In recent years, I’ve come to love something new(ish) about spring—its now-annual ritual of cheery messages from wine publicists about the new crop of rosés. “Time to start thinking pink!” they all say, in essence. And the number of pinks released each April and May now is almost dizzying. Even though I’m an inordinate fan of good rosé, tasting through the gamut available—vibrant, minerally pale numbers from Provence; perfumed Pinot pinks from California; unusual blushes from Italy and beyond—requires some extra deep breaths these days.
This year, the effort was more than a little rewarding. Sources (in terms of both varieties and vineyards) and styles have evolved; new, more elaborate winemaking techniques have been employed in pursuit of refined and sophisticated rosé. It’s clear now that it’s time to stop thinking of rosé as one kind of wine. Price range alone is an obvious clue. On the lower end—sub-$30—are delightful bottles whose job is to be crisp, dry, and flavorful. Moving up from there, some winemakers have dedicated parts of prized vineyards or precious old vines to rosé, delivering concentration, complexity and minerality. Many are layering in techniques in the cellar to amplify the nuances—a variety of vessels, for instance (concrete and oak), and time on the lees to build weight, texture and mouth-feel.
The entire spectrum has much to offer—just for different occasions. If it’s fried chicken you’re having for dinner, a crisp, flavorful sip is just what you want alongside. But wines at the upper end of the spectrum offer all of the serious character you might want to set off a candlelight dinner. I’ve included picks from the whole range here—from the world’s most expensive rosés down to an amazing find from Italy that won’t even set you back a Harriet Tubman (a cool $20).
Definitely time to think pink. Just give it more thought than usual this year.
Adelaida 2021 Rosé Adelaida District, Paso Robles
Made from the Rhône varieties Paso excels with (Mourvèdre and Grenache lead here), this Adelaida rosé opens with fresh earth clinging to wild strawberries, juicy peach, rose petals and fresh-snipped herbs. A gamut of stone fruit follows, layered with more strawberry, a hint of apple skin and orange zest on a palate shot through with lovely texture.
Bouchaine 2021 Vin Gris of Pinot Noir Carneros, Napa Valley
With a little bit of saignée juice (“bled” from red Pinot Noir after a day or so on the skins) added to its intentional fruit whole-cluster pressed for rosé, this lively pink from Bouchaine is robust and long. Delicate aromatics of honeysuckle, strawberry, watermelon and wet stones give way to intense red fruit flavors—Rainier cherry, strawberry, raspberry, cranberry—mixing with a little stone fruit and bright citrus (including a kick of orange peel).
Château D’Esclans 2020 Garrus Côtes de Provence Rosé
Sacha Lichine single-handedly elevated rosé to cult status when he first produced Garrus for Château D’Esclans in 2006. The 2020, a Grenache-based blend from nearly 100-year-old vines, with 11 months in large new French oak barrels, is, if anything, more impressive in its depth and complexity. The nose belies the layers to come, opening with delicate orchard blossom and oyster shell aromas, with hints of exotic spice, red and stone fruits and marzipan. In the mouth, the wine is incredibly creamy, leading with spiced stone fruit compote spritzed with pink grapefruit. For all its power and weight, the wine unfolds with vivacity into a very long, minerally finish.
Château La Gordonne 2019 Le Cirque des Grives Côtes de Provence
La Gordonne takes a serious turn here, with a rosé that’s rich in the mouth. While the aromas might be delicate—blossoms in a slightly salty ocean breeze, white peach and juicy melon, hints of ripe tropical fruit—what follows is intense and complex. Wild raspberry, peach, and clementine are delivered with mouth-filling texture and beautiful tension, the fruit nudged into savory territory by minerality and an herbal quality. Here’s proof that a pink wine can have gravitas.
Château La Mascaronne 2021 Côtes de Provence
French-American former NBA star Tony Parker has teamed up with French entrepreneur Michel Raybier in Château La Mascaronne, as well as some of his projects in Champagne. Leading the lineup for Mascaronne is this beautifully ripe, Grenache-based rosé, which manages to be fresh and delicate for all of its lush fruit. Honeysuckle notes decorate macerated strawberries layered with melon, peach and pink grapefruit, with the barest hint of salinity. The generous fruit on the palate broadens, with cherry, apricot, Meyer lemon, and tangerine zest joining the party. Interesting textures fill the mouth, with a vein of minerality emerging on the finish.
Château Minuty 281 Côtes de Provence 2021
The appearance in spring of the signature deep blue dripping down the neck of Minuty’s 281 (the Pantone number for the color) might be meant to conjure the pleasure of azure waters, but it’s alone reason to celebrate. The Grenache-based rosé (with a little Syrah blended in) is gorgeously balanced between mouth-filling textures and energy. The nose marries flower garden with orchard, honeysuckle and almond layered with pink grapefruit, peach and tropical fruit aromas. Stone fruit stars on the palate—peach and apricot joined by hints of mango, guava and spice balanced by just a touch of salinity. This is a serious wine with an enormous yum factor.
