Once upon a time, back in the Dark Ages (the 1970s, to be exact), dry rosé was one of the most popular wines in America.
White Zinfandel changed all that. As the White Zin Epidemic spread across the land and ravaged the palates of beginning wine drinkers, dry rosé dropped off the radar. It was the victim of a double whammy: those who wanted White Zin found it to be not sweet enough, while fans of dry rosé didn’t want to be seen drinking pink wine in public, for fear that everyone around them would assume it was White Zinfandel.
The situation finally seems to be reversing in this country, with sales of dry rosé up 30-50% each year since 2006. Americans are rediscovering the glories of dry rosé, a wine with seductive red fruit flavors and a wide range of food matchups.
Provence is ground zero for the production of rosé, with the best known appellation being Côtes de Provence; Chateau du Galoupet, one of the 14 classified growths of Provence, turns out a wine with good acidity and a tart, medium-bodied structure. For those who find the wines of Cotes de Provence to be too dry and angular, those of Les Baux de Provence tend to be richer and have more fruit. Mas de la Dame and Mas de Gourgonnier are two estates worth seeking out. All three selections retail in the $15 range. Bandol, on the coast east of Marseille, has become famous largely due to the efforts of Domaine Tempier. Family-owned since 1834, Tempier produces an intensely spicy and floral style of rosé for $35.
In the nearby Rhone Valley, the best-known region for rosé is Tavel. These wines are dry, medium to full-bodied, brimming with red berry flavors. Producers worth seeking out include Chateau d’Aqueria, Guigal and Domaine de la Mordorée (all around $20).
One Provence wine estate that has been attracting a great deal of recent attention is Chateau D’Esclans, owned by the charismatic Sacha Lichine. His entry-level wine, Whispering Angel, is readily available at $20; the Les Clans and Garrus bottlings can easily sell for $60 and $100 respctively, if you can find them.
Lighter examples pair well with finger foods, grilled vegetables, pasta and seafood dishes. The deeper and richer Provence rosés are a natural with ham, and can accompany sturdy main courses of grilled beef or lamb.