partnered with rocker Jon Bon Jovi and his son, Jesse Bongiovi, to create the popular Diving Into Hampton Water rosé.

Northwest of Languedoc, the Tavel wine region in the Southern Rhône specializes in rosé; its traditional style is deeper in color and richer in flavor than its Provençal cousins. Domaine de la Mordorée is a top producer to try; look for its Grenache-based La Dame Rousse, which is full-bodied and fruit-driven.

ITALY

Rosé is made all over Italy, and because producers tend to rely on their local grape types, the wines come in a broad range of colors, from light pink to deep red, depending on the region. Abruzzo is one of the few Italian regions that has an appellation dedicated solely to rosé production. At Abruzzo's Masciarelli winery, the mother-daughter team of Marina Cvetic and Miriam Lee Masciarelli use the native red grape Montepulciano to make rosatos such as their Colline Teatine Rosato and Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo Villa Gemma.

Masseria Li Veli in Puglia, owned by the the Falvo family, uses Negroamaro—a grape native to southern Italy—to make its Salento Rosato Primerose. For its Salento Rosato Askos, the winery relies on the lesser-known Susumaniello, a variety rarely grown outside Puglia. It's part of their aim of rediscovering and restoring ancient Puglian grape varieties that are dying out.

SPAIN

In Spain, where pink wine is called rosado, winemakers also tend to stick to native grapes, both red and white. At R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia in Rioja, the López de Heredia family makes the onion skin–colored Rioja Rosado Viña Tondonia Gran Reserva from Garnacha, Tempranillo and Viura grapes; unusual for rosé, the wine is barrel-aged for four years before release. The Muga family at Bodegas Muga rely on the same grapes for their Rioja Rosado, but the white Viura grape is a bit more present in this salmon-pink wine. In comparison, Muga's pale-pink Flor de Muga rosé nods to France, made in a Provençal style.

CALIFORNIA

Some California winemakers have chosen to riff on Provençal styles. At Tablas Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles, winemaker Neil Collins produces Patelin de Tablas Rosé, a blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre, Counoise and Syrah. At Napa Valley's Amuse Bouche, winemaker Heidi Barrett opts for Grenache and Syrah in her Rose Prêt à Boire Napa Valley.

Golden State rosés come in a diversity of other flavors too, using a broad range of grapes. D Wade Cellars, founded by NBA star Dwyane Wade, makes a rosé under its Three by Wade label that's composed of Petite Sirah, Carignane and Zinfandel. And Napa's Pahlmeyer family, including vintner Jayson Pahlmeyer (who's also a partner in Wade's label) launched its first rosé this year under the Jayson by Pahlmeyer label; the wine is made from 100 percent Pinot Noir grapes.

"We love the wines of Provence but do not see them as competition," says Pahlmeyer winemaker Todd Kohn. "Looking at the industry as a whole, there are many great rosés produced all over the world, from Provence to California and beyond. For us, it's not a matter of catching up, but rather sharing and enjoying what California rosé has to offer."

OREGON & WASHINGTON

Whatever their base grapes, rosés from the Pacific Northwest reflect their cooler-climate origins. Like California's Pahlmeyers, Oregon's Luisa Ponzi relies solely on Pinot Noir to make her Ponzi Willamette Valley rosé; the result is a deeper color and a more savory quality.

In Washington, the winemaking partnership of Charles Smith and Charles Bieler makes a rosé under the joint label Charles & Charles that draws inspiration from Bieler's Provençe roots, with some twists: The Columbia Valley rosé comprises mostly Syrah, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Counoise.

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