Drinking Pink: It’s Time for Rose Wine

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Katie Callahan is a wine educator and former manager of Bin 201 Wine Sellers in Annapolis.

Oh man. It’s here. It’s finally here. The Pinks are coming. I will make no mystery of my affection for pink wine and will openly shoot disdainful and exasperated eyes at you if you tell me you feel otherwise. Yes everybody is entitled to their opinion, but come ON. There’s more or less one season that a half-full bottle of rose wine is acceptable on your counter/in your fridge/in a glass or sippy cup at any time of day, those colors of pale dogwood flower pink to deep fuchsia, that bright, bracing acid, those minerals…sigh. Maybe those people, those rosé naysayers, just haven’t found their wine yet. Allow me to assist: a simple five wine tasting of a few of this year’s rosés discovered in my neighborhood wine shop. I arranged them initially by order of color—palest to the most intense—because that’s often an accurate-ish quick-and-dirty way to create the correct line up, but it’s also the prettiest.

Commanderie de la Bargemone 2013, Coteaux d’Aix en Provence, France

This has always been an old favorite of mine in previous vintages and I’m excited to have it back after a year of pining. It’s from the deep south of France, actually minutes from where I just got back from but more on that later, and is composed of 35% Grenache, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Syrah, and 15% Cinsault, all red grapes whose pigment has just barely been allowed to leech into the juice.

If you looked at this wine out of context, your first glance may not even read rosé at all. It’s so pale that it comes across as a white wine with a little copper to it. Like a white wine ran into something pink and got it on its shirt. The nose is fresh and clean, herby, and reminds me a little of under-ripe strawberries, and the palate carries that through. It’s biting and fresh with high acid and fruit that develops as you sip. Some strawberry notes, some tarragon (that is, faintly sweet and faintly licoricey) notes, and incredibly dry. I love it.

Calstar Cellars Pinot Munier 2013, Russian River Valley, California

Pinot Munier is a cousin of Pinot Noir and the rest of the Pinot clan, but I’ve only ever seen it as a blending partner in Champagne (along with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir). Curious to see what it does on its own, I picked it up but with little expectation. I have an anti-California rosé prejudice. I’m working on it.

In the glass, the Calstar Cellars is a pretty pale salmon color, sheer and bright. The nose actually reminds me of a rosé Champagne, fittingly, with hints of savory red fruit and a little body and power lurking behind pretty aromas. The palate is full of fruit, definitely berries—raspberry, strawberry, cranberry—and it has great acidity. We’re still on the dry side of the spectrum, but because of all the fruit, it may come off as a touch sweeter than our previous wine. I have to admit, I’m pleasantly surprised. Good on ya, California.

Domaine de Cambis “La vie en rose” 2013, Saint-Chinian, France

This guy is a familiar face, I’ve had the read many a time and I had the rose, I believe, during Derecho a few summers back. It’s from Languedoc in the way south of France and is comprised of 70% Cinsault and 20% Syrah.

The color here is almost indistinguishable from the last wine, but the nose is totally different. Almost melony, like honeydew, with less bracingly sharp acid on the nose, the “La vie en rosé ” feels a little less rich already. I probably should’ve tried this first. The palate is astronomically more mineral than the previous wines, like wet slate, and it’s the minerality that brings the acid. Fruit follows afterwards, like sweet strawberries, though the wine is quite dry.

Cune Rosado 2013, Rioja, Spain

Like the Bargemonne, I’ve loved this wine before. It’s the perfect foil for tapas or a dinner party, and in my memory it’s both rich and not heavy, complementing a host of dishes. It’s comprised of 100% Tempranillo.

The color is dark, almost pink-violet, and looks young. Young wine is always a little more purple. It’s beautiful. On the nose, there are plenty of fresh cherries and minerality that reminds me of terra cotta, some baked earth kind of thing. It tastes full of cherry and strawberry fruit with some of that baked minerality carrying through, with great acid and a lingering finish.

Domaine Serene “r” 2012?, Dayton, Oregon

I picked this one because I’ve been loving another Oregon rosé all winter (shh, don’t tell!) long and wanted to see if this one was up to snuff. I couldn’t find a vintage anywhere on the bottle, which makes me think it’s a blend of vintages.

The color is definitely richer than the first few I’ve tried, but not quite as purple as the Cune. More like deep salmon as opposed to pale salmon. So…you know. Pink. The nose reveals the big difference between this and the others: oak. New oak, and lots of it. That buttery, caramely kind of oak like a heavy California Chardonnay. On the palate, more of the same with perhaps a few hints of red fruit, but honestly, if I were to taste this blind, I’d guess it was a weird Chardonnay. Not a repeat purchase for me.

Have you broken your pink wine seal yet? What’s your favorite?

Katie Callahan is a wine educator and former manager of Bin 201 Wine Sellers in Annapolis.

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