Rosé Season Is Open

Antibes avec Rosé

If you live in a cool climate like I do, at long last: ‘tis the season for rosé. Morning dog walks are warm and fragrant, the afternoon sun heats your skin and backyard barbequing is well underway. It’s time for a little pink juice on that sun-drenched patio.

If this is any indication: a few weeks ago I was pouring for Loire winemaker Bernard Chereau – Chereau Carré, one of the top domaines of the Nantais, at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival and out of the flight of five spectacular wines (four of which were his well known and liked Muscadet wines), the ladies all flocked to the one rosé – in droves. And it’s not reflective of that whole “pink-is-for-girls” thing. The ladies definitely get it: rosé rocks and pink is still in. It’s summer in a glass. Who better to look to than the French? Rosé wine sales surpassed white wine sales in France, circa 2007.

Before getting to my short list of the wines you need to pick up and enjoy this summer, what makes a rosé a rosé? The wine gets its colour from the amount of time the red grape skins are left in contact with the juice after the grapes have been crushed. It’s up to the discretion of the winemaker as to the style of wine and the length of time this contact occurs, which helps determine the colour of rosé wine – anything from pale orange, to copper, to pink salmon, to almost red and purple. Getting a little more technical, rosé is also made as a by-product of red wine fermentation when the pink juice is removed at an early stage and fermented separately, known as saignée. Rosé wines are made with just about any red grape variety, the most common being Grenache and Cinsaut.

There still seems to be a massive misconception that rosé wines are sweet (think the once-popular Cali White Zin “blush wine”, off-dry to sweet). But the most enjoyed, and historically like the original rosé wines produced in the Loire Valley, are in fact bone dry – and bright, fresh and delicious!

To kick this list off, I did a little ‘homework’ myself and tasted a fine selection of rosés of various styles. I think you’ll find a few here that fit your taste buds as well as your budget. While we can enjoy rosé at any given time of the year, I think we can all agree that it’s the hot sun and outdoor dining that somehow make these wines taste that much better. It’s scandalous to make a list of a mere five rosés – there are plenty more, but these are here to get you started and inspired to enjoy some summer sipping.

  1. Domaine des Huards, Cheverny, Val do Loire 2009
    $19.00 @ Marquis Wines
    This wine has everything you’d expect and want in an easy patio-sipper on a sunny afternoon, as the cliché goes. It’s light, refreshing, crisp, and acid to please with a healthy blast of citrus and subtle raspberry. Have it on its own or knock back a few grilled clams with a squeeze of lemon.
  2. Provenquiere Rose “Cuvee P” 2008
    $15.00 @ Marquis Wines
    Enter this classic southern French rosé filled with citrus, red berries, sweet spice and floral aroma. Enjoy this easy-drinker with a citrus summer salad, a soft-rind mild brie or, as the region would dictate, bouillabaisse.
  3. Frias Family Vineyards Rosé, Napa
    $30.00 @ Kitsilano Wine Cellar
    This wine is two things: really fun to drink and definitely an acquired taste. I say this because it’s almost sherry-like, but don’t let that dissuade you if you’re not a sherry fan. It’s a blend of Pinot Noir, Gamay and Cabernet Franc, with characteristics that are quite complex and well balanced. I wouldn’t call it “refreshing” as the label touts, as it’s a little hot on the alcohol, but it has a good dose of fruit – black cherry and watermelon predominantly – with some earthy sweet spice and a kick of a pleasant tartness at the end. It demands to be eaten with an olive tapenade, bruscetta or oily fish.
  4. Domaine de la Mordorée, Tavel AOC 2008
    $40.00 @ Liberty Wine Merchants
    Perhaps one of the more popular rosé wine appellations of the world, and one of the finest, is Tavel in the south of the Rhone Valley in France, where all wines made here must be rosé. This is truly a beautiful wine: dry, crisp acidity, rich and spicy;  a bold blend of Grenache and Cinsaut. It’s a little pricey, but definitely worth it – a mouth-melter.
  5. Vina Tondonia, Vinos Fino de Rioja, Lopez de Heredia 1993
    $42.00 @ Kitsilano Wine Cellar
    This is going out on a bit of a limb, and it’s more expensive than your average “patio-sipper” rosé, however, if you want to try something totally radical, this is it. For starters, there is nothing pink about it – it’s a beautiful, rich orange. The style is slightly oxidized with nutty caramel, a little oak, some minerality and a touch of zesty orange. You simply must taste this wine.

I’m always looking for the next best rosé, so let’s hear your picks.

Thanks to John at Marquis Wines and Kirk at Kitsilano Wine Cellar for your recommendations.

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