Although few wine elevate that first hot day of spring quite like a quaffable rosé, savoring life through a rosé-colored glasses is not merely for the bloom of spring and the halcyon days of summer. Fine rosé is an overachiever for the holiday table thanks to its serious paring chops with the smorgasbord of flavors on offer.
I specifically look to French rosé throughout the fall and holiday season for three essential components: herbal complexity, mineral backbone, and bright acidity. Why? Well, the herbal and floral notes are a downright musical pairing with all that parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme we employ throughout the season. The mineral backbone from the limestone-rich soils can stand up to all the hefty, heart-warming fare on the table. Most importantly, the laser-beam freshness from France’s cooler climate lends their rosés ample acidity to cut right through the fats of myriad meats that are often the centerpiece of the meal. With all the wine nerdspeak out of the way, let’s journey to la Belle France and investigate what to look for on the label because French wine geography is just as important as the producer when shopping for la vie en rosé.
Provence is sacred ground for rosé, but the appellation of Bandol is unrivaled, in my humble opinion. If I could only drink one rosé for the rest of my life, it would be from this picturesque Provençal village in the south of France. Blessed with ideal limestone soils, a kiss of sea spray breeze from the Mediterranean, and herbes de provence running wild through the vineyards, rosé achieves its true apex in Bandol. My favorite producers are Domaine Tempier, with history and charm I could write a book about, Domaine de Terrebrune, and relative newcomer Domaine Gros ‘Noré.
The birthplace of Napolean is a unique winegrowing region that boasts an ideal climate as well as complex limestone and schist soils, but what truly sets the island apart are the native grape varieties from this isolated locale. These rosés can deliver bright citrus, red berries, wild herbs, sea spray freshness, and lingering minerality that compel you to open bottle after tantalizing bottle, if you’re not careful. My favorite producers are Domaine Comte Abbatucci, as well as Yves Leccia.
What do Ernest Hemingway, Honoré Balzac, and Louis XVI all have in common? Tavel was their favorite rosé. This southern Rhône village focuses solely on rosé production, and the deeper-hued examples from these sun-drenched vines are bursting with charm and complexity thanks to extended skin contact during winemaking. This French beauty is a favorite among rosé lovers who yearn for a bit more fruit and a hint of tannin in the glass. Tavel is an absolute all-star alongside turkey, dressing, and cranberry relish, as well as any preparation of ham you would care to throw its way. Producers to look for are Château D’Aqueria, Château de Trinquevedel, and Domaine Maby.
A few unicorn wines to also look out for:
Domaine de Fonsainte, Corbiéres, France
Hailing from Languedoc-Roussillon’s Corbiéres village, this delightful rosé is snatched up right as it lands on our shores and is always a gem that overdelivers at its modest price point. Derived from vineyards first planted by the Romans, Domaine de Fontsainte has been crafting world-class wines since the 17th century. A perennial favorite at Saint-Emilion in Fort Worth, it is also one of my go-to rosés for larger gatherings.
Les Pallieres “Au Petit Bonheur”
Crafted by the masterful hands of Daniel Brunier, the genius behind Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s Vieux-Télégraphe, au Petit Bonheur is simply teeming with life and delivers bright citrus, red berry, and a complex array of herbal nuance and mineral backbone that is simply sheer nirvana in the glass. Out of seventeen hand-selected wines for a recent tasting at Saint-Emilion, this enchanting Rhône beauty simply stole the show. I highly recommend grabbing a bottle while it lasts.
I am a sommelier and wine writer. I know what I like, but I continue to discover new horizons. Join me in easing a cork out of an unknown bottle. Discover what speaks to your sense memory. Does that hint of raspberry remind you of berry picking as a child? Does that tomato leaf aroma harken back to the first bite of bruschetta that danced across your palate? Everyone has their “aha” moments, and there is never a wrong answer with wine. Just enjoy. Santé!