Spring Drinking: The Best Rosés
When I was growing up, “rosé” was a bad word in our house. My dad loathed the stuff, calling it “the bastardization of wine.” Like so many others, he had fallen prey to the common misconception that it’s white and red wine mixed together. In fairness, though, he developed his bias honestly; in a recent interview, French winemaker Julien Fayard told me, “Ten years ago, ‘quality’ and ‘rosé’ really didn’t go together in the same sentence.” Let’s just say that my dad has been drinking wine for more than ten years.
But times have changed, and rosé is no longer to be shunned—at least not the high-quality rosé. Like any wine, there is a decent amount of too-sweet, poorly-made rosé out there. To sidestep the pink-hued landmines, follow these two simple steps.
- Choose wisely. Pick a rosé made by actual French persons, or, at the very least, by an ardent Francophile who was trained in France. Even in France, rosé is considered a “fun wine”—but it should still be made with well-informed intentions.
- Drink wisely. By this I mean drink like the French. Rosé in France is sipped in the warmth of spring and summer. It’s a light, carefree wine meant for light, carefree moments. Pair it with a fresh tuna salade niçoise,or enjoy it as apre-dinner, al fresco sip in the sun.
Still need a little direction? Here are my top three rosés, in alphabetical order (because I could never rank these beauties):
- Azur Rosé 2015 ($32): Frenchman Julien Fayard makes this aromatic rosé under his Azur label, at his new winery, Covert Estate in Coombsville (Napa’s newest appellation). He uses the traditional method known as “direct press,” which means instead of using leftover grapes, he grows and harvests Syrah fruit specifically for this wine. The light salmon hue is a byproduct of his deliberate process; the grape skins are left on for a mere hour, imparting a light tint that alludes to the fresh, bright flavors.
Tasting notes: “Delicate bouquet of white flowers with seductive peach accents. Fresh and focused, the sophisticated palate offers elegant layers of raspberry, strawberry, and watermelon. An alluring mineral finish completes this purely harmonious wine.”—winestreet.com
- Ehlers Estate Sylvian Rosé 2016 ($36): Describing it as a classic old-world rosé, Francophile winemaker Kevin Morrissey had to convince Sylvian LeDuc, his French boss and owner of Ehlers Estate, that this was a wine worth making. Kevin retold the moment to me: “She said to me, ‘You know, Kevin, rosé is not a serious wine, and Ehlers is very serious.’” Kevin’s reply? “Well, if it’s the best, then it’s serious, right?” One sip and she was convinced.
Tasting notes: “Aromas of watermelon, raspberry, and cotton candy mingle with orange sorbet and fresh red cherries. Sparkling acidity, low alcohol.”—ehlersestate.com
- Vivier 2015 Rosé of Pinot Noir ($19): Like many French winemakers in Napa Valley, Stephane Vivier fell in love with the American girl and the California sun, but missed a taste of home. For him, home tastes like Pinot Noir—even more specifically, Rosé of Pinot Noir. “I grew up with Rosé of Pinot Noir in Burgundy. I would come home and sit outside with my parents. My mom would bring in things from the garden, and my dad wine from the cellar. We would talk about the day, and most every day have a bottle of rosé.”
Tasting notes: “The floral result offers notes of citrus fruit and plum, and a fine, harmonious nose. Red fruit brings an almost flinty power to the palate, while the structure is fresh and sophisticated, with concentration at its core.”—vivierwines.com