Higher quality and greater variety abound, with France the guiding light.
By Kim Marcus
Elegant, refined rosés are becoming more and more plentiful, with releases from the historic heartland of rosé production, the south of France, powering the category’s rise.
These pink wines are dry, not sweet, showing fresh red fruit notes of berry and watermelon, with herb and spice hints. They make perfect quaffs for the warm days of summer, and the best offer enough diversity and intensity of flavor to match with a range of cuisines (see “A Bouquet of Rosés,” page 53, for some menu ideas). They are a far cry from the sweeter versions of California white Zinfandel or the spritzy Portuguese rosés of years past.
To date, some of the most intriguing rosés from Provence come from Château d’Esclans, the project of Bordeaux’s Sacha Lichine, whose stated goal is to make rosés that can rival the world’s best reds and whites. He’s not there yet, but he does have an impressive stable of wines. He employs Burgundian techniques almost unheard of in Provence, such as barrel fermentation and bâtonnage (the stirring of the dead yeast cells that are used to impart richness in wine).
One of the four highest-scoring rosés in this report is Lichine’s 2008 Côtes de Provence Garrus (91, $90), which is made from the free-run juice of old-vine Grenache and Rolle grapes and fermented for eight months in 500-liter French oak barrels. The wine has concentrated aromas and flavors of dried citrus, glazed pear and pineapple, with a rich, creamy finish. A better value is his 2008 Côtes de Provence Esclans (90, $35), elegant and expressive, with intense dry cherry, plum and buttercream flavors and a rich finish of candied ginger and glazed apricot.
Managing editor Kim Marcus is Wine Spectator’s lead taster of the rosés of France. Associate editor Tim Fish contributed to this report.