Rosé Rising: “Joie de Vivre, Bottled”

Jennifer Hong, representative of Rosée d’Aurore distributor,
visits with Billy Jim Crawford, founder, soon-to-launch Club Botanic,
(an online fresh bouquet service, delivered weekly)
at the Vins de Provence tasting in San Francisco in early March.
Guest Author: Nicole Zaro Stahl

Forget all those old notions about rosé wine—that it’s sugary-sweet, that it’s produced as an afterthought by mixing excess red and white grapes. Au contraire! This frequently misunderstood category stands on equal footing right alongside its red and white counterparts. In fact, today rosé accounts for some 30% of total wine consumption in France, where it was first crafted more than 2,000 years ago.

Americans are catching onto the trend. U.S. retail sales of imported rosé wines have grown by double digits in each of the past 10 years. A substantial number of the imported labels hails from Provence, the romantic landscape of alternating hills, gorges, and lush river valleys that runs 150 miles inland along the sun-kissed French Mediterranean coast.

The largest rosé-producing region in the world, Provence presents a mosaic of terroirs hospitable to the grape varieties most commonly cultivated to give the authentic blush wine its refreshingly crisp, dry taste: Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, Mourvėdre, Tibouren, Cabernet Sauvignon. The grape skins are removed before fermentation to attain the characteristic pale pink color and fruity aroma.

In large part, rosé’s surging popularity can be attributed to its versatility. From ski slopes to sailboats, rosé is in demand year-round as an apéritif, accompanying the main meal, or with dessert. The price point is attractive, too: many Provence wineries export AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protégée) vintages that sell for $20 a bottle or less at retail.

Here are three 2014 rosés well worth decanting.

Château d’Esclans was established by Sacha Lichine, son of Alexis Lichine, the legendary wine expert and author of the Encyclopedia of Wines and Spirits. While the domaine’s chalky-clay slopes produce some of the world’s most exclusive rosés, “Whispering Angel” Côtes de Provence Rosé 2014, at $20 per bottle, offers a pleasantly affordable entrée into the highly esteemed brand. Described as a “chameleon,” the 13%-ABV Whispering Angel will compliment any meal, from seafood or steak to barbecue or pan-Asian cuisine.

In addition to its unique terroir of schist and clay soil, Domaine de la Fouquette is known for “green” growing and harvesting practices. The estate’s pale and fruity Rosée d’Aurore Côtes de Provence 2014 boasts intense, complex flavors of citrus. This is the rosé to serve at cocktail hour with nibbles of olive tapenade or for mains like bouillabaisse, the classic Provençal fish stew. The 12.5%-ABV Rosée d’Aurore sells for less than $20 per bottle.

The four Brun brothers, the third generation at the helm of Château de Brigue, blended the latest technology (including the use of screw caps) with the agronomic savoir-faire of their engineer father to produce Brigue Provence Côtes de Provence 2014. This entry-level rosé (12.5% ABV), which retails at $13.50 per bottle, offers notes of lemon, pear, grapefruit, and mineral. The fruity, fresh and balanced wine pairs well with fish, seafood, poultry, stews, fresh vegetables, and other Mediterranean classics.

So the next time you’re debating between red and white, think pink instead, and chose a rosé. A votre santé!
About our Guest Author: 
Nicole Zaro Stahl is a professional business writer based in San Francisco who covers food, beverage, technology, distribution, and logistics topics.

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