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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

It’s rosé season, but drink these 12 bottles year-round

A variety of rosés in New York, June 9, 2022. There’s no reason to confine rosé to the summer, but for good reasons the season does have a special hold on the wines.

By Eric Asimov

I don’t need to tell you that rosé season has begun. The bottles are crowding the seasonal displays in wine shops, the days are still growing longer and the get-it-done determination of the cooler months is giving way to a summer laxity.

Rosé has become synonymous with summer drinking. Though I have long recommended rosé as a year-round option, I’m not immune to the magnetic attraction that occurs after Memorial Day.

Outdoor dining and warm weather connote the Mediterranean, which, if rosé did not actually originate there, is nonetheless its home in popular culture. The informality of summer dining shouts rosé as well.

The contrarian articles will no doubt soon arrive telling us the rosé boom is passé. Don’t believe it.

Feeling the rosé spirit, I went shopping in an array of New York retail stores and picked these 12 exceptional bottles of rosé. They ranged in price from $13 to $35.

I could have confined myself to bottles under $20 — I have done that in the past — but I wanted a variety of styles and to highlight some top-quality wines that would not have fit under that price cap.

That’s not to say I have abandoned my belief that great values lie in the $15 to $20 range. They can absolutely still be found there (stay tuned for the summer edition of 20 Under $20).

But value in wine is relative to quality, as well as other factors like scarcity and demand. All these bottles are worth it even if plenty of cheaper bottles exist. Value is worth searching for, though it’s getting harder to find.

Wine is not immune to inflation and all the supply-chain problems that have bedeviled the world’s economy. With the pandemic as well as climate change, wine has gotten more expensive to produce and to ship, which makes it both more difficult to find great values and more rewarding to find a bottle like the $13 rosé at the top of this list.

Climate change may also, strangely, facilitate increased production of rosé. The wildfires that have frequently struck the West Coast in the last few years have made it difficult to produce good, age-worthy red wine in seasons when farmers encountered smoke problems.

Why? To produce red wine, winemakers need to macerate the juice with the grape skins before and during fermentation to add color and structure to the wine. But that’s not possible if the skins have been imbued with smoke.

One solution is to make a rosé, a wine that takes color from only a brief soaking with the skins. It’s not ideal, and producers lose a lot of income selling cheaper rosé instead of expensive red wine, but at least it’s something.

These 12 rosés are all delightful. Most are versatile enough to drink with friends on a stoop, roof or wherever you gather, or to accompany a meal. I’ve listed them from least to most expensive.

Viña Zorzal Navarra Garnacha Rosado 2021, 13.5%, $13

Viña Zorzal perennially produces great values in wine. The three Sanz brothers, who own Zorzal, farm organically in the Navarra region in northern Spain. This pale ruby rosado is made entirely out of old-vine garnacha. It’s dry, lively and savory; full of raspberry fruit, with underlying stony mineral flavors; and excellent with cheese and crudités, or with grilled meats. (Bowler Wine, New York)

Château de Manissy Tavel Cuvée des Lys 2020, 14%, $20

The dark, powerful rosés of Tavel in the Southern Rhône Valley are not everybody’s mouthful. They are more appropriate with a meal than as an aperitif by the water. But this bottle is an excellent example of a style of dark, potent rosé that was once popular but is a bit lost in today’s pale rosé world. This wine, sort of a pale maraschino color, is 60% grenache, 30% clairette and 10% syrah. It’s dry, with just a suggestion of fruit and floral flavors and plenty of minerality. (Weygandt-Metzler, Unionville, Pennsylvania)

Fabien Jouves Vin de France Rosé À Table!!! 2021, 12%, $23

Fabien Jouves makes some of my favorite Cahors wines under the Mas del Périé label. Under his own name he produces a range of natural wines like À Table!!!, essentially an invitation to come eat, which you will want to do with this dark rosé. It’s made of malbec, the grape of Cahors, along with two other grapes common in southwestern France, tannat and merlot, all farmed biodynamically. It’s fresh and deliciously complex, with earthy aromas and flavors of red fruits and flowers. (Zev Rovine Selections, Brooklyn, New York)

