[Photographs:Robyn Lee]

As we've hopefully all found out this week, rosé ain't the sweet pink stuff that flooded liquor store shelves in the 70's. Indeed, after drinking our way through a half dozen of them (some great, some not so much), we were really surprised by how dry and refreshing a good rosé can be. Here's what we thought of our bottles.

As a recap, here's what we were tasting:

New York's North Fork (Merlot / Cab Franc / Syrah): Bedell Cellars 2010 Taste Rose ($13).
South Africa (Cabernet Sauvignon): Mulderbosch Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé 2010 ($10).
France (Cabernet Franc; Grenache): Jean-Maurice Raffault Chinon Rose 2010 ($16), and M. Chapoutier Côtes du Rhône Rosé Belleruche 2010 ($9).
California (Pinot Noir; Grenache Gris): Lazy Creek Vineyards Rose of Pinot Noir ($18) and Isabel's Cuvée Grenache Rosé 2010 ($19) from Donkey and Goat Vineyard.

Our Favorites

Tasting etiquette says that you should spit your wine after tastes in order not to cloud your palate or judgment, but where's the fun in that? I'm hoping it wasn't the clouded judgment, but as it turned out, the very last wine we tasted actually was our favorite. The Isabel's Cuvée Grenache Rosé 2010 from Donkey and Goat winery, made with 100% Grenache Gris had the aromas of a nice, fruity but tart desert, like a not-too-sweet strawberry rhubarb pie or a tarte tatin. Some tasters got a few hints of balsamic vinegar in there as well. It's a perfect drink for a warm summer night and we finished off our bottle on a Brooklyn rooftop under the stars.

Fast Food Columnist and all-around francophile John Edwards even suggested that it would be a good substitute for Pernod on the pétanque court if only it were a little less pink. I concur.

We also liked both of the French offerings (the Jean-Maurice Raffault Chinon Rose 2010 and the M. Chapoutier Côtes du Rhône Rosé Belleruche 2010, though we were split on which was the superior of the two. The Chinon had strong vegetal aromas. Some people got bell pepper, others got a whiff of cannabis, along with a few drier fruity aromas like cranberry and raspberry. It was dangerously drinkable (and may well have led to a few future Hangover Helper posts). The Côtes du Rhône, on the other hand, was buttery and round, almost like a chardonnay. Some (like me) thought that it tasted a bit too much of hard liquor.

Odd But Loveable

Mildew and rotting fruit might not be the most appetizing descriptors, but they pretty aptly describe what was going through my nose when I sniffed the Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé 2010 from South Africa. I mean all that in the best possible way. It reminded us of ultra-ripe papaya more than anything, a fruit that often has those musky, slightly rotten aromas (again, in a good way). Other tasters detected everything from pomegranate and cranberries to dirty socks. We all, however, agreed that it went down quite easy.

It'd be a tough match to find any kind of food to go with this bottle, but it'd make a good choice for a mid-afternoon picnic.

Our Least Favorites

Not only was the Lazy Creek Vineyards Rose of Pinot Noir one of the two most expensive bottles we tried at $18, it was also one of our two least favorite. Though the overall aroma and flavor were well balanced and interesting, showing citrus and fresh berry scents, everything was overwhelmed by alcohol. We found it light but harsh.

Coming in at the bottom of the list was unfortunately one from our own home state. Bedell Cellars 2010 Taste Rosé was, as one taster said, "like punch you would make your freshman year of college." It tasted strongly of peach schnapps and vodka—just too harsh. We've enjoyed other wines from Bedell, especially their sparkling wine, but this one is not on our recommended list.

In the end, I came away from this tasting realizing that far from the maligned, too-sweet, easy-drinking image that rosé has cultivated over the last few decades, true dry rosés can be as varied and interesting as any sort of light red or white wine, and just like with all wines, you've got to find out what you like in a drink before you can categorically dismiss a whole style.

What about you guys? Are you rosé drinkers? Did any of the rosés you've tasted recently surprise you?


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