Think pink - a bumper crop of rosé this year
By Jon Bonné, May 26, 2013
No one in the Food & Wine office could avoid The Pile. Everyone who walked by The Pile commented on it.
"Is there really that much rosé?" Yes. Yes, there is.
"Are you going to taste all of that?" Quite a lot of it, in fact.
"Why so much?" Why indeed, dear reader? In recent weeks, our tasting coordinator and her desk have been nearly buried under a mountain of pink wine. She is just now climbing out from The Pile.
While I've grown accustomed to our annual call for rosé resulting in a deluge of bottles, we faced a different magnitude this year - enough that, even after sorting into our final lineup, I still evaluated more than 120 wines, aided by two intrepid tasters: Paul Einbund, wine director of Frances restaurant in San Francisco, and Kerrin Laz, wine buyer for Dean & Deluca in St. Helena.
Our conclusion was that 2013 may finally have brought a perfect storm of rosé. A number of things have made it so.
Craig Lee, Special To The Chronicle
Glasses of rose wine as seen in San Francisco, California, on May 22, 2013.
To start, there is a theme I've been sounding for several years: Rosé is the hottest thing in wine right now.
Dry pink wine has finally made a case to be all the things people want in a bottle - they're refreshing, affordable and compelling without being complicated. (At least, they want to be; this year also witnessed a return of overpriced and under-fresh bottles, hints of the bad old days.) It is now possible to walk into a restaurant like Local's Corner in the Mission District, and encounter more rosés on the list than reds. It is summer's official drink.
To that trend, add the growing belief that rosé - rather than being a byproduct of red winemaking (see related story) is a serious enough wine to be crafted with care, made from grapes decdicated to that purpose.
But most of all, we're witnessing the first impact of California's bounteous 2012 vintage - a record grape harvest for the state, one that evoked shades of 1997 and a scramble to get fruit off the vine as fast as it could be picked.
With yield projections so wildly off, what to do?
Make rosé, clearly.
With that bounty came a crop of pink wines that were, at least from here, less precise and vibrant than the 2011s. Here was good evidence, perhaps for the axiom that yields and quality have an inverse effect: too much rosé out there means too much wine made with second-rate fruit and cellar work.
After several years of seeing more wines made with the direct pressing of grapes - in which fruit is used just for pink wine - this year the needle nudged back toward the saignée process, which stems from that byproduct approach.
This isn't to dissuade you from thinking pink this summer; quite the opposite. Our results yielded an impressive crop of wines - from here and abroad.
In fact, rosé remains as serious as ever - enough so that I've split our findings into four categories, acknowledging that not all rosés are created the same. Hopefully that will help you find a wine to suit both your taste and the occasion; the perfect pink for sushi isn't necessarily right for ribs.
But do be aware that a flood of rosé has already begun to arrive on store shelves, and that it's subject to the same rules that apply to any wine glut. Choose wisely. And know, incidentally, that many outstanding producers we've liked in the past - from Sonoma's Scherrer to Greece's Gaia - were in perfect form this vintage. While there are welcome new faces, it's also a good year to support some of those who have taken rosé seriously all along.
Such were the lessons I discovered at the bottom of The Pile. May they help to bring you a very pink summer.
With some gravitas
These are wines for a more serious occasion. They don't require a white tablecloth, but they will do justice to nuanced, refined cuisine.
2012 Abacela Umpqua Valley Grenache Rosé ($15, 13.2%): Yet again, Hilda and Earl Jones have nailed a pink effort from their southern Oregon property, one that does credit to their Spanish inspirations. Deeply hued and direct pressed, it surprises; for all the expected size, it bursts with fresh raspberry and apricot. A bigger rosé that's light on its feet.