Rejoice! Rosé has finally come out from under the dark shadow of white zinfandel. Pink wines from a host of major wine producing regions can be found lining the shelves at any wine shop and selections on restaurant lists are growing ever longer. I can hardly scroll past two or three Instagram posts without seeing the #roséallday tag these days. Over 500,000 posts are tagged with #roséallday and close to 2,000,000 come up when #rosé is searched. It seems everyone is jumping on the rosé bandwagon, from celebrity “winemakers” to social media influencers.
On the face of it, this is great to see. There are so many styles of wine out there and to see a good portion of the wine drinking population here in the USA embrace an entire category is exciting. Most have already emerged from the dark shadow cast by White Zinfandel and have embraced the pale, crisp, mineral-driven style of provençal rosé.
This coastal corner of southeast France is the oldest wine producing region in the country, has a rich culinary tradition and today is known primarily for it’s rosé. In fact, a full 89% of vines in Provence are dedicated to rosé production.* That’s a shit-ton of rosé.
Based on the usual suspects of the southern Rhône (Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvèdre, Syrah), most is exported. Between 2003 and 2012, exports to the USA increased by a factor of 5!** What’s interesting is that while imported rosé sales by volume are up, the average value of those bottles is now in decline. So, what does this indicate about the category? For one, it says that imported rosé is now mainstream. Fully accepted by the average wine-drinker not just as a novelty or as a fad but as a legitimate style to have around the house and serve at summer BBQs. Rosé is here to stay, folks!
Sadly, that’s not the whole picture. When a certain style or wine producing region becomes this popular, supply must increase to reach demand. Lest producers in that region or of that style are willing to miss out on making a buck. Not every producer can afford to increase production, however, and many of the smaller ones ride the increasing tide. Until the gap in supply is filled prices will continue increase. This won’t last, as soon a race to the bottom ensues as the larger producers try to gain market share by ramping up production and lowering prices.
“More rosé for the people!” you say. And you’d be right, there is. If you’ve studied economics or the wine business, however, you may be familiar with the so-called ‘Curse of the Blue Nun’. Named after the fall and rise of the eponymous Riesling popular in the 1950’s and 1960’s, its an idea that, simply put, says the following: A high-quality wine invites increased demand and in order to meet that demand, production is increased. With wine, this increase in supply is typically matched with a decrease in quality, resulting in that brand or style falling out of favor. The 2004 film Sideways took advantage of Merlot’s struggle with the curse.
I’d argue that today dry rosé plays the role of victim. Thanks to the popularity of dry provençal rosé, the average wine drinker now relates color and sweetness. The paler the pink, the drier the wine and visa-versa. Thanks to clear glass bottles, its an easy way to be sure that you’re not getting the cloyingly sweet wine your mother drank in the ’80s. Thus, many rosés are now designed with color in mind and somewhere along the way many have lost their soul, literally becoming a shell of a wine. They have the “right” color, yes, but are completely devoid of any character.
It’s as if all of a sudden we decided that all red wine should be roughly the same color and offer a similar flavor profile with no thought to the region where it is produced or which grapes are used. It’s accepted that Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon will be different.
So why can’t we accept that the same is true for rosé? And why have we decided that rosé can’t be a serious wine?
I’ve picked five of my favorite dry rosés from outside of Provence that deserve more love. I encourage you to give these a try, I think you’ll be surprised.
1.) Clos Cibonne Tradition Tibouren Rosé
This small estate is nestled on the Mediterranean coast of Provence and focuses on the traditional, local variety Tibouren. Aged in 100-year-old foudres under voilette (similar to the flor used in biologically aged sherries), the wine has a touch of salinity to go along with its complex savory character. Aromas of rhubarb, pomegranate, orange peel, slate and a hint of pine sap lead into a layers of citrus (lemon zest, preserved lemon peel) and underripe berry notes on the palate. This is one of the rare rosés that can outlive most reds!
5.) Jolie Laide Valdiguié Rosé
Don’t be scared away by the weird name (val-di-gay). This rosé is deliciously refreshing yet not lacking in flavor. What it lacks in aromatics it makes up for on the palate with notes of red berries, strawberry, basil, lemon zest, lemon juice and a hint of cucumber water that makes for a refreshing finish.
3.) Grand Bouqueteau Chinon Rosé
From the homeland of Cabernet Franc in France’s Loire Valley comes this expressive rosé. Red and Black cherries dominate the nose and palate but are accented by notes of jalepeño oil, green bell pepper, and raspberry. The palate is soft and enveloping, with red fruit flavors and citrus (lime zest, red grapefruit, lemon) accents and a touch of flinty minerality on the finish.
2.) Arndorfer Vorgeschmack Rosé of Zweigelt
Austria delivers another winner in the form of this nerdy rosé of Zweigelt. Martin and Anna Arndorfer macerate the Zweigelt juice on the skins for 12 days to extract color and flavor then, after pressing off the juice and beginning the fermentation, add Grüner Veltliner skins for up to 30 days to add spicy notes and a touch of tannins for texture. 20% is aged in neutral french oak as well. All of this results in a dark hued rosé that is as dry as can be. Savory floral aromas mix with notes of cranberry, cherry juice, and hints of blueberry and lead into the spicily textured palate. Notes of rose petal and herbs on the finish. This is one for the nerds and loves to hang out in a decanter for at least an hour.
4.) Ameztoi Rubentis Txakoli Rosé
The traditional slight effervescence to txakoli makes this one of the most refreshing (and fun) rosés every year. Equal parts local varieties Handarrabi Zuri and Handarrabi Beltza. Flavors of tropical fruits like papaya and guava are a refreshing break from the norm and are complimented by tart and juicy notes of red fruits.