Official Rosé Season has almost come to a close, but wait! You can drink it all year round—and even if you think you loathe it, we’re convinced there’s one for you.
I am one of those women who—from May till September—will flip through an entire cocktail list, hemming and hawing, and then through the wine list, only to eventually order a glass of rosé.
Every time, I do this. It’s rather silly, and I do loathe the Cult of Rosé, but the wine—which can be clean, juicy, fruity, dry, sweet, or berry-laden—is simply that compelling for me. I like it with food, I like it with the sunset on my fire escape, and I like it for happy hour.
My partner, on the other hand, loves Syrah, Shiraz and other spicy, peppery red wines. He was certain that he hated rosé until I found one that even he loved: It was a bottle of Côtes du Rhône rosé made in the Rhône region of France, and it was downright meaty. I served it with burgers, and it shone—the rare rosé that could completely stand up to beef.
For a wine from that region, this makes sense. As Karen MacNeil writes in The Wine Bible, “Among the world’s great reds, Rhônes are the most untamed. … The wines’ howling spiciness has no parallel. Rhônes are the wine equivalent of a primal scream.”
“A primal scream!” This was intense territory, so I called Morgan Calcote, the beverage director at Charleston restaurant FIG, who’d schooled me earlier this summer on the breadth of rosé. Did she agree about “howling spiciness?”
She laughed. “People who say, ‘I like Rhône wines,’ they like spice. They like dark fruit, [oak], vanilla, sweeter spices, and baking spices. There’s also sort of an herbaceous, peppery savory spice component.”
So, I posited, if you had a table for two, both parties are having steak, the man only drinks rosé, and the woman only drinks red wine—and loathes rosé—but it’s the guy’s birthday and he wants rosé, what would you do?
“I would go with [a rosé] that has a little more oomph,” she said, whether “from the Rhône or made with Tempranillo [such as Rioja] or any kind of spiced, darker-fruited rosé.” She mused, “The beauty of rosé is that it’s not going to overshadow much. The food will shine through.”
Meaty, spicy rosés can be found in other parts of the Rhône, too, such as the Tavel region, which Calcote says tends to produce “the quintessential example of that; they are so masculine, dark-fruited, and spice-driven”—just like spicier reds like Syrah, Shiraz, Rioja and Zinfandel.
Not in the mood for French wine? Italy has plenty of dark-hued, very full-bodied rosés for you, “to the point where they’re almost red,” says Calcote. The Cinque Terre coastal region is one such region. And of course you can often find a “fuller-fruited domestic rosé” here in the USA, says Calcote.
The wine we both liked was called Domaine la Cabotte (2016) and cost all of $12 at my local shop, but I suggest you poke around, ask questions of your favorite wine shop owner, and see if you, too, can’t find a rosé that brings everybody together.
Alex Van Buren is a food and travel writer living in Brooklyn, New York whose work has appeared in Gourmet.com, Bon Appétit, Travel + Leisure, New York Magazine, Martha Stewart Living, and Epicurious. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @alexvanburen.