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Your Guide to the First Wave of Summer Rosé

Amid the glut of not-so-great rosé, where should you look for both quality and value? Jon Bonné on the best of summer's first-wave arrivals, from perennial favorites to worthy newcomers.

Best Rose Wine Summer

The trouble with having everyone else adopt your view of the world, at least where it concerns wine, is that tastes mutate easily. That’s definitely true with rosé; just a decade ago it was one of those lost causes.

Obviously, that’s no longer true. Rosé is so much of a thing that you reach the point of half-hoping that its star will fade. And the Operator mutation is in effect: rosé becomes brosé, and then frosé, and at some point it feels like all the -osés have ruined the fun. (OK, not frosé, which can stay.) Meanwhile, the old-school contingent of pink-wine lovers, those people who stuck up for rosé during its starving-artist years, reasonably feels frustrated.

Why? Because rosé in 2017 is an ultimate triumph of style over substance. There was always plenty of bad pink wine out there—much of it going by the first name “white” and the last name “zinfandel”—but today that’s been supplanted by an ocean of putatively dry, barely pink, barely flavored rosé, much of it from Provence.

The trend has also started to feel a bit overly stretched, as professional wine buyers now place rosé orders well before the spring equinox, and stocks of pink wine are running low even as we hit the summer solstice. The bright side: Lots of good rosés—serious and interesting wines that defy fads—remain easy to get and to drink, if you look a bit beyond the current zeitgeist.

We discovered last year with the astonishing quality of Teutonic pink wines, which remain overlooked in favor of all those bottles of Whispering Angel slowly being cooked in the cargo hold of the Hamptons jitney. The more off-trend wonders generally make for more interesting drinking, in part because many, like bottles of Bardolino Chiaretto from Italy’s northern Veneto, or even rosé from Burgundy, hail from a long-standing tradition of pink wine. They’re on the continuum of traditional wine, rather than inventions created to catch a fad’s live wire.

With that in mind, we decided to revisit some of the perennial favorites among the PUNCH crew. Here, a field guide to the rosés you may not know, but which will make the start of your summer all the better. And we’ll be back in August to consider a less-discussed phenomenon: the second wave of rosés that arrive after that early-season hype, but keep us in the pink during the last days of summer.

Manifest-Destiny Rosé 

2016 Red Car Sonoma Coast-Mendocino Ridge Rosé | $28 [Buy]
2016 Edmunds St. John Bone-Jolly El Dorado County Gamay Noir Rosé | $23 [Buy]

It’s not that California doesn’t have a lot of fans for its new generation of rosé. It’s more that there’s no one particular identity for rosé from the Golden State, even though it has a great history with rosé (even what became Sutter Home White Zinfandel had a reputable start in the 1970s as a rosé called Oeil de Perdrix). Today, that history is being honored with a lot of pink wine from California’s modern stars.

The Red Car is a perfect example of a wine being taken far more seriously than it needs to. Blended from a high-elevation site near the Mendocino coast and another few spots near the foggy Sonoma coast, it has all the subtlety that pinot can offer—a touch minty and a bit truffle-y with a refreshing peach fruitiness.

From the other side of the state comes the Bone-Jolly, from Steve Edmunds, one of California’s pioneers with Rhône-styled wines. The Bone-Jolly is gamay, the native grape of Beaujolais, grown in the Sierra foothills at around 3,000 feet. His red version is great, but the pink shines perennially, too, with a deep, dark, stony side of the sort gamay grown on granite can express.

See also: Lioco Indica Rosé, Liquid Farm Rosé Mourvèdre, Martha Stoumen Teal Drops, Broc Cellars White Zinfandel

Rosé That Could Have Been A Serious Red 

2016 Chevrot et Fils Sakura Bourgogne Rosé | $22 [Buy]

There are places like Burgundy where red wine is so important that you can understand why no one would spare any grapes for pink. And then you have wines like Pablo Chevrot’s Sakura, a mix of juice from the parcels Pablo Chevrot uses for his regional, village and premier cru wines, and a bit from the Hautes-Côtes de Beaune. It’s very pinot in nature, with toasted nutmeg and an autumnal side reminiscent of dried leaves. More than anything, it captures that achingly beautiful nuance that defines Burgundy.

See also: Vissoux Les Griottes Beaujolais, Kir-Yianni Akakies, Charles Audoin Marsannay Rosé

No-Man-Is-An-Island Rosé

2015 Antoine Arena Patrimonio Rosé | $32 [Buy]
2016 Los Bermejos Lanzarote Listán Rosado | $22 [Buy]

The islands of Europe have a history of generally dismissing outsiders. So given the general thrum of isolationism these days, it’s a pleasure to see island wines find such a warm audience beyond their native shores.

