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Rosé is a wine like any other - some excellent, some mediocre
IN these mad times when rosé-mania reigns over summer, the sad fact of the matter is that most rosés are not made for people who love wine.
Mass-market rosés are made for people who wear rosé puns on their T-shirts, who think that marketing creations like National Rosé Day (June 9) are a real thing, who believe that what they are drinking somehow suggests a lifestyle, who find it witty to add "o'clock" to their favorite alcoholic beverage when they are thirsty.
It is perhaps natural for the wine industry to want to whip up enthusiasm for its cash cow. Many producers try to slake that rosé thirst with cynically-made pink wines that have the life span of a tsetse fly before they fade away like the Cheshire Cat, leaving only the marketer's smile.
It is thought to be snobbishly pedantic for one to think critically about these wines, as if preferring a good bottle robs everyone else of the lighthearted diversion that is rosé.
I am not buying any of this.
Rosé is a wine like any other. Some are good, even excellent. Some are mediocre, and some are sweet, pink confections like the white zinfandels of the 1970s and '80s. If you do care about the wine you drink, why settle for the bad stuff?
The wine panel recently sampled 20 American rosés, all from the 2017 vintage, with the aim of suggesting some that are exceptional wines as well. And we found plenty to like.
For the tasting, Florence Fabricant and I were joined by Marika Vida-Arnold of Vida et Fils, a wine consultancy, and Victoria James, beverage director at Cote in the Flatiron district of New York and author of Drink Pink: A Celebration Of Rosé, one of the more discerning rosé guides available. Almost all were dry, and displayed varying levels of citrus flavours and earthy fruitiness. We rejected a few, though, that seemed harshly acidic.
Marika said she was happily surprised. "They were not at all what I was expecting," she said. "They're dry, savory, and some are hardcore, year-round rosés."
Florence, too, was expecting more sweetness but found instead freshness and balance. "These are serious wines, not crowd-pleasing junk wines," she said.
If anything, Victoria suggested, some of the wines had gone overboard in reaction to the once dominant style of powerful fruitiness. To her, those wines seemed to be a little underripe. But she was pleased overall. "The white zin days are long behind us," she said.
Our No 1 bottle was an old friend, the Edmunds St John Bone Jolly gamay noir rosé from El Dorado County in California - savory, saline and simply delicious.
Gamay noir is the grape of Beaujolais, hence the egregious Bone Jolly pun. Nonetheless, Steve Edmunds has pioneered modern gamay production in California, making both a red and this rosé, which has been superb year in and year out.
Perhaps coincidentally, our No 3 wine was also a gamay noir rosé, the Folk Machine from Arroyo Seco in the Central Coast. It was dry and succulent, but a very different style - more delicate and ephemeral than the Bone Jolly, which could easily age a couple of years.
Sandwiched between the two gamay noirs was the North Valley pinot noir rosé from Soter in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, lively and refreshing, with flavors of herbs, berries and the bloody tang of iron.
Rounding out the top four was the high-toned, earthy Porter Creek, made from old vines of carignan from Mendocino, blended with a small percentage of zinfandel grown next door to the winery in the Russian River Valley.
No 5 was another old friend, the Robert Sinskey vin gris, a French term for a pale rosé, made of pinot noir grown in Los Carneros, a lively wine with floral, citrus and herbal flavors.
The Sinskey was followed by the tart, juicy Fausse Piste Oyster Sauce, made from grenache from the Rogue Valley in southern Oregon, and the fresh Macari - from the North Fork of Long Island, and made of malbec and petit verdot - which had an unusual tutti-frutti, watermelon flavor.
Three more to keep in mind are the stony, citrusy Matthiasson, made from a combination of Grenache, syrah, mourvèdre and counoise grown in three different sites in Northern California; the savory, floral Flower, Flora and Fauna from Idlewild in Mendocino, made from nebbiolo, barbera and dolcetto; and the subtle, soft, Gramercy Cellars, made of cinsault grown in the Olsen Vineyard in the Columbia Valley of Washington.
These 10 wines represent a mere thimbleful of the rosés produced in the US each year. Obviously, American wine is not immune to the annual flood of bad rosé, but the good stuff is out there if you want it.
A rule of thumb: If you like a particular producer's reds or whites, you are quite likely to enjoy the rosés, too. NYTIMES