We’re “Running for the Rosés” this week in honor of Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, America’s greatest horse race.
My party drink won’t be a mint julep, however. Instead, I’ll be sipping a light, refreshing, delicious pink-colored rosé and pairing it with shrimp cocktail, spring rolls, crab Rangoon and a green salad topped with fresh strawberries.
While Provence put rosé on the map, winemakers in every nation are now crafting this most popular and flavorful dry wine.
Since 2002, innovation, lifestyle changes and savvy marketing have driven a 28 percent increase in global sales. And Americans are drinking the lightly pressed juice like never before, with the U.S. taking over the No. 2 spot behind France as the world’s top rosé consumer.
Four factors are sparking rosé’s appeal.
First, where French varietals like Grenache and Syrah once monopolized the field, entrepreneurial winemakers have added their own local red and white grapes to the mix and expanded the variety of products.
Second, health-conscious consumers have moved from sweet blush wines to less sugary rosés.
Third, rosé is branded as an elegant, affordable wine (average price is $15) good for all occasions, making it alluring to younger drinkers.
Finally, rosé’s crystal-like bottlings can be the prettiest on the planet.
What follows are impressions from a rosé-tasting extravaganza conducted recently at my home with the Wine Goddess (my wife Mary Lee), the Wine Butler (Mike Pigeon) and the Wine Butler’s wife (Judy). All wines are 2018.
Clarendelle Bordeaux, $13: The Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot-Cabernet Franc blend trips the light parade with an enticing orangey-pink color. If this were a perfume, it would be called “Strawberry Fields.” Picks up bright raspberry and citrus notes on the palate. A happy wine for summer.
Commanderie De La Bargemone, Provence, $19.99: This fragrant rosé is bone-dry (13 percent alcohol), nearly colorless, bright in red currant fruits and orange peel, and the result of sustainable farming methods. It’s light and summery. Templar Knights founded the winery in the 13th century.
Backsberg Pinotage, $15: Made in South Africa from the country’s only indigenous grape, this dry, cherry- and nectarine-flavored rosé dazzles with a touch of mint. Colorful (orange with pink hues) and weighty on the palate, it lingers impressively on the finish. A No. 1 patio sipper.
UP (Urban Provence), $19.99: One of my top picks a year ago, this vintage upholds its distinctive stone fruit traits — peach, apricot, nectarine — with tingling citrus acidity and dryness. The gentle peach color is brilliant in a ribbed, prism-like bottle. Character all around.
Cotes de Provence Corail, $17.99: Chateau de Roquefort’s medley of Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Cinsault and Clairette et Vermentino yields an intense pink-cherry color and bright-red berry flavors. It’s mouthwatering. Made for sea breezes, deck dining and gorgeous sunsets.
Les Jeunes Vignes Sancere Pinot Noir, $21.99: A 100 percent Pinot Noir rosé from the Loire Valley, it delivers luscious red berry tastes and grapefruit zest. A notable cherry hue streaks the pinkish color. The mouthfeel is alive from sip to swallow.
LOVE by Léoube, Cotes de Provence, $21.99: A master, Romain Ott, crafts this delicate, organic, fabulously flavorful Grenache-Cinsault mix. The color is so pale you can see through to the backside label. While mildly fragrant, there’s no mistaking the crisp, clean layers of tangerine, nectarine, strawberry and pineapple that make this a complex, celebratory rosé of distinction.
Honoro Vera, Spain, $8.99: Bright and bouncy in watermelon color and strawberry bubblegum flavors, it sparkles in the glass. A fun wine that would likely pair well with pizza, paella and grilled burgers. A good bargain.
La Spinetta Il Rosé di Casanova, Italy, $16.99: Giorgio Rivetti, one of the Piedmont’s “Barolo Boys,” crafts this rare, salmon-colored rosé from two different clones of Sangiovese. It’s stunning in tart cherry pie and suppleness. A rosé that crosses the finish line first in my book. It’s now available in limited supplies in Massachusetts.