Future Reports

Report #42 -
The Wines of Catalonia

Spain's northeastern wine region, the DO Catalunya, is producing new and exciting wines from indigenous and international varieties and from distinct terroirs. The wines of Cava, Priorat Penedes, and Montsant are just some of the many wine designations of origin that will be covered in the new report.

Annual RosÉ Report
Reviews of Over 100 New Releases for 2013

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This is our 4th Annual Rosé Report and our largest ever with reviews of over 100 new releases from 10 countries. In addition to the many fine rosés from France, Spain, and Italy, we’ve found new ones from different parts of California, Missouri, New York, Texas, Virginia, Washington State, and Long Island. We also include a few sparkling rosés from California, France, Italy, New Zealand, and South Africa made using the methode champenoise. Of the 100+ rosés we tasted (see reviews below), we’ve identified a list of our Top 20 favorites. They come from all over the world, from Tavel, Sancerre, Costiéres de Nimes, South Africa, New Zealand, and several of the US states, including California, Missouri, Virginia, and Washington. Our listing of the Top 20 follows:

The Top 20 Rosés of the 2012 Vintage

Alain Jaume & Fils 2012 Grand Veneur Réserve Rosé Côtes du Rhône
Balletto 2012 Estate Rosé of Pinot Noir Russian River Valley
Chateau Grande Cassagne 2012 Rosé Costières de Nimes
Chateau Margüí 2012 Perle de Margüí Rosé Coteaux Varois en Provence
Château Sainte Roseline 2012 Cuvée Lampe de Méduse Côtes de Provence
Clos Pepe NV Brut Rosé Santa Rita Hills
Domaine de la Mordorée 2012 La Reine des Bois Rosé Tavel
Domaine de Malavieille 2012 Charmille Rosé IGP Pays d'Oc
Dragonette Cellars 2012 Rosé Happy Canyon
Feudi di San Gregorio 2011 Ros'Aura Aglianico Irpinia Rosato
Graham Beck 2009 Brut Rosé Western Cape
Jean Reverdy 2012 Les Villots Rosé Sancerre
Ojai Vineyard 2012 Rosé Central Coast
Presqu'Ile 2011 Pinot Noir Rosé Santa Maria Valley
Prieuré Montézargues 2012 Prieuré Rosé Tavel
Quartz Reef NV Rosé Central Otago
Rebuli NV Vino Spumante Rosé Extra Dry Saccol di Valdobbiadene
Stinson Vineyards 2012 Rosé Monticello Virginia
Syncline Wine Cellars 2012 Rosé Columbia Valley
Tablas Creek Vineyard 2012 Dianthus Paso Robles
Wölffer 2012 Wölffer Estate Vineyard Rosé Long Island, New York


Styles of Rosé Rosés come in several different styles. Some rosés offer light and delicate aromas, while others are ripe and fruity. Some reveal dried cherry and strawberry flavors, and others show pomegranate and plum. Most rosés are crisp and dry, but others have residual sweetness. There are rosés for every palate and plenty of them to enjoy, including those made from indigenous grapes such as varieties like Carignan, Carmenere, Cinsault, Mourvèdre. Pinotage, and Valdiguie.

What is a Good Rosé?

In our opinion, good quality rosé should, first and foremost, by young and fresh, not over-ripe. Consumers should in general only purchase the current vintage. Second, a good rosé should have bright, preferably natural, acidity. Good acidity is essential to convey a sense of freshness and vibrancy. Third, good rosé should have flavor. It can be light or concentrated, but it must be there and be enjoyable. And, finally, a good quality rosé should have everything in balance—alcohol, acidity, residual sugar, and tannins. Too much sweetness, or too much acidity, can be a turn off.

The Carignan GrapeThe Carignan Grape

Given these attributes, individuals have different tastes and preferences about rosé—its color, sweetness, and flavors, in particular. While we try to set our own taste preferences aside in evaluating wines, we do have preferences. We prefer rosés that are light in style—light in color, subtly flavored, fresh and vibrant both aromatically and in the mouth, low in alcohol—and well-balanced with good acidity and, preferably, with a sense of minerality. We also prefer our rosés to show some complexity of aroma and flavor—perhaps some spice or herbs in addition to fresh fruit—and with good palate weight. In the course of tasting the wines for this report, we found wines that suit our preferences coming from both the Old and New Worlds and made from several different varieties of grapes. Carignan, shown here, is just one of the many grape varieties used to make rosé.

Making Quality Rosé.

Almost every winemaker says (whether they believe it, or not), “wine is made in the vineyard.” This is certainly true in the case of rosé, which requires the terroir—soil, temperature, and diurnal temperature variations—to produce high natural acidity. We found this terroir in Santa Barbara, which we wrote about in another article, but it exists in many other places as well. It also helps to plant specific parcels and clones for rosé and manage the canopy differently than would be done for red table wines.

Of course, rosés can be made either through direct pressing of grapes used only to make rosé or by bleeding (saignée) free run juice off fruit being macerated for red wines. The former (i.e., direct pressing) allows the winemaker to harvest red grapes earlier than she would for a red wine with resulting lower sugar, lower alcohol, and higher acidity, often resulting in a rosé of exceptional lightness and elegance. We’ve also had excellent rosés made using the saignée method, or using a combination of direct press and saignée. In either case (i.e., direct fermentation or saignée), fermentation or aging in oak can add flavor complexity and a soft, full mouth feel to the wine, but the barrels need to be neutral or well-used so that oak aromas and flavors are held in check.

Rosé and Food

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Roses are great food wines. When made well, like many of those reviewed here, they are perfect to accompany light lunches and dinners. They offer a combination of fruit, freshness and acidity that pairs perfectly with salads, spring vegetable soups, including spicy ones like gazpacho, charcuterie, white meats, and cheese. Rosé even goes well with foods that are difficult to pair with wine, such as asparagus. It’s easy to pair rosé with food, and we offer many good suggestions in our article pairing rosé and food.

The Market for Rosé

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Although it’s served cold, rosé is hot. US imports of premium rosé wine (>$11/bottle retail) increased 28% by volume in 2012. At the same time all US table wine sales rose just 1.8%. Furthermore, US imports of rosés from Provence, France’s best-known rosé producing region, increased even more. They rose 41% in 2012, after a stunning 62% increase in 2011. Perhaps the US is becoming more like France, where rosés outsell white wines.

We’re not sure why the demand for rosé has risen so much in the US. Perhaps it’s just changing consumer tastes. Or it may be that consumers have learned that rosés need not be cloyingly sweet, thanks to education efforts by groups like the US branch of Vins de Provence.

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