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Various rose wines photographed in studio Toronto, Ontario, Friday April 25, 2014. (Kevin Van Paassen For The Globe and Mail)
Various rose wines photographed in studio Toronto, Ontario, Friday April 25, 2014. (Kevin Van Paassen For The Globe and Mail)

Beppi Crosariol

Low-brow no longer: Why it’s rosé’s time to shine Add to ...

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

 

Famille Perrin

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.

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