I’d intended this August column to be about rosé in a late-summer context—the way it manifests itself in these final dog days. After all, the summer’s first and primary wave of pink wine landed months ago. At this point, we’re supposed to be thinking wistfully about the end of sunny evenings, and the looming of Labor Day—about rosé’s last stand. Those few enterprising writers not on the beach are meant to be marinating such earth-shattering headlines as “Six Intriguing Wines To Drink This Fall.”
Yet along the way this became the summer of pink wine’s discontent. We need to address that before getting to a more important issue—namely, the bounty of rosé that quietly appears in the season’s second half, and includes much of the year’s best.
After a long and successful run, rosé has become a source of ennui. And fatigue was inevitable, I guess. Those of us who have lived with its vicissitudes for a long time kind of shrugged, because it’s part of any fad story: the rocket-shot trendiness of pink wine had to reach its apogee, and come hurtling earthward.
Here’s the thing, though: Rosé doesn’t need to survive on being a fad. It is not a thing that needs our sympathy, our derision or our puppy love. It just is. It’s a wine that is pink, as other wines are white or red. Sometimes it is delicious. Sometimes it sucks.
It can suck for the same reason other wines do: Wine doesn’t scale well when it becomes part of the zeitgeist. And there was always a lot of crappy rosé in the world. We just used to not pay attention, and sent the bad ones to the Island of Misfit Wines.
So let’s pass by all the unfortunate side effects of this blossoming rosé culture—the “Rosé, Bitch” swimsuits and the actresses making bizarre gender assertions about pink things. Let’s even forget, for a moment, that shitty ideas like White Girl Rosé stand to do to quality rosé what Beaujolais Nouveau did to Beaujolais: create a populist travesty that ruins a good thing.
Instead, could we use this late summer moment to avoid turning pink wine into a Rorschach conversation that defines our inner souls? Because now is when many of the best rosés are hitting shelves.
These are, for the most part, wines that didn’t give in to the crazy rush to market. Many weren’t available yet when we considered our first wave a few months ago, so we determined that this year, we would embrace the second wave, too. After all, the modern fad timeline for rosé—bottle in winter, sell out by June—has nothing to do with either historical precedent or good winemaking. And the truth is, many pink wines benefit from a few extra months in bottle, and in turn reward drinking well into the following year, and beyond.
I’m not talking here about long-aged rosés, like the Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Rosado or the Domaine de Terrebrune Bandol, that earnest types cite when evangelizing for the endurance of rosé. (Although any good rosé should last well into the following year.) This is merely about wines that arrive a little slower on the curve and reward those who wait—wines for the tortoise, not the hare. And we all know how that story ends.
The New Loire Rosé
2016 Domäne Vincendeau L’Arpent du Saule Rosé de Loire | $12 [Buy]
Once upon a time, rosés from familiar central French regions like Chinon were a staple of summer. But they have become harder to locate, probably because their long fashionability has put them in short supply. So we have to find other things in the neighborhood to satisfy what the Loire does really well: make bracing, slightly savory pink wines (namely from cabernet franc). To that effort comes the Vincendeau, made by Liv Vincendeau, a German native who works in Rochefort-sur-Loire, the chenin-focused heart of the Anjou’s natural-wine realms. This is a mix of franc, grolleau and gamay, the three Loire red workhorses, and a fine template for what this area can do.
See also: Hervé Villemade Cheverny Rosé, Puzelat-Bonhomme KO Rosé
No-Man-Is-An-Island Rosé (French Edition)
I touched on Corsica earlier this summer, but a thing to remember about that island’s rosés is that they’re built—serious and durable, which might be why they’re the wines the Corscians do best. And I mean that as a legit compliment: Corsican rosé is, along with one other subcategory (see below), a new benchmark for pink.
For a couple years now, the Marfisi Cuvée Julie has astonished me, ever since I first tasted it in the Patrimonio cellars of this sister-and-brother winemaking team. This is mostly niellucciu (the local iteration of sangiovese) with a tiny bit of white vermentinu, grown near the gulf of Saint-Florent. It’s almost chewy in its texture, with rye seed and red raspberry and a flinty mineral aspect you can get from the schist soils that dot the area. The A Mandria, grown nearby, isn’t quite as intense, but still shows a chewy aspect, with balsam scents and an iodine-like edge; it’s a rosé meant for more than a casual afternoon. The Maestracci E Prove, meantime, is from a bit farther west, on the plain near Calvi, where winemaker Camille-Anaïs Raoust, one of the island’s great talents, derives even more salinity and spice alongside a blood-orange tang.
