Rosé wines not necessarily 'emasculated'

I had a funny encounter the other day in the Wine Cellar.

There was a couple here who were putting a case of wine together and I mentioned, perhaps, that they would enjoy a couple of rosé wines in the case.

She looked interested but he got a little insulted that I would suggest rosé wine. He went on and on about what "emasculated" wines rosés were. He told of these sugary offerings he had experienced in his wine life and would "not ever" consider a rosé wine.

On one hand I had to agree with him; the history of rosé wine on the American wine scene has not been stellar. With the exception of a handful of lovely, dry offerings, we saw a dismal array of sugary, cotton candy rosé wines. These wines lacked any structure at all, finished with a slug of sweetness and could only be drunk over ice.

At the same time, the European rosé wines were completely different creatures. These wines were higher in alcohol, dry, and complex. These were offerings which were meant to be served with cuisine as well as served cool to the touch, not dipped in a bucket of ice.

One of the things to remember about rosé wines (actually, all beverages) is that the colder you serve them, the more the flavors constrict. Therefore, the sticky sweet American rosé wines of the past almost always had the saying "serve ice cold" on the neck or label. Believe me when I tell you that if you did not heed this warning, those rosé wines would and could not be tolerated.

I gave my clients a taste of a dry rosé before they put the case together and they were astonished by the thirst-quenching quality, complexity and refined overall character of the wine. This is the rosé scene today in America for those wishing to step up out of the sticky, low alcohol "blush" wines still being offered for sale.

Rule number one — stick with rosé wines sitting over twelve percent alcohol. At this level you will find the drier rosé wines, those with levels of taste sensations offering varietal character and thirst quenching qualities. I try to stay under 14.5 percent alcohol with rosé wines because as sugar in the under 12 percent alcohol wines will obscure complexity, wines with higher alcohol levels do the same thing.

I think that rosé wines have this window of optimum taste experience — between 12 and 14.5 percent alcohol. The higher alcohol level rosé wines can become "hot" in the nose as well as on the palate regardless of how chilled the wines get. Again, cool to the touch is best for rosé wines. Here is a short list of my favorite rosé wines. All of these rosés are under fifteen bucks per offering:

Jané Ventura Spanish — This is a very nice rosé wine from an old, Spanish producer. A very decided nose of fresh roses and raspberry with a touch of spice from a hint of oak. Dry in the finish and clean all the way through the taste sensations.

Abacela Umpqua Valley Grenache Rosé Oregon — I have to tell you that Earl Jones is producing very nice wines from his estate in the Umpqua Valley. I think this winery is in the top five for quality in Oregon and this lovely rosé made from Granache is simply delicious. Lovely, dry hint of red berries in the nose, spicy and complex with a hint of stoniness, this wine is killer with a variety of cuisine.

Bandiera North Coast (California) rosé of syrah — This is a little blockbuster of a rosé with elegance and long, silken flavors in the finish. Darker than many rosé wines, the syrah comes up nicely on the palate and delivers a wonderful grip on the palate.

Waterbrook Washington sangiovese, Columbia Valley — Rose from sangiovese, the grape famous for Chianti, can be problematic on some levels but this wine is a little silk bomb with enchanting levels of light berry and clean, long aftertastes. The color of this rosé is just beautiful and sits nicely in the glass where the bouquet lingers enchantingly.

All the rosés I have written about come from the lovely 2009 vintage.

Lorn Razzano is owner of the Wine Cellar in Ashland. Reach him at

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