Dining Review: War of the Rosés
The enduring pink wine is back, and here are some taste tests to reacquaint you with its unique character.
Let us talk of rosé wine, that sometimes maligned, often celebrated summer quaff. The popularity of the pale pink child of red grapes and casual drinking can be traced not to twenty-teens brunches, but to 6th century B.C. France, 14th century nobility, and 1970s California. Then it faded like a coral sunset.
But those who think rosé is still passé haven’t been socializing lately, or perusing Instagram for pink pictures. Rosé is back.
I gathered some non-expert sippers to sample an assortment of wines, coincidently on National Rosé Day (June 9). To keep it as level as possible, I only revealed the names of the wines, with bottles kept out of close observation. Each of our samples range from $11 to $20 a bottle, with one exception, and are available at Total Wine, ABC and your local wine shop.
Barton and Guestier Passeport. Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah grapes go into this readily available bottle from Provence. The mixed berry flavor starts a bit tart, eliciting responses ranging from “nice fruit and balance” to “tasted a little thin.”
Besserat de Bellefon Brut Rosé. The costliest of our selection ($65-75), this Meunier, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay blend is a true Champagne from Champagne. Round and complex fermentation forward; one taster said, “I’d serve it before meals.” Bubbles positive; characteristic hints of yeast (“Tastes too sour” and “Boo!”) negative.
Le Charmel Rose, Tortoise Creek Wines. A multi-layered blend of Syrah, Cinsault, Mourvèdre, Grenache and Rolle from coastal Provence. Extremely pale and very fruity with an intense taste of raspberries and a “dry apple aftertaste,” it appealed as a “salad dinner” companion.
Mont Gravet Rosé. The south of France brings us a 100% Cinsault from Languedoc. Slightly sweet, it appealed in hue (“I want lipstick this color”) and origin (revealed as from France, a smiley face and “Ooh La La” appeared one critique sheet). An enjoyable berry taste.
Santa Julia Brut Rosé NV. Technically a rosado from Argentina’s Mendoza region, this light sparkler of Pinot Noir grapes has a delicate color and surprising aroma of vegetation, more like grape leaves than grapes. “I liked the bubbles,” said one, “and the apple-ish taste.”
Santa Julia Organica. Argentinian organic Malbec with a deep taste of red fruit, caramel and vanilla. “Blackberries and plums,” was a comment.
S. Pratsch Rosé. Unequivocally the favorite (including mine). From lower Austria, grown on tiny estates of organic Zweigelt grapes, it reminded me of the drier Reislings but with a fruitier taste and sweet aroma. “I’d serve with dinner,” was a comment. “Yes, please! Love this.”
Snowbirds Rosé. Certified organic Carignan grapes from a Russian River Valley vineyard, conceived by Orlando chef Jamie McFadden, and finished and bottled by local Quantum Leap Winery. With a rich, jewel-like color, and pronounced aroma of berries and noticeable alcohol (open it ahead). “I can’t identify it,” one of our panel said, “but very fruit forward.”
Thanks to all our hard-working tasters. And remember, rosé isn’t just for the summer.
For the outdoorsy sipper, rosé has hit the canned wine category. Francis Ford Coppola’s Sofia offers a sparkling brut aimed at the LaCroix crowd in single glass servings (4/$20). Sonoma’s Scribe Winery serves Una Lou rosé in 2-glass cans (4/$40), and the “not exactly a rosé” RAMONA revives the wine cooler with a bubbly made from Sicilian grapefruit juice and Italian wine (4-pack, $20).