Clif Family Winery 2021 Rosé of Cabernet Franc Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley
This bright, pale—new—sipper from Clif Family is uncommon on two fronts—the fact that it’s made of Cab Franc (picked intentionally for rosé), and that it’s a rosé entirely from precious Oak Knoll vineyard land (the winery’s new Valle di Sotto Vineyard). Both floral and earthy, the complex aromas range from rose petal through dusty strawberry, peach, pink grapefruit and guava all the way to herbs and minerals. Bright citrus pops with mouth-watering acidity on the palate, joining red berry and cherry spiked with lime peel.
Domaines Ott 2020 Etoile Provence
Grenache leads with 80 percent in this complex, mouth-filling, vibrant blend (Mourvèdre makes up the remainder) from the best of Domaines Ott’s vineyards in Bandol and Côtes de Provence—the winery’s second vintage of its top rosé. Delicate scents of an ocean breeze carry the barest hint of wild strawberries and almonds along with grapefruit and savory herbs. The wine explodes in the mouth with fascinating textures (a percentage was aged in ceramic vats) and mid-palate weight—bright for all its complexity and richness. Tropical mango and guava layer under red cherry, berry, and orange peel flavors, with a minerally salinity emerging with pithy, puckery lime zest on a beautifully long and intense finish.
Ehlers Estate 2021 Sylviane Rosé St. Helena, Napa Valley
Here’s a vivid, bright-fruited pink from Ehlers, just north of St. Helena in Napa Valley. Exuberant, briary berry aromas are underlined with whiffs of river stone, with juicy peach and melon and a kiss of passionfruit perfumed with a little jasmine. The palate opens with a burst of fruit—tangerine, cherry and stone fruit—balanced with savory herbs. There’s compelling tension, length and structure here.
Gérard Bertrand 2020 Clos du Temple Languedoc Cabrières
With Clos du Temple, from organic and biodynamically farmed vines in Cabrières, the birthplace of rosé, Gérard Bertrand installed himself as the master of rosé craft. The 2020—a blend of Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvèdre and Viognier—offers up spicy notes and mouth-filling, creamy textures from six months in new oak on the lees. Lovely dense fruit aromas open—spiced peach compote, orange-fleshed melon and tropical fruits and flowers. And on the palate, complex fruit and mineral flavors unfold, apricot melding with savory herbs and toasted spice, evolving into crushed rock on a lingering finish.
Goldeneye 2021 Vin Gris of Pinot Noir Anderson Valley
Here’s a vibrant, juicy rosé from Goldeneye, the Anderson Valley outpost in the Duckhorn Portfolio, that belies its pale color profile. On the nose, a fragrant mixed bouquet anchored by roses wraps around wild strawberry, cherry, stone fruit, and a hint of apple skin. A gamut of citrus brightens the palate, with sweet lemon, puckery lime zest and orangey kumquat layered with white peach and beautiful textures.
Masseria Li Veli 2021 Susumaniello Rosato Salento IGT
This vibrant Masseria Li Veli is a rare chance to taste one of Puglia’s ancient red grape varieties (there are only 25 acres of Susumaniello planted in all of Italy!) in rosato form, at an unbelievable price. A tiny bit shy upfront, aromas slowly open with delicate blossoms, a vein of limestone, and crushed herbs under Montmorency cherry. Bright, straight-arrow acidity punches up pretty fruit on the palate—more red cherry and berry, a little guava, hints of stone fruit and citrus leaning to puckery kumquat.
Paraduxx 2021 Rosé Napa Valley
This Syrah-based pink from Paraduxx—Duckhorn’s champion brand of interesting blends—is exceptionally vibrant and dry. Gorgeous florals lead on the nose—spiced jasmine swirling with peach and strawberry aromas. Citrus underscores the bright palate, with grapefruit and lime adding tartness to raspberry, white peach and grapefruit. There’s lovely weight and texture in the mouth, with a savory finish for balance.
Stoller Family Estate 2021 Pinot Noir Rosé Willamette Valley
Here’s an appealingly pale and fragrant rosé from Oregon’s Stoller Family, its aromas conjuring a whole garden party with a gamut of florals, watermelon, fresh apricot, pink grapefruit, and guava over an oyster shell quality. A vibrant palate buzzes with red berries, peach, orangey clementine and a bit of lime zest.
Tormaresca 2021 Furía de Calafuria Rosato I.G.T. Salento
This Tormaresca rosato, from Puglia, one of Italy’s most important regions for rosé, combines the energy implied in its name with beauty. The blend of native Negroamaro with Syrah and Cabernet Franc opens with earthy freshness—dusty raspberry aromas playing with stone fruit, rose and honeysuckle. Lovely sweet peach fills the mouth, layered with creamy citrus that carries through a more savory, minerally finish.