I've started to become accustomed to "the way of the light jacket". Not just because of my recent trip to San Francisco, but because springtime comes with the need to constantly balance between cool, shady spots and sun-drenched sidewalks. And just like I need a light jacket to bridge from jumbo coat to no coat, I need a wine that can do the same.
Rosé is the perfect springtime wine because it combines the fuller flavor and body we often see with red wines with the crispness and acidity of a white wine. In fact, sometimes rosés are made in exactly this way—by blending red and white wines together. The more common way of producing a rosé is to pick red-skinned grapes especially for rosé and let the juice have just a short period of contact with the skins (we're talking just a few hours instead of the several days allowed for most red wines). The third rosé-making process is called saignee, meaning "bleed" in French, where some of the slightly-pink juice in red wine production is bled off and fermented separately (leaving the original batch with a greater concentration of skins so it results in a red wine with more robus flavor and tannin.) It's important to note that rosé is different from "blush" wine, which has a fair bit of residual sugar left in the bottle. Rosés are usually fermented to be fairly—or completely—dry.
Last year we gathered up some favorite rosés that offer serious flavor without serious coin, and you should seek those at out your best local wine shop, along with these awesome (but pricier) options from California. Today we're in the market for value rosés (under $13) that you can find in your nearby Trader Joe's. While some TJ's stores have specific selections of rosé from local vineyards, we focused on tasting wines that can be found across the country. After opening 8 bottles, we were left with 4 that we'd definitely seek out again.
Read on for the winners of the bunch—some deep in color and flavor, others light and crisp.
Best Fuller-Bodied Rosés
La Ferme Julien 2011 Rosé ($9) from the Rhone Valley has a relatively dark pink color, and smells like strawberries with a hint of nutmeg. But it's dry and tart, with a bit of grapefruit on the finish. This blend of Cinsault, Grenache, and Syrah is flavorful enough to hold its own with a chicken pasta or casserole dinner.
In a somewhat similar vein, the Albero 2012 Spanish Rosé ($6) has a pretty magenta color. The lingering, raspberry tartness from this wine is balanced by a bit more sweetness than La Ferme Julien—perhaps echoed by the sweet red berry aromas. In keeping with the Spanish theme, consider Spanish bites like manchego and/or jamón iberico with this wine.
Best Lighter Rosés
As the days get hotter and you start craving lighter, more refreshing rosé, pick up a bottle of Mas de la Dame 2012 Rosé ($12). This wine, made from Grenache, Cinsault, and Syrah, has a very faint pink color and a nice balance of lemony tartness, a touch of spice, and nice minerality. If you have friends that consider themselves "white wine drinkers", this might convince them to start venturing out. Drink it on its own or use as a sidekick to your next picnic.
Stepping into the New World, the Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé 2012 ($8) from South Africa was another favorite. Striking acidity with a bit of savory character to balance out the fruit caught our attention. We loved the slightly spicy scent that came up later as white pepper on the edges. Remember this wine for Thanksgiving dinner, or serve it with grilled pork now.
Do you buy wine from Trader Joe's? Have any favorite rosé options there to recommend?
Wines provided as samples for review consideration.