Rosé has never had much of a chance to gain respect in this country, thanks to its unfair association with the sweet white zinfandels that were all the rage in the 1980s. But today, this neglected segment of the wine industry has tremendous respect for what it is – a terrific, unassuming wine for summer sipping and, in many cases, a versatile wine that goes well with summer food.
Rosé's growing popularity, however, comes with growing pains. Although it has grown 53 percent in sales, it still represents a small portion of total wine sold in the U.S. But it's discovery has encouraged wine producers to get into the market even though for most of them it is an after-thought. Contrarily, in southern France, many producers make nothing but rosé – and it's often better and cheaper. Producers late to the game have a hard time getting a foothold in the market.
We have seen more rosés on the market than ever this year. And, they are coming from grape varieties not often associated with rosé. Historically, the grapes used for the best rosé are grenache, syrah, cinsault, and mourvedre. However, rosés made from malbec, tempranillo, and pinot noir have proven to be worthy. Not so some of the rosés we have tasted from grapes like pinot gris and cabernet sauvignon.
The array of grape varieties has muddied rosé's definition, but so has the array of processes used to make it. The most direct way is to allow the juice to remain in contact with the skins of red grapes, although some producers lengthen the exposure and produce a hideous rosé that is a much darker red than the visually appealing salmon or orange-colored French rosés. Michele Ouellet, left, joins her mother Melinda Kearney in a glass of their Lorenza rose. The team is the only one in California to make only rose.
An uncommon method is to blend the juice with some red wine. The more popular third method is called saignee, or "bleeding" off some of the red wine after the grapes have been in contact with the skins. This process is superior because it usually produces rosés that are more complex and bolder in style.
So, consumers have much to consider when looking for a rosé: what grape varieties were used? What process was used? Is the producer focused on rosé, or is it a marketing whim?
We like many of the rosés from southern France because they have balance and complexity. However, this year we have been flooded with samples of dreadful versions from southern France. On the other hand, we have found many new entries from the West Coast.
Here are our top 10 rosés from each region. We have listed more rosés we like on our web site, MoreAboutWine.com.
E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone Rosé 2017 ($15). A perennial favorite of ours, the consistently good Guigal delivers fresh raspberry and citrus notes with balanced acidity and long finish. It is a blend of our favorite rosé grapes: syrah, grenache, and cinsault.
M Minuty Cotes de Provence 2017 ($18). This blend of cinsault, grenache, and syrah rocks. Citrus aromas are followed by easy strawberry, watermelon, and red currant flavors.
Fleur de Mer Cotes de Provence Rosé 2017 ($40 for 1.5 liters). Fresh watermelon and cherry flavors with floral aromas reminiscent of Provencal herbs. The larger bottle makes it a great wine to pour at picnics and family gatherings.
Ferraton Pere & Fils Samorens Rosé 2017 ($15). This Cotes du Rhone blend of grenache, syrah and cinsault has bright raspberry and strawberry flavors with a dash of mineral.
Prophecy Rosé ($14). This bright rosé bursts with strawberry and raspberry flavors.
Chateau de Berne Inspiration Cotes de Provence Rosé 2017 ($20). This historic property is the home of a luxurious inn and restaurant, but its residents will enjoy one of three delicious rosés made here. This blend of grenache, cinsault, and syrah has cherry and pomegranate flavors.
M. Chapoutier Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Rosé 2017 ($15). Crisp acidity and fresh strawberry/cherry flavors dominate this grenache-cinsault blend from France's Cotes du Roussillon.
Mathilde Chapoutier Grand Ferrage Rosé 2017 ($24). "Mathilde" is the daughter of the talented Michel Chapoutier and is the face behind this luxurious cuvee of grenache, syrah, cinsault, and rolle from Provence. Stone fruit flavors.
Domaine Paul Mas Cote Mas Rosé Aurore 2017 ($13). The blend is 50 percent grenache, 30 percent cinsault and 20 percent syrah – lots of layers of bright fruit in a larger, liter bottle. Quite a deal. Cherry and strawberry flavors.
Fragile Rosé of Grenache 2017 ($19). From the Maury sub-appellation of Roussillon, this spirited grenache has strawberry and mineral notes with a dash of peach.
Ponzi Pinot Noir Rosé 2017 ($22). This fabulous pinot noir house from Oregon's Willamette Valley has produced an excellent, balanced rosé with a beautiful rust/orange color and generous strawberry and citrus aromas. Bright berry fruit flavors with a dose of mineral and ginger.
Lorenza Rosé 2017 ($20). The mother-daughter team of Melinda Kearney and Michele Ouellet make nothing but rosé from Rhone-style grape varieties grown on old vines in Lodi. Each of the four grape varieties are picked at different times to ensure proper ripeness. It is as close to perfection that you'll find on the market today. Dry, fresh acidity, floral aromas and peach/citrus flavors with a mineral finish.
Steele Cabernet Franc Rosé 2017 ($17). Dark in color, this luscious rosé from cabernet franc has strawberry, watermelon and exotic fruit flavors.
Inman Endless Crush Rosé of Pinot Noir 2017 ($38). Instead of using free-run juice from a pinot noir, as most winemakers do, Kathy Inman uses the entire juice from the pinot grapes to get more complexity and structure. One of the most expensive rosés we've tasted, it shows complexity we can't find in the cheaper wines. We love this rosé year after year despite its price. Crisp acidity, watermelon, and strawberry flavors with a dash of citrus and mineral.
Cline Ancient Vines Mourvedre Rosé 2017 ($17). Strawberry aromas, plum, and cherry flavors dominate this delicious and unique rosé made from mourvedre grapes grown on old vines. Unique character, crisp acidity, lively fruit.
Gran Moraine Yamill-Carlton Rosé of Pinot Noir 2017 ($28). Made from whole-cluster pressed pinot noir from a great growing region of Oregon, this balanced and fresh rosé has bright strawberry and watermelon flavors with nice citrus notes.
Simi Sonoma County Rosé 2017 ($18). We the coral pink tone of this exquisite rosé from Simi. Watermelon and strawberry flavors dominate the palate with hints of tangerine.
Cambria Julia's Vineyard Rosé 2017 ($25). From pinot noir grapes grown in the Santa Maria Valley, this broadly flavored rosé has bright notes of strawberries and grapefruit.
Copain Tous Ensemble Rosé 2017 ($25). Another pinot noir rosé, this elegant wine from Mendocino County has crisp acidity and strawberry flavors.
Sanford Pinot Noir Rosé 2017 ($24). One of our perennial favorites, this light but serious rosé made from pinot noir grapes has refreshing acidity and red berry flavors.