Eight Great Rosé Wines

When you live in the north, the longest season isn’t winter; it’s the bridge between winter and spring, when our chlorophyll reserves have fallen perilously low and we begin to exhibit hypothermia-like symptoms of peeling off clothes even when it’s not actually warm enough to do so. To hasten the arrival of warmer, brighter days (inside, at any rate), assemble an array of rosés. Their cheery pink hue puts the fridge in a party mood, damn the lack of green vegetables; their flavors are just rich enough with red fruit to take the edge off a cool night while they have the bright, sense-awakening snap of spring’s first sunny days.
rose wines

1. Bonny Doon Vineyard 2007 California Vin Gris de Cigare, $14

In the EU, winemakers are up in arms over a recent draft ruling (to be voted upon by EU members on June 19) that would allow blending of white wines into red to make rosé; they fear the law will lead to oceans of pink plonk. Luckily, however, we Americans seem to have no such qualms, so Randall Grahm can add a hefty dollop of rich Grenache Blanc and Roussanne to the red grapes Grenache, Cinsaut, and Syrah, giving the wine’s bright, spiced-cherry flavors a broad, smooth canvas to play on. Take that, Europe.

2. Domaine de L’Estel 2008 Vin du Pays du Gard Rosé, $16/1.5L

The best part of this light, fresh rosé may be that it comes in a 1.5-liter bag-in-box (and for $16, which works out to about 17 3-ounce glasses at $.94 each). It’s made by Domaine de Coudoulis in Lirac, near the double-decker arches of the Pont du Gard; a blend of grenache and cinsault, it’s the sort of wine you want on a hot day with a ham sandwich. Since the bag inside the box is airtight, the wine lasts for weeks after you’ve poured the first glasses. Not that a box has ever lasted that long around here, but theoretically…

3. Kir Yianni 2008 Amyndeon Akakies, $17

Just the deep fuchsia color is enough to brighten a room; combine that with its pretty, spicy cherry notes, and what else do you need? Acidity, which this has in spades: It’s made from Xinomavro, a grape whose name means “acid-black,” and it’s grown in one of Greece’s coolest wine-growing regions. So what if it’s cold and raining—fire up the grill and put on some lamb chops. Spring will be here with a glass of this in hand.

4. Domaine de la Mordorée 2007 Côtes du Rhône La Dame Rousse Rosé, $19

Domaine de la Mordorée is in the heart of Tavel, France’s only appellation dedicated exclusively to rosé wines. But owner Christophe Delorme also makes rosé in other areas—without the tariff that comes with the Tavel name. His Côtes du Rhône rosé is a deep, chunky wine heavy on Grenache and Syrah, excellent when you’ve got a braise in the oven to take the chill out of a spring evening.

5. Preto 2008 Tierras de León Prieto Picudo Rosado, $20

I never heard of Prieto Picudo before a few weeks ago, but it’s my new obsession. It apparently is responsible for lots of rosé wines in its native Castilla y León, but even a thorough search of Jancis Robinson’s exhaustive site turned up only this comment: “I would need a very small piece of paper indeed on which to write down all I know about Prieto Picudo.” But if they are all as refreshing as this one, I’m moving there. This rosé is as bright as its cherry-red hue, with tart berry flavor and a hint of herbs, like it was stirred lightly with a sprig of rosemary. Totally gulpable.

6. Château de Roquefort 2008 Côtes du Provence Rosé Corail, $16

First of all, the label rocks: simple and strong, just big, black, art-deco-font letters. But then there’s the wine inside, pure Provence, stone-dry and redolent of thyme, rosemary, and all the other stuff that dries to fragrant crispness on its rolling hills. The wine is as light as its color, just a blush of orangey red; a dose of the white grape Clairette keeps it extra lively.

7. Domaine de Terrebrune 2007 Bandol, $29

Bandol rosé is nearly synonymous with Domaine Tempier, largely due to Richard Olney’s mouthwatering descriptions of the estate’s wine and the food cooked up by its proprietress in the book Lulu’s Provencal Table. And Tempier rosé is great stuff—but it isn’t the only game in the region. Domaine de Terrebrune, about 16 miles southwest of Tempier, made a knockout 2007 rosé, scented with orange blossoms yet savory as a steak. Pour it into a decanter (or a pitcher if, like me, you don’t own a fancy swan-necked thing) while making dinner; it just gets better with air.

8. R. López de Heredia 1997 Rioja Crianza Viña Tondonia, $27

There’s little that’s summery about this old-school Rioja Rosado, save for its delicate orange-pink hue. But it is one of the best rosé wines on the planet, so any excuse to find a bottle is a good one. And there aren’t many (if any) rosés made like this anymore: It spends four years in oak barrels and another seven in bottle before the winery releases to the market, allowing the cherry notes of Garnacha and Tempranillo to turn delicate and dry while developing an array of scents and flavors so exotic it recalls a spice bazaar and a meat market smelled from afar. It’s amazing with paella, withstanding the bitter bite of saffron and artichokes with aplomb.

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