It’s particularly gratifying to see Corsica get its due today, as one of the few truly unique corners of the wine world. While the spotlight is on Corsican whites and reds, it’s the island’s epically complex rosés that probably deserve the most praise—as pinnacles of distinct Mediterranean flavor. Antoine Arena makes his rosé mostly from nielluccio (sangiovese, essentially) with a bit of vermentino. The red grape gives it a balsam-y, almost resin-like, aspect. But there’s also brininess and a subtle, sweet fruity side.

Spain’s Canary Islands make a similar case for distinction—although the body of water (the Atlantic) and the context are different. Plus, there’s not much pink wine made from the islands’ stark, volcanic soils. At this point our fondness for Los Bermejos is well established, but there remains everything to like: its meaty, salty nature from the listán negro grape perfectly expressed with a pink tint.

See also: Clos Marfisi Cuvée Julie, Domaine Maestracci E Prove Rosé

Rosé You Do Not F**k With

2016 Château Pradeaux Bandol Rosé | $32 [Buy]
2016 Bedrock Ode to Lulu Old Vine California Rosé | $23 [Buy]

It’s not that we begrudge Provence its success with the pale sort of pink wine that has come to define it lately. It’s more that those wines, milquetoast as they are, belie a more interesting history and culture of winemaking in the region. Certainly no one has to worry about that at Château Pradeaux, in the northern part of the Bandol appellation, where Etienne Portalis makes the sort of leathery, almost bloody rosé that only the mourvèdre grape can yield. His 2016 is musky and profound, with remarkable concentration and enough guts to take on grilled steak, and yet enough class to still show indoor-voice aromas like candied violets.

And because there’s plenty of virtue in a good tribute, we also have the Bedrock, which Morgan Twain-Peterson and Chris Cottrell devised as, literally, an ode to the matriarch of Bandol’s Domaine Tempier, whence comes Provence’s most historically famed pink wine. This has all that ruggedness of pink mourvèdre, but also a lot of complexity, with mandarin orange, aji amarillo chile and chamomile in the aromatic mix.

See also: Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé, Château Pibarnon Bandol Rosé

Rosé That Redeems Provence’s Good Name

2016 Sulauze Pomponette Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence Rosé | $15 [Buy]

If the agro quality of mourvèdre seems a bit much, fear not: There are plenty of pink wines from Provence that demonstrate flair and distinction without quite as much sheer power. Karina and Guillaume Lefèvre’s Pomponette, from west of Provence, near where the Rhône empties into the Mediterranean, is a mashup of all those good southern grapes: grenache, syrah, vermentino, cinsault and mourvèdre. A resiny touch gives some bite to its sunny strawberry and peach flavors, and makes it that much more interesting.

See also: Mas de Gourgonnier Les Baux de Provence Rosé

Teutonic Invasion (In A Good Way) Rosé

2016 Andi Knauss Wurttemberg Rosé | $17 [Buy] 
2016 La Boutanche Wurttemberg Trollinger Rosé | $18 (1L) [Buy]

Germany and Austria have become sentimental favorites here at PUNCH for the sheer quality of their rosés. And that roster continues to grow. Andi Knauss already occupies a place in our hearts for his trollinger, a red wine so light it probably could qualify as rosé. So of course he also makes a very fine pink wine, too, in this case a mix of trollinger, pinot noir, zweigelt, lemberger and merlot—pretty much all the reds he grows. It’s intense but precise in its flavors, with raspberry and a quiet white-tea fragrance. The La Boutanche, meantime, is Knauss again, this time in a liter bottle for a label created by his importer, Selection Massale. It’s all trollinger, and while we could play a parlor game to suss out its differences from his red version, the important part is its earthier, savory side: a pine aspect to balance its nuanced cherry fruit.

See also: Gobelsburg Cistercien, Diel Rosé de Diel, Stein Rosé Trocken, Loimer Rosé

Beachside Rosé (Or Anywhere, Really)

2016 Le Fraghe Rodòn Bardolino Chiaretto | $16 [Buy]

The town of Bardolino sits on the eastern edge of Lake Garda, in the Veneto. Traditionally it was known for gulpable red wines, but Bardolino is one of those wines from the 1980s that just kind of got forgotten about, even if it’s the sort of thing that should be hot right now. 

Winemaker Matilde Poggi is a longtime champion of organic farming, and her Rodòn Chiaretto remains a benchmark: a mix of young-vine corvina and rondinella soaked on skins for about eight hours, then fermented separately. Its charm rests in not being overtly fruity; there’s tangy pomegranate but it’s more the hibiscus and grey salt aspects that give it both a summery, carefree side and real intrigue.

See also: Scarbolo Ramato, Romeo del Castello Vigorosa Rosato, Montenidoli Canaiulo Rosato 

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