After a couple of false starts, the dazzling “China Town” tulips in my backyard finally mustered the confidence to poke through semi-frozen soil the other week. They’re a late-spring variety, with spiky, light-pink petals and mossy green feathering.
Toronto’s miserable April weather had kept them on the down and low. But their distinctive foliage – accented with pink striping – was discernible even as I sampled a rosé close to midnight on April 29, coincidentally under what lunar groupies call the Pink Moon. That’s an astronomical nickname for April’s full moon, which itself is not pink but shines around the time that wild ground phlox flowers bloom all across North America, pink harbingers of spring.
Is today’s theme clear yet? Consumption of a certain shade of wine starts to bloom right about now, so this is my first (and I’m not saying last) rosé report of 2018. Regular readers will be wise to my bias for bone-dry and, shall we say, subtly southern French-styled offerings, though I’ve included some not-so-austere examples below that might hold greater appeal to other palates. The California example in particular is not my jam, tasting to me like it was concocted in a boardroom next to a sales chart. I draw the line at cloying because rosé’s first calling is to be refreshing.
For the full effect, sip these in sunshine. I personally would add a plate of calamari or maybe some garlicky hummus and black-olive tapenade with flatbreads or bruschetta topped with just about anything.
Alternatively, should you wish to gild the lily (or tulip), theme-wise, pour yourself a glass, sit down with a smartphone or computer and call up the much-ballyhooed video for singer-actress Janelle Monae’s new song Pynk. Warning to arch-conservatives: It’s a rose-coloured, pansexual-friendly ode to a certain region of the female anatomy. And it features dancers against a Wild West backdrop wearing the wardrobe sensation of the season, so-called vagina pants ingeniously described by Vanity Fair as “labial chaps.”
Pink has never been so bizarre and provocative. And so colourful.
Marquis d’Aqueria Tavel Rosé 2017, France
SCORE: 92 PRICE: $19.95
This beauty gets the points for impressive balance. It’s from Tavel, the southern French district known for the world’s sturdiest rosés. And while full-bodied, it refuses to shout, weighing in at a relatively moderate (for Tavel) 13.5-per-cent alcohol. Seamlessly textured, with silky weight, uncanny cherry-like fruit and a stony-dry edge. Well-structured. Perfect for baked ham, charcuterie, grilled salmon or medium to hard cheeses. Available in Ontario.
Caves d’Esclans Whispering Angel Rosé 2017, France
SCORE: 91 PRICE: $29.95
From the cult-rosé producer Sacha Lichine, Whispering Angel is one of those pricy bottlings (along with Domaine Ott and the Miraval below) that often get savaged by wine bloggers who seem to be mounting a pink-wine backlash. Yes, it’s not cheap, but it’s lovely and subtle, maybe too subtle for its own good. Barely stained in colour, it whispers with strawberry, watermelon, kiwi and floral notes. Tangy and elegant. Available in Ontario.
Miraval Rosé 2017, France
SCORE: 91 PRICE: $23.95
The vinous spawn of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, made from Provençal grapes by the southern Rhône’s estimable Perrin family. Unlike the couple’s marriage, this wine continues to thrive, and the 2017 vintage is very good. Some critics love to hate Miraval, though I hasten to add mainly for its price. To pan this wine with regard to quality would be absurd. It’s very well made. Delicate like the pale and pretty colour, the 2017 is elegantly dry, with notes of peach, strawberry, herbs and stone. Available in Ontario at the above price (also in a 1.5-litre magnum for $48.95), various prices in Alberta, $26.97 in Saskatchewan, $31.49 in Nova Scotia.
Malivoire Ladybug Rosé 2017, Ontario
SCORE: 89 PRICE: $17.15
Malivoire’s lovely Ladybug took flight almost 20 years ago, before the pink tide rose up all around it. The wine was very good then. It’s very good still, a smart cool-climate blend of cabernet franc, pinot noir and gamay. Dry and silky, with a medley of strawberry, cherry and pear-like fruit, showing satisfying mid-palate density and a hint of herbs. Available in Ontario stores at the above price and direct through malivoire.com, various prices in Alberta.
