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There was a time, and it wasn't that long ago, when you couldn't give away a bottle of dry French rosé wine in the US. The zillions of bottles of White Zinfandel on store shelves had somehow worked a kind of evil spell on wine buyers' minds, convincing everyone that if a wine was pink, then it must therefore taste like soda pop and be sweet.
That's changed, and nothing attests to it more than the fact that shipments of dry rosés to the US from Provence—the homeland of great dry rosé—shot up more than 40 percent last year. But it's no surprise, when you think about it. Provençal rosé, which is light, crisp and not sweet in the slightest, is one of the best springtime (and summertime) wines around.
Rosés from Provence are typically a blend of red grapes—Grenache, Cinsaut and Syrah are the most common. The juice stays in contact with the grape skins for only a few hours, so instead of turning a deep purple–red, the wines remain pale orangey–pink in color. Their aroma tends to suggest raspberries, or strawberries, or sometimes watermelon; alcohol levels are modest (12.5 to 13 percent); and they go well with everything from a Niçoise salad to roast chicken to potato chips—in other words, almost anything. Here are five to keep an eye out for.
2013 Estandon Côtes de Provence ($12) Estandon makes a straight-on, classic Provençal rosé—meaning it's bright and vivid, with raspberry and citrus notes—and it's available at a good price, too.
2013 Domaine Houchart Côtes de Provence ($15) A grab bag of Provençal grape varieties—Grenache, Syrah, Cinsaut, Cabernet, Mourvèdre and others—go into this strawberry-scented bottling. Plus, Cézanne was a friend of the family and used to hang out at the estate, a nice thing to contemplate while drinking a glass on a spring evening.
2013 Domaine de Grandpré Cuvée Favorite ($15) A Grenache-based blend from the Côtes de Provence region, this pale salmon–pink wine has an appealing touch of spiciness on the finish.
2013 Gassier en Provence L'Amphore de Provence ($18) People will find this wine's odd, jug-handled bottle either charming or ridiculous, but regardless of aesthetic considerations, the wine inside is very good: lightly peachy, lightly lime-scented, with a richer texture than many rosés.
2013 Château D'Esclans Whispering Angel ($20) Whispering Angel somehow has achieved “cool thing you have to drink” status in places like the Hamptons (where people worry about status). To that I say, go figure. But social considerations aside, it's also impressively good, with a satiny texture, complex aroma and delicate cherry/berry flavors.