Teutonic Invasion Rosé (Cont.)
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Austria and Germany continue to be the origins of some of the world’s finest rosés. The Gobelsburg Cistercien remains a perennial hit, a mix of zweigelt, St. Laurent and pinot noir from Austria’s Kamptal; this latest iteration is full of black pepper and hibiscus with a deep core of ripe summer fruit. The Ehmoser, also from zweigelt and hailing from the nearby Wagram, is similarly spicy (poppy seed) and a bit quieter in its plum fruit, but with a similarly polished texture. In both wines, there’s never more fruit than the acidity can match, so they never come across as sweet.
See also: A.J. Adam Spätburgunder Rosé, Prieler Rosé vom Stein
Beaujolais’ True Color
2016 Jean-Paul Brun Le Rosé d’Folie Beaujolais Rosé | $17 [Buy]
The great quality revolution in Beaujolais is all for the good, but it’s typically discussed in terms of red wine. But where there is red, so too shall pink follow. For a while now it’s been possible to find exceptional rosés here, with the complexity that gamay on interesting soils can offer.
Jean-Paul Brun is a maestro of the limestone-rich southern Beaujolais, and his Rosé d’Folie, from a mix of younger vines in the crus (granite soils) and old vines in the south (limestone) finds a great chalk-like mineral freshness that adds bite to its dramatic raspberry fruitiness.
See also: Domaine du Vissoux Les Griottes Rosé, Domaine Dupeuble Beaujolais Rosé
The Great Southern Rosé
The Rhône once was a pink-wine epicenter, but in recent years it has seemed to fall into a sort of disrepair: a lot of snoozy, sweet bottles, even from historically important places like Tavel. And then comes the reemergence an old warhorse like Parallèle 45, which is sort of like uncovering a long-forgotten CD of ‘80s greatest hits. Maybe we just needed to be spun right round, since Jaboulet, after falling from grace as one of the Rhône’s largest négociants, has been on a quality surge, with biodynamic farming for its estate wines. This blend of grenache, cinsault and syrah is mineral-forward, more focused than obviously fruity, and a lot of wine for the money (with a legit retro-chic claim).
The Milan Ma Terre is a cultural opposite: grenache-based pink from one of Provence’s great naturalist iconoclasts, Henri Milan, located just outside the town of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. It’s oddball in all the ways the Parallèle is polished, with notes of basil, burnt leaves and mashed apricots. And yet its exuberant weirdness has found something resembling mainstream embrace (the wine seems to be everywhere this year), which might be testament to changing tastes.
Finally, moving both farther south and way farther east, the Massaya Rosé hails from the hills of Lebanon. Massaya, though less well-known than the country’s famous Chateau Musar, is ambitiously run by brothers Sami and Ramzi Ghosn. And it has strong Rhône ties, since the Brunier family of Châteauneuf’s Vieux Télégraphe are partners (along with Bordeaux’s Dominique Hebrard). This, again, is a polished effort, predominantly cinsault and grenache (with 30 percent cabernet), marked by warm fruit, poppy-seed spice and a birch-bark savoriness.
See also: Celler Frisach L’Abrunet Rosat
The Great Northern Rosé
2016 Domaine Migot Côtes de Toul Vin Gris | $19 [Buy]
Rosé’s usual trope is southern and sunny, but gorgeous pinks also come from the northern reaches (and not just in France). These are studious wines, the flavors more pastel than primary. Case in point, the Migot Vin Gris, for which you’d score points merely on recognizing the geography: Côtes de Toul is in Lorraine, near the Moselle River, about 80 miles due east of Champagne. It’s forgotten wine land for France, but Camille Migot is determined to make a mark, farming centuries-old family vineyards. It’s a blend of pinot noir and gamay, and while it shows the surprisingly ripe fruitiness of gamay, there’s also a nori-like marine side and mineral crunch from limestone-marl soils, reminiscent of northern Burgundian rosé.
See also: Pearl Morissette Cuvée Roselana Rosé, Kelby James Russell Finger Lakes Dry Rosé
Pink with a Purpose
2016 Uphold Wine for the Women California Rosé | $15 [Buy]
Wines for a cause tend to be a tough case to write about, mostly because the cause tends to lead, with the wine coming second. But this new label, whose profits are dedicated to charity, comes the eminently talented Megan Glaab and her husband Ryan of Ryme Cellars in Sonoma. The Glaabs are especially talented with Italianate varieties, and the Wine for the Women Rosé is all aglianico, the grape’s coppery tang on display, matched by pomegranate fruit and a characteristic rustiness. It could be cloying in less skilled hands. Here, it lands just right.