Wines of Summer

The sun is shining. The weather is warm. The pool is open. And the wines of summer are chilling.

In one sense, it may be cliché to talk abour seasonal wines. Yet, just as many clichés are founded on general--perhaps even obvious--thruths, so there is some logic to the idea of wines of summer and wines of winter.

With sunshine and warm weather, lighter wines, cooler wines, crisper wines come to the fore. They can certainly be white. Wines made from sauvignon blanc, riesling, chenin blanc, gruner veltliner, muscadet and albarino are among those that fit the bill. But for me, more nights than not my wines of summer are rosé.

Rosé has become popular enough that it is no longer necessary to set up a straw man and knock it down by saying that these wines are not your sweet white zinfandel (though as wine geeks know, there is a fledgling effort to resuscitate "serious" white zinfandel). Rosé is made in all kinds of styles, in all kinds of places and in all kinds of price ranges.

And I drink a number of them. For the last several years, a Virginia rosé has had a place in my fridge...and not just because I believe in supporting local winemakers. Boxwood's rosé has been (and reportedly is again this year) excellent. But there was only a little bit made this vintage, which explains why it is not in the picture above.

I have always enjoyed rosé from Bandol, on the western coast of Provence (not far from the French resort of St. Tropez). The wines there are primarily based on mourvedre, which gives them a gutsiness and a spiciness that I find appealing. Of course I like Domaine Tempier--the flagship of Bandol. And Terrebrune. But they are (relatively) expensive and can be hard to find. Domaine Bunan and Domaine de la Bastide are more affordable alternatives--and Domaine Bunan seems to be widely available.

And speaking of expensive, it's possible to spend quite a lot on rosé. I read recently that a record was set when someone paid $35,000 for a single bottle of rosé from Sine Qua Non. Whatever the explanation for that, it's not just the quality of the wine. Rarity is certainly a partial explanation. But it is possible to make very high quality rosé. No doubt, Manfred Krankl's Sine Qua Non is among them. And the higher end rosés from Chateau d'Esclans. Krankl's former assistant winemaker, Maggie Harrison, makes an outstanding one at Antica Terra.

Until 2012, the rosé from Antica Terra was called Erratica. Because of questions over the rights to that name, beginning with the '12 the rosé's name was changed to Angelicall. Whatever the name, this is serious wine. In essence, it is pinot noir that spends just a little less time on the skins than their wonderful pinots. If you set your mouth expecting rosé, you may find it a foreign taste. But if you free your mind from expectations and just assess it as wine, it is unique and delicious. And because it is made essentially the same way pinot is, from top grapes, it costs more like what we expect good pinot to cost than rosé (~$50 to ~$70). I think of it as my special occasion rosé. And I really like it.

At the other end of the cost spectrum, it's good to have an enjoyable rosé that you can afford to drink everyday. The Domaine de Mourchon is a good example. Top DC wine shops can buy directly from producers and import themselves, saving cost--savings which they can pass on to consumers (a unique advantage). MacArthur is offering the 2013 Domaine de Mourchon Cotes du Rhone Seguret Loubie Rosé for $12.99 a bottle. It's not just affordable. It's really good. Balanced, crisp and refreshing like rosé is supposed to be. But with lovely flavors that belie the price.

And Miraval. What to say. I could describe it as a light, fresh, layered Cotes du Provence rosé from the Perrin family (of Chateau Beaucastel fame). But you might say, "Wait. There's something about that name...." And so there is. Yes, this is the rosé from the partnership between the Perrins and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. It's priced in the low-to-mid $20s. I suppose some of that price may be because of the fame of those behind the offering. But as a number of reviews have documented, it's good--showing well in blind tastings, where critics aren't distracted by the beautiful smiles of Brad and Angelina hovering over the glass. The 2013 has sold out in a number of major markets.

Rosé. A wine of summer. And of anytime of the year you want to bring memories of summer to the table.


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