Can I ask a personal question? Have you ever sipped a pink wine in private?
There's no cause for shame. In fact, that's not at all what I'm implying. Rosé sales are booming globally, nowhere more than in France, where the category has overtaken red in popularity. And if you're like most wine consumers, you'll gladly partake in a glass, especially during spring and summer months – on a patio, say, or as part of a picnic or at a special celebration like a wedding or Mother's Day.
But have you uncorked a bottle at home with a family meal or by the TV the way you would a red or white? If so, you're in a minority.
That's partly what I gleaned from a study last year presented at the international conference of the Academy of Wine Business Research in Germany by researchers from France, the United States, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. The group polled 947 consumers from those countries on attitudes toward rosé. There were a few encouraging observations (rosé is not strongly seen as "feminine," even among British men, as might have been the case in the past), but one theme stuck out for me more than others. While there were variations in responses from each country, pink wine remains strongly associated with festive gatherings and sunshine – in short, the sort of drink you'd reach for when the weather calls for sunglasses (which, come to think of it, would give it a red appearance).
That bias irks many rosé producers I know, who vinify their wines with the same care as any other. Most good rosés are in fact generally made much like white wine, only with red grapes; the tint comes from brief contact with the colour-bearing skins before the juice is drawn off and subjected to cool fermentation.
There's a corollary, too. In France and the U.S. in particular (there were no Canadians in the survey), respondents tended to dismiss rosé as a wine unworthy of gift giving when you want "to impress someone." Ouch.
But some of us think otherwise, don't we? The top two of the dry selections below would, I think, qualify as sophisticated gifts for just about any occasion, including Mother's Day. Certainly more so than a pair of Spanx or a bathroom scale. And they'd make a nice treat if you're dining in private. No Ray-Bans necessary.
Caves d'Esclans Whispering Angel Rosé 2014 (France)
SCORE: 90 PRICE: $25.95
Sacha Lichine, son of the late Russian-born wine writer and Bordeaux producer who owned Château Prieuré-Lichine, took over this Provençal property in 2006 and quickly began turning heads with high-quality, high-priced rosés. The 2014 Whispering Angel shows a delicately pale hue, as though it were a white wine blushing from all the compliments. Light and bone-dry, it hints at apricot, strawberry and herbs, with a spicy lift on the finish. Available in Ontario. The equally excellent 2013 sells for $24.45 in Que.
E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône Rosé 2014 (France)
SCORE: 90 PRICE: $17.95
Red wine dominates in the Côtes du Rhône, but the region can turn out compelling rosés (which understandably tend to be overshadowed by those of the nearby global rosé capital, Provence). Guigal's salmon-coloured charmer is nothing if not consistent, and the 2014 is precision-made. Very dry and brimming with fruit-punch flavours of strawberry and citrus, with a hint of herbs in the mix. Available in Ontario.
Henry of Pelham Rosé 2014 (Ontario)
SCORE: 89 PRICE: $13.95
I'm reminded of one of those strawberry-watermelon mojitos you're likely to find in a spring issue of Martha Stewart Living or Bon Appétit magazine – only without the sugar, rum or artsy garnishes. Dry and polished in texture, this bargain from Henry of Pelham could hardly be more refreshing, with a dusting of citrus rind to complement all that watermelon and strawberry. On sale for $12.95 in Ontario till May 24 or through henryofpelham.com.
Brotte Les Eglantiers Tavel 2014 (France)
SCORE: 89 PRICE: $19.95
The southern Rhône Valley's Tavel district stands as testament to rosé's potential for seriousness. It's all they make there. Many Tavels, often registering 14-per-cent alcohol or more, can improve with a few years in the cellar and pair compellingly with such meats as pork and veal. Best known for La Fiole du Pape, the ubiquitous Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the wavy, opaque-glass bottle, Brotte does a good job with this cherry-pink offering. Silky and substantial, the grenache-based wine bursts with chewy raspberry fruit. The 14-per-cent alcohol peeks through in the form of heat, but that's a minor quibble.
Fort Berens Pinot Noir Rosé 2014 (British Columbia)
SCORE: 88 PRICE: $15.99
Medium-pink in colour and very dry, this well-balanced effort from Fort Berens in the Fraser Valley displays the essence of pinot noir, with bright, jammy berry characters in the foreground and seamless acidity. Available direct through fortberens.ca.
Quails' Gate Rosé 2014 (British Columbia)
SCORE: 87 PRICE: $15.69 in B.C.
Light, crisp and tangy, Quails' Gate's 2014, an unusual blend of gamay noir and pinot noir with white pinot gris exhibits a salmon-pink colour and notes of strawberry, raspberry and grapefruit, dusted with a pinch of herbs. Through quailsgate.com.
Château des Charmes Rosé Cuvée d'Andrée 2014 (Ontario)
SCORE: 87 PRICE: $14.95
This was made from pinot noir and plays up the tart cranberry, with apple, strawberry and orange zest in supporting roles. Dry and balanced. Through fromtheboscfamily.com.
Bodega Volcanes Summit Reserva Rosé 2014 (Chile)
SCORE: 86 PRICE: $9.95
There's a trace of sweetness in the middle, but this mid-pink wine is essentially dry, with candy-like cherry and strawberry fruit and good mid-palate weight. Available in Ontario.