It may be hard to believe, but spring is creeping up on us! The time of year when everything looks a bit brighter, we get a pep in our step and we actually venture outside and notice we have neighbors. Another transformation is our appetites and our diets. Most of us will start eating lighter foods such as seafood, salads, fruit and the like. When our diets change, so too should our wine.
One of the greatest spring/summer wines yet oft-forgotten is rose. I’m not talking about sweet, cloying blush wines. I’m thinking of delicious, bright, crisp dry rose. It is one of the most versatile food wines out there and one of the most refreshing to boot. This style makes it perfect as an outdoor wine. I’ve had many a chef that have told me rose pairs well with anything, in particular salads, poultry and light cheese. While there are many rose wines to choose from, I think that few do it better than the French. Often forgotten or misunderstood, rose wines are sure to delight. I will highlight 3 regions and styles that the French are known for.
You can’t have a discussion about French rose without talking about the region Tavel. Located just across the Rhone River from famed Chateau Neuf-du-Pape, Rose wine is the only style allowed to be made in this appellation. A favorite of people such as Louis XIV and Ernest Hemingway, this wine has had a long history. Philip IV supposedly travelled in the area and was offered a glass. He quickly emptied the contents without even getting off his horse. He would later describe Tavel as the only good wine in the world! This wine as made dry, typically has more body and structure than most rose and is one of the few roses in the world that can benefit from ageing, although it is usually drunk young. A great example of this delicious wine is Domaine Maby ($20). The family has been farming grapes for a couple centuries and over time have grown into an excellent producer. A blend of 70% Grenache and 30% Cinsault.
Another famous region for rose is in the appellation Anjou. Specifically Rose d’Anjou. Again, this specific appellation is only permitted to make rose. Located in the Middle Loire Valley in Northern France. Made primarily from the Grolleau grape with a touch of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, this area produces simply delicious wine. Lighter and brighter than Tavel, yet still dry and crisp. Drink this wine young and you will be pleasantly surprised. I recommend Laurent Rose d’Anjou. ($14) Notes of dried apricots and hazelnuts with a fresh finish.
One last wine to keep an eye out for is from Provence in Southern France. Miraval ($26), owned by Brad Pitt and Angeline Jolie and made by the legendary Perrin family, was the highest rated rose of the year by Wine Spectator Magazine last year. The 2013 vintage was already given high scores by Decanter Magazine. The new vintage will be arriving in April. Very limited but worth the hunt.