One of the great things about rosé is how good it is with food—whether you're serving a tomato salad or grilled seafood, pork chops or fried clams, your food will likely taste even better with a glass of rosé. And there's enough variety to find a dry pink wine for every mood—you can choose a full-flavored nearly-red grenache-based rosado or a crisp and refreshing, barely-pink option from Provence, or explore a range of refreshing rosé made right here in the States.
We stocked our fridge with pink bottles and did a lot of sipping over the last month in order to find the best everyday rosé: balanced wine that offered fruit and refreshment without any odd flavors (there were more than a few bottles that we cut from the list due to bubblegum or ethanol flavors—yuck!) Here are our favorite bottles of rosé under $15 (with one that's just a buck more that's too delicious to leave off the list).
One note: for the most part, you don't want to be drinking old rosé. Look for the current vintage or the previous year unless you trust how the wine ages. Though some rosés are meant to last, others lose their fruit flavors, leaving you with a mouthful of bland watered-down alcohol. Check the labels before you buy—right now, look for 2011 and 2010.
Two Tasty Rosados from Spain
One of my recent favorite rosés is a full-flavored Rioja rosado: Conde de Valdemar Rosado has a vivid rosy hue and retains fresh, deep flavor. It's a blend of mostly grenache with some tempranillo, and has tons of raspberry fruit—this is a rose for red wine drinkers, with a tart cranberry acidity and verve (and not inconsiderable alcohol at 14% ABV. This is the perfect wine for rare grilled salmon, but it could probably also handle a pulled pork sandwich or chicken shawarma. It sells for around $12.
We could go on a serious Spanish rosado kick; we also really like the cheap and cheerful Cortijo Rosado which is juicy but not sweet, with flavors that reminded us of rose petals and raspberry lemonade. This thirst quencher made from half tempranillo and half grenache is vegetable-friendly (try serving with peas and leeks) and nice with duck rillettes, too. (Around $11)
A Bouquet of Delicious French Rosé
We mentioned the Vignerons de Saumur back when we chose top affordable red wines, and their rosé, the Cabernet de Saumur Rosé, Réserve des Vignerons made from cabernet franc is also a screaming good deal at around $8 at our local store. It's full flavored without being tutti-frutti or sweet, with loads of juicy strawberry flavor, with a creamy texture and a touch of earth and cloves, nicely balanced and dried out by a tart grapefruit side. The acidity lingers, so this wine is perfect with anything you'd serve with a spritz of lemon—try crab cakes or fried clams.
The cute pig on the bottle of Jean-Marie Rimbert Petit Cochon Bronzé drew us in, but the wine itself made us pretty giddy for around $12. It's pearly pink and easily balances tart lime and delicate strawberry flavors—this dry rosé is easy-drinking enough that we almost reached for a pint glass. Serve with terrines or bratwurst on the grill.
Looking for perfect by-the-pool wine? Chateau de Campuget Costieres de Nimes Tradition Rosé is 70% syrah, 30% grenache, and 100% refreshing. This crisp and light rose has stony minerals and loads of fresh berries, along with a delicate floral side. Serve this dry rosé with grilled fish, calamari, or a Nicoise salad. We also like crisp pale-pink Gassier Cotes de Provence Sables D'azur rosé for its light and lemony flavor. This delicately herbal wine has hints of fennel, thyme, and grapefruit peel and tons of acidity—serve it with a rich cut of pork or grilled bratwurst.
Sometimes you see a deep, bright magenta wine and expect it to taste like fruit punch. But wines like Cave de Pomérols Beauvignac Syrah Rosé aren't just juicy. This wine has a lavender/herbal side and a layer of minerality, but lots of acid to balance watermelon-like fruit. A grapefruit-peel edge adds complexity, and the herbal flavors make it the ideal choice to serve with rosemary (or lavender!) rubbed pork tenderloin and light salads.
The rosés of the Tavel region of France tend to be a vibrant and rosy-red, and at 14% alcohol, Chateau D'Aqueria rosé is no exception. This wine is a bit like drinking strawberry-blueberry agua fresca, with hints of key lime and black pepper. There's nothing serious here, just yummy wine meant to be served with bacon wrapped...well, bacon-wrapped anything. Start with shrimp or scallops and go from there.
Another French favorite, Coteaux du Vendomois Lieu-dit Cocagne from the Loire sells for $13.99 but is quite impressive, with a peachy scent and burst of tart grapefruit on the finish. It's made from the pineau d'aunis grape. I recently went to a little store tasting that offered this wine, and almost everyone who sipped it didn't leave until they'd bought a bottle to take home. This palate-cleansing refresher has a little herbal flavor that would make it a nice accompaniment to ham (or cold sliced lamb with mint.)
Don't Forget Italy!
Schola Sarmenti Negroamaro Rose (around $15) from Puglia looks a little like Kool-Aid, but even though it's juicy and fuller-bodied than some, this flavorful (some might say big-boned at 13.5% ABV) rosé is balanced and refreshing. There's a hint of orange zest and maybe a little tart plum, but this stuff doesn't want you to think too hard. Just drink it down with some paella or grilled seafood.
Delicious Domestic Rosé
This year might be an ideal time to explore domestic rosé because of the weather in 2011. As Jon Bonné noted in the San Francisco Chronicle, "On the West Coast, at least, 2011 was a relatively cool year, a struggle to ripen many red grapes. To me, that helps to explain the range of current standouts [in rosé]. If you can't quite ripen red grapes, it's a wise choice to turn them into rosé," he said.
If you like your rosé tart, seek out Fontes & Phillips Panky Rosé from the Santa Ynez Valley in California. It's not wimpy, fruit-wise (or in terms of alcohol, at 14.2% ABV in the 2011 vintage) but it's totally dry, with tons of tart hibiscus and pink grapefruit flavors in the blend of cinsault, grenache, and syrah. Serve with fish tacos, chips, and guacamole.
If you like it fruity, Charles & Charles rosé from Washington State is another popular option. This 100% syrah wine from the Columbia Valley in Washington is playful and pink, and reminded us a bit of kiwi-strawberry Snapple with a little tart pink grapefruit. Serve it chilled way down with shrimp or a club sandwich.
From Oregon, we were struck by the deliciousness of the inaugural pinot noir rosé release from Cooper Mountain Vineyards, which sells for around $15. It's quite full bodied and full of pressed-raspberry and honeydew flavor, with puckering pink grapefruit-like acidity and a touch of gingery spice. It's delicious with Sichuan food (especially dishes with sesame oil) and would be lovely with grilled salmon.
We also enjoyed the fruity Apolloni Vineyards Willamette Valley Rosé, which pops with maraschino cherry and fresh lemon flavors, and a watermelon sour-candy tartness that holds it together. Serve this fruity pinot noir rosé (made in the saignee method with a touch of viognier added after fermentation) with grilled hot dogs or a Maryland-style crab boil, Old Bay and all.
If you're willing to bend your budget by a dollar, we highly recommend the Patton Valley Vineyard Pinot Noir Rosé, which sells for $16. It looks like standard rosé but offers tons of racy acidity and a bit of a prickle on the tongue—think super-refreshing tart raspberry limemade, the perfect refreshment for a hot and humid day. This one's obsession-worthy.
Add Your Favorites!
Of course, this list is just a starting point. What are your favorite affordable bottles of rosé? Let us know in the comments.
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Disclosure: Except for the Cabernet de Saumur Rosé, Coteaux du Vendomois Lieu-dit Cocagne, and Rimbert Petit Cochon Bronzé, all bottles were provided as press samples for possible review; only the best were included here.