The official start of summer is nearly here, and that signals the season for crisp, refreshing rosé wines. Choices have expanded in recent years, with numerous wines from California, the rest of the country and abroad.
It seems that wine drinkers have finally gotten past the notion that all pink wines are cloyingly sweet, a hangover from the past popularity of white zinfandel and other “blush” wines. Many of today’s crop of rosés are dry or nearly dry, with plenty of juicy fruit and a refreshing streak of bright acidity.
A lot of domestic rosés used to be essentially a byproduct of red wine production. A portion of the juice was bled off from a tank of red grapes, so the juice that remained got more skin contact and, thus, more color, concentration and tannin. The bled-off juice, which was pale pink because of limited skin contact, was made into rosé. Some rosés still are made this way, but such wines can be clumsy and overly alcoholic. Ripe grapes, with high sugar levels, will produce wines with elevated alcohol. That might work in a red but not in a rosé.
Now a lot of rosés are what you might call “intentional rosés” — made from grapes picked expressly for that purpose, when sugars are lower and acidity is higher. Some wines are a combination of grapes picked for rosé and small lots that have been bled off the red wine. For example, Tablas Creek Vineyard uses that combined approach in its Patelin de Tablas Rosé and Dianthus.
Dry rosé can be made from any red grapes, but in California, pinot noir and Rhone grapes seem to be the most popular.
Among rosés made from pinot noir, for example, there’s the 2014 Calera Vin Gris of Pinot Noir ($19), which is racy and fresh, with raspberry and lemon notes, or the 2014 Charles Heintz Rosé of Pinot Noir ($19), which displays bright cranberry and wild strawberry flavors. Oregon also produces excellent pinot noir rosé, like the 2014 Ponzi Pinot Noir Rosé ($17), with its racy yet refined wild strawberry and cranberry.
As for rosé made from Rhone grape varieties, there are the aforementioned 2014 Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas Rosé ($20), which is mostly grenache and has zippy strawberry and cranberry flavors, and the 2014 Tablas Creek Dianthus Rosé ($27), which is mostly mourvedre and grenache, and has some underlying weight and richness to go along with its higher price. The 2014 Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare ($15) offers delicate strawberry and mineral notes. The wine is a blend of Rhone grapes, but the twist is that white grapes account for 30 percent of the blend.
I hope that rosé doesn’t become a victim of its own success, with too many producers rushing in and making mediocre, even bad, wines. I’m starting to see more wines masquerading as dry to off-dry rosé, with descriptors like “crisp” and “refreshing” on the back label, when the wine is, in fact, cloying and generic.