Americans have a truly unique relationship with rosé.
During the 1970s and 1980s, when middle-class Americans were becoming wine-aware for the first time in our nation's history, the wine industry aggressively marketed cheaply made "blush" wines to the masses. Lancers Rosé, Mateus Rosé, and "White Zinfandel" by Sutter Home were just a few of the many wine products that became commercial icons of "big wine" during that era.
I call them "wine products" because many of those bottlings were actually "wine coolers," highly manipulated wine to which flavorings and sweeteners were commonly added.
As a result, many Texans believe that all rosé wine is sweet. I experienced this first hand when I poured a dry rosé wine at tastings in Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas earlier this month. When asked if they wanted to taste a rosé, most of the guests at the tastings told me that they didn't like sweet wine and preferred to avoid it.
The anecdote reveals just how deeply the notion (and stigma) of sweet pink wine is embedded in our perceptions of commercial winemaking today.
That's sad because rosé wine, when made in the traditional style, can be a sensorial game-changer.
I recently experienced such a wine when I tasted the Balandran 2013 Costières de Nîmes Les Mugues Rosé (above), a wine that reaches American soil thanks to Houston wine importer Doug Skopp (check out this post I did on Doug last year).
This was simply one of the best rosés I've ever tasted. And as far as I can ascertain by means of internet searches, ours is the only state in the union where this extraordinary wine is available.
It's from the Costières de Nîmes, an appellation located in Southern Rhône. Information on the exact blend used in this wine is not available online but I imagine that it is dominated by Grenache (which is one of the five red grapes allowed in the appellation's red and rosé wines).
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Of all the rosés I've tasted this season, this was perhaps the most graceful and profound. Its gentle red fruit flavors were balanced by an elegant oxidative note and rich minerality. It was truly fantastic and cost around $20 at the Houston Wine Merchant -- a great value.
The Houston Wine Merchant's buyer Antonio Gianola has what is arguably the best and broadest selection of great rosés in the city right now.
When I visited this weekend to stock up on summer wines, I also picked up a bottle of Domaine Pellé 2012 Menetou-Salon Morogues, a Loire Valley wine made from Pinot Noir, and the Basque country Ameztoi 2013 Txakolina Rubentis, a slightly fizzy rosé made from Hondarribi Beltza and Hondarribi Zuri. They both cost around $20 and each delivered extreme value for the quality and uniqueness of the wine.
There are a lot of great rosé wines being poured around town at the moment. Bistro Provence on Memorial is hosting a Bandol wine dinner on Tuesday, June 3. Look out of the Domaine La Garenne 2013 Rosé Cuvée M (one of the wines to be served that night). I tasted it over the weekend and it was showing great.