It’s official: spring is here with all its fury of wind, snow, rain, sleet and sun. Sure, most of us are ready for spring after the chill of winter. But really, it’s summer we are anxiously awaiting. In Durango, spring means a week or two of temperatures in the 70s, tulips, daffodils and the drying out of hiking and biking trails. Moreover, it means rosé season!
Over the past several years, the popularity of dry rosé has fermented into staggering growth. Last year saw an increase of 50 percent over 2015, according to the Nielsen Company, the nation’s leader in wine industry data. That implies that people’s fear of pink wine being sweet is fading into history. Amen.
Sure, there are still lightly sweet white zinfandels on the shelves at your local store, but they are overwhelmingly being replaced by drier versions of pink wine. Rosé wines can be made anywhere there are black grapes being grown, which means rosés can come from anywhere across the globe.
Over the past couple years, we have seen New World rosés follow the lead of their European counterparts. Typically, New World rosés have always been full bodied, rich and considerably higher in alcohol, upwards of 15 percent ABV. This may seem appealing, but in actuality, this higher alcohol rosé does not lend itself to being a good food wine nor an afternoon lunch wine. We have recently witnessed several New World rosé producers harvesting their fruit earlier, which translates to lower alcohol contents, now in the 12 to 13.5 percent range – far more refreshing wines.
A large number of New World producers have attempted to emulate the world’s most famous dry rosé, Tavel. In other words, they have sought to make a full-body wine based on high alcohol content instead of one with low alcohol content. Thankfully, New World producers are figuring out that rosés should be lower in alcohol and more refreshing. Save those high ABVs for the big reds accompanying rib-eye steaks!
Tavel is arguably the greatest rosé, and no surprise, it’s from the southern Rhone Valley in France. Tavel is unique in several ways. First and foremost, it is the only all-rosé district in France. Furthermore, if you want to utilize the famous name Tavel on your label, you must make rosé. The dominant grape variety is Grenache, which cannot exceed 60 percent of the blend. While there are over 20 permitted grape varieties, typically only a handful make it into the blend. Additionally, the wines of Tavel typically come from sand- and clay-based soils, which equates to wines of high minerality and concentration. For those that have enjoyed Tavel, it is clear from the glass that the wines undergo longer macerations than most other rosés. This means there is extended skin contact, upwards of 36 hours, which lends to a deeper red hue, light tannins and fuller body. These are serious wines that are best enjoyed chilled and with an array of foods. For those who wish to enjoy something lighter, the wines of Provence are always lighter in color, body and complexity. While this discussion may imply that the wines of Tavel are expensive, in reality, they aren’t too high. Prices range from $20 to $30.
Alan Cuenca is an accredited oenophile and owner of Put a Cork in It, a Durango wine store. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.