Rosé has had a bad rap. But has itself to blame for some of that. A couple decades ago, no self-respecting man or woman would be caught dead guzzling glasses of it, because the wine we got stateside was pretty terrible. So the notion of rosé being bad just stuck in our collective minds. “For a lot of people rosé meant sweet, pink wine,” says acclaimed Washington state winemaker Charles Smith. Now, the once maligned rosé has become the best drink of the summer. It’s crisp, light, refreshing and amazing when served cold while at the barbecue or beach. “It’s like sunshine in a glass,” Smith says. And like the summer, it’s uncomplicated and fun. “It’s a wine that doesn’t require a lot of thinking,” says Twin Peaks star Kyle MacLachlan, who also makes his own wine. “As long as it’s got alcohol in it I’m good,” he says with a laugh.
But this love of rosé didn’t happen overnight. A few factors started changing perceptions. As more Americans started travelling in the 1990s to the South of France—where they make excellent rosé in Provence and Bandol—they saw there was more to pink wine than the white zinfandel their mothers drank after PTA meetings. Around the same time American winemakers started stepping up their game and making more refined versions of rosé without all the sweetness. That’s what made it a more refreshing summertime drink. And then, the best part: Rose is a great bargain. You’re able to get really good ones for a fraction of what you’d pay for a nice red. With all these attributes in rosé’s favor, the wider public eventually began to take notice.
“Around 10 years ago is when you started to see women getting excited about rosé,” says Patrick Cappiello, the award-winning wine director at Rebelle in New York City. “It was mainly female driven. Guys still thought that it was for girls.” But a few years ago, he began to notice a distinct change in rosé drinking habits. Guys finally embraced it too and got over the fact that it was pink. “We’ve evolved as a society and we don’t as necessarily associate a wine color to be gender specific,” Cappiello says.
The summer of 2013 is when he really saw its popularity surge. “I started seeing couples sharing a bottle more and more at the table, before that I hadn’t experience that as much,” he says. “We had so many people drinking rosé, we had a shortage of supplies that summer.”
The demand hasn’t abated since then. Now it takes up whole walls in wine shops, bartenders can’t whip up frosés fast enough, Smith is throwing an entire festival devoted to live music and drinking rose at his urban winery in Seattle and you can even buy good pink wine in a forty now.
To get your ready for this summer, we spoke to a few of our favorite winemakers and sommeliers to get their top rosé picks, especially for those who’ll be trying a bunch for the first time. Trust us, you’ll enjoy it. After all, “It’s OK to push your comfort levels with drinking. You might be surprised,” Cappiello says. “And if the color makes you that scared, put it in a red solo cup.”
Onward Rosé of Pinot Noir
“Instantly my favorite new California rosé, it is so soft and velvety with incredible acidity but not too much,” says Helen Johannesen the wine director for some of LA’s best restaurants including Animal and Trois Mec. She also runs one of the coolest little wine shops in the city, Helen’s Wines, which is tucked in the back of the restaurant Jon & Vinny’s. “The balance on this wine is serene. A lot of California rosé can vary stylistically, so it’s hard to really fine one that hits your palate in a great way. Winemaker Faith Armstrong Foster has slayed it once again with this wine.”
“This wine really embodies what’s great about rosé, it’s easy, drinkable and affordable,” Cappiello says. It’s made by two of winemakers from France’s Burgundy wine region who teamed up with a friend from Paris and bought a vineyard together in Provence, where some of the world’s best rosé is made. The blend of Cinsault, grenache, syrah and merlot.
Francois Crochet Sancerre Rosé
“This is rosé made from pinot noir that’s grown in Sancerre,” says Johannesen. “Sancerre is most famously known for their zippy sauvignon blancs, and this rosé definitely shows traces of that zip from the soil structure. YEAH fossils!!! Its fresh, bright, high acid, clean, crisp.”
Forty Ounce Rosé
This may look like a total novelty that would be filled with swill. It’s not. Cappiello partnered with fifth-generation French winemaker Julian Braud on this year’s most anticipated rosé. “It’s a small, family-owned domaine with organic vineyard practices,” Cappiello says. “It’s light, crisp and refreshing. Perfect for when you’re on the beach.”
Mas de Cadenet Rosé
“My go to for any classic-style Provence rosé loves,” Johannesen says. “As opposed to some very well-known brands that are made in mind boggling quantities, this family run estate makes fresh, bright but supple wines that are literally the perfect rosé.”
“This is a rosé made by a mother-daughter winemaking duo in Northern California. They use a blend of grapes you’d traditionally find in France, but make it her in the States,” Cappiello says. “Amazingly aromatic, very floral, very beautiful with a little bit of spice and very light and crisp in flavor.”
Vino Rosé Sangiovese
Charles Smith has so many wine labels, it can be hard to keep up. This wine comes from his Italian line, called Vino. “The heritage of the Sangiovese grape is Italian, but growing it in the Pacific Northwest captures a nice coolness that makes it very very refreshing,” Smith says. This wine features citrus notes and some minerality to give it a nice, clean flavor profile.
Created by a partnership between Twin Peaks star Kyle MacLachlan and famed Washington state winemaker Dunham Cellars, this rosé is a new venture for this more than decade-old label. MacLachlan has become a fan of rosé himself and wanted to add one to his lineup of cabernet sauvignon and syrah. “I was inspired by Bandol in the south of France,” MacLachlan says of his wine that’s a blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Mourvédre. But like his other bottles, he sources and makes his wine in his home state of Washington.
Domaine du Bagnol Cassis Rosé
I get the smallest quantities of this wine, but year after year makes me so happy. If you want to step your rosé game up and get something with a little more finesse this is your wine. Made in Cassis, a seaside town west of Nice, the rosé has the balance of crazy bright sauvignon blanc like aromatics, but then on the palate is not shrill, but just silky and soft.
“Based in Washington State’s Columbia Gorge, James and Poppie make delicious wine,” says Smith about the husband and wife duo behind Syncline Winery. Their rosé is great with food and features notes of citrus zest and watermelon.