Think pink: Rosé is bigger and better than ever

  • Article by: BILL WARD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 28, 2014 - 2:28 PM

In the rosé world, there's more quality, quantity and variety than ever.

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A woman smiles while she holds two glasses of rosé wine during a tasting on the street to promote this Spanish wine on a sunny spring day, in Pamplona northern Spain.

Photo: Alvaro Barrientos, Associated Press

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The multihued tulips have bloomed, and the lilacs are finally providing their trademark color and aromas. But the color of the season for many of us is pink.

Yes, it’s rosé season, when last year’s vintage inundates retail shelves and floors with an endless array of tints and more flavor than ever.

While winemaking in general has gotten exponentially better in recent decades, nowhere is the improvement more pronounced than with rosé. We’ve come a long way since the bad ol’ days of not just Mateus and Lancer’s, but even among the French pink wines that made their way here a generation ago.

“In the 1970s and ’80s there was always an astringency,” said Mitch Spencer, wine buyer for Haskell’s. “They’ve figured out a way to make a better tomato. The acidity is under control, and the aromas. You didn’t use to get strawberry or rose petal.

“They are also getting an elegance that rarely existed back then.”

Local consumers have taken note.

Ten or 15 years ago, Spencer said, Haskell’s would carry “maybe 10 brands from probably three places.” Now the Minnetonka store where he’s based has “about 70 or 80, and they rotate because some are allocated and sell out quickly.”

On the other side of the river, an estimated 550 aficionados attended Solo Vino’s annual rosé tent tasting this month. That is one packed tent.

What’s luring them is not just the quality and quantity but the variety of today’s rosés. Coming from every winemaking region and made with most every red grape imaginable, this is a vibrant, variegated lot.

And that’s one of the better ways to choose a pink wine for the less initiated. Malbec or pinot noir fans can find rosés made from their favorite grape. Those who favor reds from Italy or Washington can check out pinks from there — and in both cases it might be sangiovese, a surprising new favorite among Evergreen State vintners.

But the most reliable way for rosé neophytes to shop is by brand. If you see a label from a winery you like, go for it. In my case, that means the stuff from these New World (non-European) places:

• California: Bonny Doon (Vin Gris de Cigare), Robert Sinskey, Robert Hall, Steele, Pedroncelli and a fabulous newer entry, Birichino.

• Oregon: Elk Cove, Left Coast, Raptor Ridge, Ponzi, Evesham Wood.

• Washington: Milbrandt, Charles Smith (Charles & Charles), Dusted Valley.

• South America: Montes Cherub, Michel Torino, Famiglia Meschini.

European options abound, of course. Bieler and Domaine D’Arton are swell introductions from rosé’s epicenter, France.

All of these wines, by the way, are dry, unlike white zinfandel, the most popular pink wines of the ’80s and ’90s. Those might have faded, but pink is a more popular color than ever.

While worldwide production of rosé increased by 9 percent last year, the makers of sweet red and white wines also are thinking pink, Spencer said.

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