Château des Charmes Rosé Cuvée d’Andrée 2016, Ontario
SCORE 89 PRICE: $15.95
Cherry-pink in colour, this is delectable and harmonious, with fleshy fruit suggesting strawberry and cranberry along with a hint of spice on the crisp finish. Good length and attractively priced. Great on its own or with medium-weight fish, even mildly spicy grilled shrimp or pork. Available in Ontario stores.
Wither Hills Pinot Noir Rosé 2017, New Zealand
SCORE: 89 PRICE: $18.95
Medium-bodied and ripe, with a sunny underpinning to the jammy-strawberry fruit and subtle chalkiness emerging on the finish to take it to dry land. A hint of Provençal herbs, too. Available in Ontario.
Quails’ Gate Rosé 2017, British Columbia
SCORE: 88 PRICE: $16.99
This can taste like two wines: light and lean and relatively straightforward when served very cold, or more flavourful and balanced when permitted to warm to barely cool. I prefer the latter. Salmon-pink in colour, it’s dry, though with sweet, peachy ripeness in the middle before it turns crisp with citrus and a nuance of herbs. Available at BC Liquor Stores and direct through quailsgate.com.
Ontanon Clarete Viura Tempranillo 2017, Spain
SCORE: 88 PRICE: $16.95
A deeper strawberry hue than, say, the classic Provençal pink, this is a polished, light-medium-bodied rosé from Rioja, blended from the white viura (a.k.a. macabeo) grape and red tempranillo. Deep strawberry in colour, it’s dry and light-medium-bodied, with a glossy texture and happy, candy-like essence to the raspberry-peach fruit and an almost fresh-grape-must essence. Subtly floral, too. Thin slices of serrano ham (or Italian prosciutto) with cheeses would be a nice pairing. Available in Ontario.
Barone Ricasoli Albia Rosé 2017, Italy
SCORE: 88 PRICE: $15.95
Pretty, light-salmon-pink in colour, here’s a Tuscan rosé in a fat-bottomed bottle similar to Whispering Angel and Miraval from Provence – a modern shape associated with a dry, elegant style. And this certainly is dry, with a touch of attractive bitterness to add snap to the juicy peach-raspberry fruit. Plus hints of stone and lemon zest if you taste closely enough. Nice for the price. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta.
Duca Catemario Collezione Privata Pinot Grigio Rosé 2017, Italy
SCORE: 87 PRICE: $14.95
Yes, you can get pink wine from pinot grigio, or at least a barely stained “grey” (if you leave the lightly tinted skins in contact with the juice). This hails from the northern Friuli region, and that’s grigio country. This is unsurprisingly lean in flavour, with notes of pear, lemon and apple backed by crisp acidity. It’s for grigio fans looking to join the pink brigade. Available in Ontario.
JP Azeitao Syrah Rosé 2017, Portugal
SCORE: 86 PRICE: $9.25
The colour is lightly stained candy pink and that hue seems to hint at the drop of sweetness you’ll find on the palate. But the wine is dry overall. Silky berry punch and raspberry candy with good acid balance. Well-priced. Available in Ontario.
Adorada Rosé 2017, California
SCORE: 85 PRICE: $19.95
Nice bottle, with a wide base, soft curves and black wax seal covering most of the neck, as though it were of Champagne quality. Fetching colour, too – light salmon pink with an electric glow about it. But flavour-wise this relatively new brand from long-established California producer Fetzer seems aimed at the American mass market that’s trading up – ever so slightly – from cloying and cheap white zinfandel. Which is to say it’s sweet, if technically dry, at 11 grams per litre of sugar. The wine is round and displays a cheerfully confected fruit cocktail of berries, pear and apple against soft acidity. Cleanly made, but more of a baby-shower wine than anything I’d permit inside my fridge. And, gosh, it’s expensive for what it is. I suspect P.T. Barnum would have enjoyed it. Available in Ontario at the above price, $17.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $18.68 in Saskatchewan, $19.99 in Manitoba (on sale for $15.99), $21.99 in New Brunswick.