Nothing goes better with a sun-drenched summer day than a chilled glass of rosé. Long the drink of choice in Provence, rosé has become a ubiquitous herald of summer here in the States. I’m not sure how much of rosé’s popularity is due to its pink, much-loved by millennials, hue and I don’t care. Rosé may be bordering on cliché at this point, but it really is a terrific summer sipper.
When my wine guy first recommended a rosé to me around ten years ago, I was skeptical. My only reference point for pink wine was my old pal, White Zinfandel, so I was worried it would be sweet. He assured me it wasn’t, and I took a chance. I’m glad I did. I can’t remember the grape or producer, only that it was from Italy. And that it was delicious, refreshing & dangerously easy to drink.
Because rosé is so popular, our wine club celebrates the start of summer with something we call “Your Summer of Rosé” competition night. Competition nights mean everyone brings two bottles of the same wine wrapped in paper bags. We blind taste the wines and vote on our favorite. Whoever brings the winning wine gets to take home a bottle of everything we’ve tried, thus providing the winner with a “Summer (or at least a month) of Rosé.”
This year we had six entries in the competition and what was most exciting was the diversity of the wines. It’s always tough to choose a rosé winner because there’s almost never a bad wine in the bunch, and wines are often not radically different in taste. This time the wines ran the gamut from palest salmon to raspberry red. Taste-wise we had some very unusual entries. I would be happy to drink any of the wines again, but the bottle that really stood out for me was the Tissot from Arbois in France’s white-hot Jura region. This is a natural wine made from 100% Poulsard. It may not be for everyone, indeed not everyone loved this wine, but I couldn’t stop going back to it. The wine is high acid and minerally with a funkiness that reminded me of a sour beer– in a good way. Another intriguing entry was the Umathum, a biodynamic blend of Zweigelt, Blaufrankish & Saint Laurent. This wine was full of high-toned red fruits with a pleasing acidity and a kiss of tannin.
In the end, the winning wine was the Stolpman, a blend of mostly Syrah with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. This wine is medium pink with tropical fruit and thirst-quenching sour cherries. It’s easy drinking, but with enough complexity to keep it interesting.
If you haven’t jumped on the rosé bandwagon yet, now is the time! You can’t go wrong with any of the wines we tasted.
The wines in no particular order are:
- 2016 Umathum Rosa Rosé, Burgenland, Austria
- 2016 Valley of the Moon Rosato di Sangiovese, Sonoma County
- 2017 Leone de Castris Five Roses Rosato, Puglia, Italy
- 2016 Josh Cellars Rosé, California
- 2017 Stolpman “Para Maria” Santa Barbara County Rosé
- 2016 Valerie & Jean-Christophe Tissot Rosé, Arbois, France
Bonus Wine: My go-to rosé the past few years has been Les Vignerons de Fonté Prieuré Saint-Hippolyte Languedoc Rosé. It wasn’t in the competition because it was the winning wine a few years ago, but at $9.99, it’s one of the best deals around.
If you’re planning a wine competition night of your own, here are some tips to help you get started:
- Have a supply of plain brown bottle bags because some will have logos which would give away who brought which wine.
- Place an empty wine box next to the front door for folks to deposit their second bottles in. The winner will be taking the box home at the end of the evening.
- Keep a stack of plain bags, corkscrews & a bowl for the corks where everyone can easily access them. A hall or entryway table works well.
- Provide bread and cheese or other snacks as well as still or sparkling water, paper and pencils for notes, and a dump bucket for wine guests don’t want to finish. It’s fine for guests to use just one glass.
- Once all the guests have arrived, have someone write a number on each wine bag so you can differentiate. If you are keeping the wine in an ice bucket, slip a clear plastic bag secured with a rubber band over each brown bag.
- Now, the fun part! Taste and evaluate each wine. Our group usually tastes the entire lineup twice.
- To determine the winner, have everyone rank their three top wines. Wines will receive 3 points for each 1st place vote, 2 points for each 2nd place vote and 1 point for each 3rd place vote.
- Competition nights can be organized around any category you like. For instance, a single varietal (favorite Pinot under $30), favorite summer white, favorite pizza wine, etc.
If you host a competition night, I’d love to hear how it goes. Leave a message in the comments section.