AT Roca Clàssic Penedès Rosat Reserva 2018, 12%, $23

AT Roca makes excellent sparkling wines in Catalonia, the wines that used to collectively be called cava until many of the best producers stopped using the term, wary of its connotation of mass production. Roca has opted instead for Clàssic Penedès, an identification for sparkling wines with strict regulations, including a requirement for organic viticulture. This rosat (Catalan for rosado, which is Spanish for rosé) is made like a Champagne, with a second fermentation in the bottle. It’s bone dry, floral and highly refreshing. (José Pastor Selections/Llaurador Wines, Fairfax, California)

Thibaud Boudignon Rosé de Loire 2021, 12.5%, $24

Over the last decade, Thibaud Boudignon has become almost a cult Savennières producer whose superb wines have risen in price because of the ceaseless demand. This pale rosé, on the other hand, is reasonably priced. It’s made from organically farmed cabernet franc with a small amount of grolleau, a red grape rarely seen outside the Loire. It’s got floral and mineral flavors, with a touch of bell pepper just for interest’s sake. (Skurnik Wines, New York)

Idlewild North Coast Flora & Fauna Rosé 2021, 11.8%, $25

This small producer in Sonoma makes wines inspired by the Piedmont region of northwestern Italy. Flora & Fauna is a blend of nebbiolo, dolcetto, barbera and a tiny bit of grignolino, all grapes one would expect to find in northern Italy, not so much in Northern California. But here they are. This pretty, dark cinnabar-colored wine is fresh and bright, lighthearted but textured enough to pair well with food, whether brook trout, for one, or pasta with mushrooms.

Day Wines Rogue Valley Babycheeks Rosé 2021, 12%, $29

Brianne Day makes excellent pinot noirs and chardonnays from the Willamette Valley as well as a range of surprising wines from other parts of Oregon, like this bright, apple-fresh rosé from the Rogue Valley in Southern Oregon. It’s a blend of southwestern French grapes, including malbec, tannat and cabernet franc, and is fresh, lively and delicious.

Château Pradeaux Bandol Rosé 2021, 13.5%, $29

Provence produces oceans of pale, insipid rosé with little distinctiveness. This is not one of them. Bandol Rosé and Château Pradeaux have rarely been short on character. Pradeaux, one of the oldest of the old-school Bandol producers, makes this brick-orange rosé out of mourvèdre, with about 25% cinsault added. It tastes of licorice and herbs and should improve with a year or two of aging. Try it with grilled chicken. (Rosenthal Wine Merchant, New York)

Montenidoli Toscana Rosato Canaiuolo 2021, 12.5%, $30

For 50 years, Elisabetta Fagiuoli has been making wine on a hillside near the town of San Gimignano in Tuscany, farming organically all the while on limestone soils. This pale coral rosato is made of the canaiolo grape, more common as a blending ingredient with sangiovese in Chianti. The wine is textured and versatile with food, with aromas and flavors of red berries along with fine mineral flavors. (Polaner Selections, Mount Kisco, New York)

A Tribute to Grace Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard Rosé of Grenache 2021, 12.3%, $30

Angela Osborne makes terrific, expressive grenaches from vineyards all over California from her home base in Santa Barbara. This rich, gutsy, salmon-colored rosé, made entirely out of grenache, is textured and full of fresh fruit, licorice and herbal flavors. Yet it is also focused and refined. If that sounds like it plays both ways, well, yes, it does. This is a rosé that will stand up to a burger.

Railsback Frères Santa Ynez Valley Les Rascasses Rosé 2021, 11.9%, $32

Lyle and Eric Railsback worked in many sides of the wine business before starting this label together in 2015. Les Rascasses — scorpionfish in French — is their tribute to Lulu Peyraud, the legendary matriarch of Domaine Tempier, which they say produced their favorite Bandol rosé. This rosé is made in the Provençal style, a blend of mourvèdre, cinsault and carignan. It’s light and pleasing, with flavors of licorice, herbs and flowers. The wine makes it easy to conjure up a Provençal setting, preferably with a tribute to Lulu’s bouillabaisse as well.

Clos Cibonne Côtes de Provence Cuvée Tradition Tibouren 2020, 13.5%, $35

This is classic Provençal rosé made by a producer, Clos Cibonne, with a grape, tibouren, and in a style, aged in old barrels under a thin film of yeast on the surface of the wine, that seems beyond the realm of fad and fashion. It’s light but sturdy, the kind of rosé that benefits from aging. It’s dry and savory, with an attractive, refreshing tangy note. (De Maison Selections, Chapel Hill, North Carolina)

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