It’s been a long time since rosé’s old marketing slogan, “Real men drink pink,” made any sense. Well, yes, of course they do. These days, the arguments run to the beauty of Pinot Noir as the foundation variety, or the superiority of a traditional Grenache blend; a preference for fruit-forward West Coast rosés or minerally pinks from Provence; and which Thanksgiving sides work best with rosé—because it’s truly a year-round tipple now. Thanksgiving aside, though, now is the time of year the new “crop” is released, and we can’t resist the chance to get serious about tasting, to spot the best new bottles.
Paul Chevalier takes rosé seriously too. As Vice President of Château d’Esclans, Chevalier is champion of the pink that arguably launched the movement 15 years ago: Whispering Angel, which went on to become the leading rosé seller in the US. And under the winemaking hand of rosé visionary Sacha Lichine, Château d’Esclans added upward to its pink portfolio—with Rock Angel, Château d’Esclans, Les Clans and finally Garrus, the first rosé in the world to break $100.
Chevalier attributes the early success of Whispering Angel, and the rosé renaissance it inspired, to its inclusive, uncomplicated style: “extremely fruit forward and drinkable, yet dry and very satisfying”—to say nothing of its striking color. But Lachine, with the help of “French flying winemaker” Patrick Léon, didn’t stop with that success. They introduced innovative winemaking techniques and invested in technology, Chevalier says, “that has ultimately led to vast improvements in quality and enabled the creation of top-tier, premium cuvées of rosé, which are stunning wines.” Do they deserve the three-figure price range? “If rosé Champagne merits its luxury status,” he says, “then why not a wine like Garrus, for example, which has been dubbed ‘The greatest rosé on earth’ by the wine critics?”
On the question of Provence vs. the US, Chevalier is unapologetic. “Whispering Angel has set the bar as today’s world-wide reference for Provence rosé,” he says. “The region has the perfect climate, rocky hillside vineyards rich in clay and limestone, and the right grape variety [that would be Grenache]—essential components contributing to our rosés’ pale, dry and crisp characteristics.” Whether their California counterparts match up? We’ll let you be the judge of that, with these beauties from both sides of the pond.
Arcudi 2020 Terramagra Rosé Russian River Valley, Sonoma County
This rosé of Pinot Noir from Arcudi offers up an entire rose garden on the nose, with layers of watermelon, strawberry and grapefruit unfolding underneath. Tangy and textural, with satisfying weight, the palate is rich with red raspberry fruit. This is a complex rosé—fresh but also lush and long.
Benovia 2020 Rosé of Pinot Noir Russian River Valley
Honeysuckle and strawberry on the nose of this appealing Pinot rosé from Benovia are balanced with a faint salinity and earthiness. This one is dry and refreshing, with red berry flavors running all the way to cranberry joined by peach skin, a hint of guava and tangy grapefruit. Good weight, texture and depth from fermentation in older oak barrels are balanced by bright acidity, keeping the wine lively.
Château d’Esclans 2019 Les Clans Côtes de Provence
This impressive rosé in the d’Esclans lineup picks up weight, texture and mouth-feel from time in large oak barrels. Exotic tropical floral aromas open, with spicy undertones layered with juicy melon and guava. Full-bodied, rich and intense, the palate is a complex mélange of grapefruit, clementine, ripe peach, tropical fruits and crushed rock, vivid with tension and lingering on an endless finish.
Château Minuty 2020 281 Rosé Côtes de Provence
Made from a single plot of old Grenache, the latest “281” from Minuty is a rare treat. Florals from a hot August night mix with complex aromas of peach, apricot, guava and citrus. Cranberry flavors and tangy citrus zest are delivered with beautiful tension and texture on a concentrated palate, sliding into delicious minerality at the end.
Chêne Bleu 2020 Le Rosé Vaucluse
Grenache leads in this richly textured pink from perennial favorite Chêne Bleu (that last a result of a little oak aging). Exuberant florals swirl from the glass, with watermelon and fuzzy stone fruit joining in. Pretty red berry fruit flavors are punched up by puckery citrus zest and stony underpinnings, with orange lingering on the finish. This is precisely what we all picture on that café table in the south of France in the summer sun.
Donum 2020 Rosé of Pinot Noir Carneros
The aromas on the nose of this Donum open with a beautiful trifecta of florals, minerals and fruit. Spiced honeysuckle sinks into wild strawberry, watermelon and nectarine, underlined by oyster shell. The palate virtually pops with vivacity; grapefruit and lime zest run counterpoint to red fruit and peaches, with orange zest tapering on the finish. The wine is classically dry and refreshing but generous.
Dutton-Goldfield 2020 Rosé of Pinot Noir North Coast
This pale salmon beauty from Dutton-Goldfield offers aromas of red fruits, peaches and bright clementine perfumed with honeysuckle. There’s great balance here between richness and brightness, with juicy watermelon, cherry, strawberry and puckery citrus flavors delivered with intriguing texture. That last might be a product of old-fashioned whole-cluster foot treading!
Gérard Bertrand 2019 Clos du Temple Languedoc Cabrières
It’s safe to say that Gérard Bertrand’s Clos du Temple is now the most exclusive rosé in the world and it’s absolutely lovely. Vines with 80 years of memory and 6 to 8 months in new French oak give this pink great depth, concentration, complexity and texture, and yet the wine is fresh. Perfumed with florals and earth, the nose hints of wild strawberry, stone fruit, melon and minerals, with white peach and pink grapefruit following on the palate, which evolves into a long, savory finish offering just a hint of salinity.
Hartford Court 2020 Rosé of Pinot Noir Russian River Valley
Dusty rose marks the nose on this pale beauty from Sonoma’s Hartford Family Winery, with wild strawberry joining in the perfume. This one is dry and refreshing yet generous, its red fruit running from raspberry to cranberry, ripe peach, grapefruit and tangerine zest all underlined with minerality.
Le Clos Peyrassol 2020 Côtes de Provence
No collection of the world’s great rosés would be complete without the latest from Commanderie de Peyrassol, an estate founded in the 13th century by the Knights Templar. The 2020 opens with a very delicate nose, with whiffs of flowers, red berries, fresh peach and wet stones. A beautiful palate follows, full of stone fruit balanced with zesty grapefruit and lime. This is a rosé marked by elegance and generosity.
Sullivan Rutherford Estate 2020 Rosé Rutherford, Napa Valley
Spicy florals pop on the nose of this appealing pink from Sullivan, along with clementine and subtle red berry aromas. The palate is refreshingly dry, with lovely textures. The spice theme continues, seasoning a gamut of citrus, more red berry notes and a touch of orange zest on a bright finish.
Tablas Creek Vineyard 2020 Patelin de Tablas Rosé Paso Robles
This pale, Provence-like blend from Tablas Creek (Grenache, Mourvèdre and Counoise) is dry and mouth-watering. Strawberries with a little dust still clinging open on the nose, layered with stone fruit, spice, faint tropical flowers and wet stones. Crisp and intense, the palate is citrus-driven, with grapefruit, lime and orange peel broadening to red berry and white peach flavors, with just a touch of salinity on the finish.