In defense of rosé

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Eric Asimov’s “Wines of the Times” column yesterday relayed the apparently pervasive disdain wine professionals have for rosé wines. Asimov does not count himself in this contingent, and expressed appreciation for this wine type in general and for specific bottles he and his sommelier tasting team sampled for the column.

But if the dismissive attitudes of Asimov’s tasters represent the consensus view in the industry, I’d like to offer a counter opinion.

First, there is a reason many wine drinkers enjoy – and some even adore – rosé. Rosés in the bottle are beautiful to look at, so it follows that sipping them is an aesthetically pleasurable experience for many people. (Studies have demonstrated that the color of substances we consume affects how they taste to us.)

Second, the variety of rosés being produced has exploded over the past few years, offering casual drinkers as well as serious connoisseurs a range of wines never available before. Many adventurous drinkers are delighted to explore these new choices, a number of which are priced below $15.

Provence used to hold a near-monopoly on rosé production, and its standard grape blend usually included some mix of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvèdre. This southern region of France continues to turn out what are arguably the world’s highest quality rosés but its monopoly has certainly evaporated. This summer’s Sherry-Lehmann catalogue, besides its Provençal selections, lists rosés from the Rhône, Vaucluse and Bordeaux regions of France, along with Argentina, Spain, South Africa, Sicily, Lebanon, Long Island, Napa and Sonoma – and this roster is far from exhaustive.

These new production areas mean that rosé is now being made with red varietals never before associated with this wine type – Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and more.

Is all of this wine great or even good? No, but the same is true for reds and whites.

Do all of the rosés now on offer adhere to a “standard” style? Not at all, given the numerous regional and grape varieties involved. Some wine experts may insist that rosé should fit an aperitif profile, that is, light, with mineral tones. But why must there be orthodoxy? Why can’t a diversity of rosé styles evolve?

Wine makers are responding to consumer demand by producing more of it. A story published last year in Yahoo News stated that Nielsen Company reported a 14% year-over-year increase in 2011 in the U.S. sales, by volume, of rosé, marking the seventh consecutive year of growth.

Just because it’s popular doesn’t mean it’s bad.

2 thoughts on “In defense of rosé

  1. A dry rosé is my go to wine for spring/summer and I consider myself a savvy wine drinker. Every spring when the Rosés are released I make the trek to Sonoma to pick up a case from each of my favorite producer; Unit, Copain, Inman, Porter Creek. The French have been enjoying dry rosés for a long time and in my opinion they produce the best rosé (especially the Bandol region). I’m glad America is catching on. My local wine shop (a dangerous 250 feet from my front door) boasts one of the largest rosé selections with over 30 selections. Thanks for the post!

    • Chef Neil, thanks for the Sonoma recommendations. The French get most of the accolades for rosé, understandably, which makes any non-French choices all the more intriguing to me. As a lover of French rosé, you might want to know about La Mascaronne, Quat’ Saisons, from Côtes de Provence. I discovered it last year, when the 2011 vintage was available, but think I love the 2012 even more.

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