The Ultimate Guide to Drinking Rosé

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If you’re ready for rosé season, you’re not alone. Off-premise sales of pink wines—that is, sales that take place at retail rather than at a restaurant or bar—were reportedly up between January 2016 and the beginning of 2020, and anecdotal data indicates 2020 is off to a roaring start for rosé sales as well. Rosé, after all, is patio wine, suited to afternoon sipping in the backyard, on the rooftop, by the pool. We were already drinking rosé outside of a traditional bar setting, in other words, and this summer will prove no different even if the circumstances are anything but normal.

But that surging popularity has brought about a wildly uneven marketplace for rosé in terms of quality. Excellent expressions of Pinot Noir, Grenache, and Syrah crafted by talented winemakers share shelf space with mass-produced bottlings marketed by Instagram celebrities. There’s now an annual National Rosé Day (it’s the second Saturday of June). Post Malone launched is own rosé brand last week.

In other words, there’s a lot of hype around rosé these days, and all that hype can muddy the waters for those simply seeking a good, quality bottle of backyard-worthy patio wine. Whether you’re looking for something to pair with what’s on the grill or simply a good porch-pounder for those long summer evenings, a few points of guidance can help you find your way.

Know How to Read the Label
Forget the outmoded rule that dry rosés are paler while sweeter rosés have a fuller, redder hue. While true in some cases, you’re better off assessing the style of wine in your hand by looking to a couple of factors pertaining to the wine’s provenance and ingredients.

Southern France—Provence in particular—is renowned for the dry, crisp, fresh style of pale pink wine that’s light in body with notes of strawberry and melon fruit balanced neatly with some florals. It’s the utility infielder of rosés, one that can sip easily on its own or stand up next to seafood or even burgers. If you see names like Provence, Languedoc-Roussillon, or Southern Rhone on the label, you’re likely holding some variation on that classic style in your hand. If browsing rosés from elsewhere in the world, note the grape varietals. While not universally true, wines made from Pinot Noir, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, and/or Sangiovese are typically going to trend dry. Wines with White Zinfandel or Pink Moscato on the label will likely lean sweeter.

Keeping these bits of wisdom in mind, you can be fairly sure you’ve got the solid, crisp, dry summertime crowd-pleaser you’re looking for when you pick up a bottle of Esprit Gassier Rose 2019 ($23), a rounded, fruit-forward wine offering mouthfuls of white peach and flowers from Provence. But you can be equally confident when grabbing something from the New World, like Long Meadow Ranch’s rosé of Pinot Noir 2019 ($25), a melange of florals, peach, and easy spice from Anderson Valley in Northern California.

And if you want no doubt about the dryness of your rosé, the very excellent and clearly labeled Gail Wines ‘Doris’ Dry Rose 2019 ($20) says “dry” right there on the label (and provides heaps of fresh strawberry and melon, with a touch of white pepper and enough backbone to pair with seafood or chicken).

Don’t Fixate On Any One Style
It’s easy to get hung up on a particular style of wine once we know we like it. But one who sticks strictly to tried-and-true Provence-style wines will miss out on a world of excellent rosé. Example: The rosato wines of Italy, summertime thirst-quenchers made with a variety of grapes you won’t see anywhere else and typically a bit more savory and fruit-forward. Think: luscious strawberries, raspberry, pomegranate, and cherries.

Two to look for this summer: Calcarius Rosa Puglia 2019 ($27) and Planeta Rosé Sicilia 2019 ($15). The first is a vibrant natural rosé, with a bit of funk on the nose and notes of springtime grass and strawberry jam on the palate, served in one-liter bottle. The latter hails from the volcanic soils of Sicily, boasting intense, concentrated flavors of strawberry and peach. Don’t hesitate to serve with grilled meats.

Spain delivers some stunners as well. If you’re already hip to the rising popularity of Txakoli wines of the northern Spanish Basque Country, Txomin Etxaniz Txakili Rosé 2019 ($26) brings flavors of summer strawberry to an already lively and refreshing warm-weather wine.

Rosé Shines When It Sparkles
Summer is a celebration, and nothing sets off a celebratory mood quite like bubbly. And there’s perhaps no better way to kick off a meal, as sparkling rosés possess fruit flavors that often provide a little more backbone than a typical champagne or sparkling white, making them perfect alongside a pre-dinner snack spread or appetizer course.

In the vein of classic sparkling rosé, it’s tough to do better than a Ruinart Rosé ($81), which unfurls layers of strawberry, guava, roses, along with notes of toasted bread. Ideally suited to the summer heat, Ferrari Brut Rose ($35)—from Northern Italy’s alpine Trentodoc region—similarly supplies notes of red currants and strawberries in tandem with bright acidity that cuts straight through late afternoon humidity.

For a laid-back, porch-pounding, and decidedly different bottle that will satisfy the natural wine lovers in your circle, our money is on Austria’s Meinklang Frizzante Rose 2019 ($18). This slightly fizzy all-day-drinker of Pinot Noir packs notes of wild strawberries, orange zest, and cream, all conveniently packaged in a one-liter pop-top bottle.

But It’s Not Just for Porch-Pounding
Rosé often gets pigeonholed as an aperitif and for good reason; it drinks beautifully on its own and is a great palate-prepper for an upcoming meal. But many rosés can hold their own just as well at the dinner table. Recommended: Chêne Bleu Le Rosé 2019 ($36), a Grenache-heavy stunner from Vaucluse in southeast France that’s full of breakfast citrus, floral notes, and minerality that stand up plenty tall against grilled seafood, chicken, or any savory vegetable dishes on the table.

If seafood’s on the menu you could also reach for a Librandi Cirò Rosato 2019 ($15) and its melange of peaches, pomegranate, grapefruit, and wafting Mediterranean herbs. But you’d do just as well deploying it with a light pasta or pizza. Because while you may not be able to get to Italy during this bizarre quarantine summer, you can certainly let Italy come to you.

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