The best rosés are nonpareil summer tonics, generally best enjoyed in the year following the harvest date on the label. My mind often envisions a strawberry patch in a herb garden – with a dusting of chalk for textural complexity. Though sublime on their own, they move seamlessly from drinks-only patio duty to a meal involving, say, niçoise salad, ratatouille, B.C. spot prawns, poached or grilled wild salmon or even a veal chop with mushrooms.
Global demand has prompted a scramble among producers over the past decade or so, with mixed results. Countless non-European wineries in particular have stepped into the fray with overpriced fruit punches designed mainly – it would seem – for the Florida trailer-park market, a demographic that I think is better served by $5 white zinfandel, a cheap-and-cheerful California wine created in the 1970s.
When it comes to fine rosé, sugar almost always presents a dubious proposition. Most red grapes that yield compelling rosé – grenache, cinsault, syrah, cabernet franc prominent among them – are low in acidity. Leave more than a trace of residual sugar in the fermenting vat and you get an off-kilter liquid with insufficient zip to offset the sweetness. (Rosé d’Anjou from the northern Loire Valley, based predominantly on the high-acid grolleau grape, is a notable exception.)
That’s why most of my go-to rosés hail from southern France, where dry is virtually a religion. I’m a big fan of Tavel, a robust, cellar-worthy and sometimes deeply coloured style from the eponymous district of the southern Rhône Valley, as well as of the well-priced pinks from the vast Languedoc-Roussillon region. And as with many rosé freaks, my greatest passion is for Provence, a large region where 87 per cent of the wine output is pink.
“They commit to it,” says Barbara Philip, a Master of Wine and portfolio manager for European wines at the British Columbia Liquor Distribution Branch, which will release 14 new Provençal rosés as part of a June promotion at BC Liquor Stores. “They study the techniques, they farm for it. It’s not an afterthought. It’s their signature.”
As easy-drinking as rosé can be, Philip says that making a good one isn’t easy. “To a greater or lesser extent, everybody who makes a dry rosé is trying to capture that very finessed, barely there, exquisite style of a good Provençal rosé.”
The new pinks
Tavel Rosé 2013
SCORE: 91; France
Mid-cherry-pink, full-bodied and round, with a polished texture. It’s dry but you might be fooled by the suggestively sweet flavours of cherry, raspberry and watermelon. A cellar-worthy Tavel that’s far too easy to drink now. Various prices in Alberta, $19.95 in Ontario, to be released May 10.
Château La Tour de l’Évêque Rosé 2013
SCORE: 89; France
Classic Provençal colour of light salmon and classic Provençal finesse. Light, bone-dry and subtle, with a smooth, supple texture, whispers of strawberry, peach, herbs and earth; $18.95 in Ontario, to be released May 10.
Château Val Joanis Syrah Tradition Rosé 2013
SCORE: 90; France
Silky yet fetchingly crisp and light, this is complex and elegant, with notes of strawberry, rhubarb and apple. Big value from the Rhône; $15.95 in Ontario, to be released May 10.
Baillie-Grohmann Blanc de Noirs Rosé 2013
SCORE: 88; British Columbia
So deep in colour it could almost pass for red Beaujolais, this is substantial fare. Rich and tilting into off-dry territory, it bursts with cherry candy and raspberry carried on a silky texture. Despite the sweetness, it strikes good balance thanks to zippy acidity. Available direct, bailliegrohman.com; $19.
Château des Charmes Rosé Cuvée d’Andrée 2013
SCORE: 88; Ontario
Consistently good Niagara rosé. Mid-cherry pink in colour and medium-bodied. Raspberry, cranberry and subtle spice, with a touch of sweetness answered by crisp acidity and a subtly dusty-dry texture. Available direct, fromtheboscfamily.com; $14.95.
Muga Rosé 2013
SCORE: 88; Spain
Light Provençal-style salmon colour. Dry, crisp and lean, with a sweet strawberry-apple start and tart finish. It’s a bargain at $12.95. Available in Ontario, to be released May 10.
Malivoire Ladybug Rosé
SCORE: 88; Ontario
A Niagara standout year to year. This 2013 vintage is salmon-cherry in colour, silky and round. Good yin-yang, sweet-tangy profile, with smooth raspberry and watermelon fruit. I love the seamless texture; $15.95 in Ontario. Various prices in Alberta, $19.50 in Newfoundland.
Fuzion Shiraz Rosé 2013
SCORE: 86; Argentina
Cherry-pink in colour with an attractive tinge of orange. Strawberry punch with a chewy texture and pleasantly bitter edge. Simple, yes, but it’s a solid value; $7.95 in Ontario, $8.99 in Manitoba, $9.99 in New Brunswick, $11.95 in Prince Edward Island.