Ok, so that’s a pretty catchy title, right? Thanks! I think so too. So catchy in fact, we did a whole event about for our Monthly Tasting Club called “Roses & Rosés,” and we now have it as an offering for our clients. More than that though, it’s during this time of the year that we celebrate both: the beautiful rose and its drinking buddy, rosé. Here in Los Angeles, the roses have been showing off for some time now. Traditionally, June is the month of the rose but we’re halfway through July, and they are still absolutely everywhere! My walks are filled with the sweet, intoxicating aromas of roses, and I can’t get enough. As for its liquid companion, some people think rosé is just for summer and bubbly is best at New Year’s but we know the secret: bubbles and rosé are great any time of the year! I thought I might share a little bit about this amazing flower and then share five of my favorite rosés with you. And since we know that global warming is a thing and summers are hotter than ever, you’ve still got plenty of time to enjoy that beautiful glass of chilled rosé!
The rose is a flower that has captivated our attention for centuries and figures not only in reams and reams of poetry and love songs but also in religion, art, fashion, medicine, perfume, even cuisine! The rose is an ancient flower, grown for thousands of years throughout Asia before it ever made an appearance in the Western world.
Empress Josephine Bonaparte, Napoleon’s wife, was a passionate rose lover and collector and while her husband was busy acquiring an empire, she was busy acquiring property adding 250 different roses from all over the world to the gardens of Malmaison, her Château retreat outside Paris. The famed botanical illustrator Pierre-Joseph Redoute meticulously painted 117 of Josephine’s roses in his landmark watercolor book, Les Roses. His renditions are, even today, considered classic references to the differences in rose types.
To bring order to the wild world of roses, the American Rose Society has classified all roses into two major categories: old garden roses (sometimes called antique or heirloom roses) and modern roses. The old roses are those that were cultivated in distinct classes prior to 1867, and the modern roses are those that followed. Why 1867? Well, that was the year that marked the debut of the hybrid tea rose.
The number of different species of roses out there differs from source to source. On the low end, I’ve seen the number 150 quoted quite a bit while Wikipedia tells us there may be over 300 different varieties. Within those varieties, of course, there are hundreds of different nuances of color and fragrance. Side note: have you ever realized that the darkest purple roses smell of bright citrus? Yep, try it! Such a surprise the first time you inhale. Just goes to show us how much perception influences us and how wrong we can be! Unfortunately, one of the characteristics most closely associated with roses, fragrance, was hybridized out of the modern roses in favor of flower color and shape but hybridizers are recognizing once again the value of fragrance, pressured in part by consumer demand.
There’s an entire other discussion we could have about the black rose, the magical, mysterious rose but I’m going to leave that for another time. I wanted to share some of my favorite rosés I’ve encountered in the last year. Rosés are almost always good value. If you’re being asked to pay $50 for a rosé, think again because something’s off. Another thing to note about rosés is that they’re made to drink young. If we’re in the year 2021, you’re best to look for something from 2020 or 2019, even 2021 if they’ve been bottled. Anything older than a few years will probably not be great as rosés are not made to age. Rosé wine, of course, is also made using red grapes and the color is given by the length of time the juice and skins spend in contact with one another at the very beginning of the winemaking process. We’re used to seeing Côtes de Provence rosés made primarily with Grenache, Syrah, and Cinsault but I’ve been super excited to discover lots of rosés made by grapes we’re less used to seeing in rosés. I’ve shared some of my favorites below, all coming in under the $15 mark.
1. 2019 Liquid Geography Rosado from Olé & Obrigado – Mencía
Made from 100% Mencía, this wine was made to express the company’s gratitude to the many who have helped them over the years. Olé & Obrigado donates 100% of this wine’s profits in equal parts to: the TJ Martell Foundation in its search for cancer cures, Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation to help hospitality workers affected by the pandemic and Wheeling Forward to help people with disabilities experience life to the fullest.
Liquid Geography is a dry rosé made with Mencía grapes from 53-year old vines in the Bierzo region of northwest Spain, a region with a wine history that dates back to Roman times. Mencía is a red grape that is indigenous to the area. Liquid Geography is produced from vineyards owned by the Guerra winery, which farms 1/3 of all the vineyards in the Bierzo region.
2. 2019 Rosé of Sangiovese from Barnard Griffin Winery – Sangiovese
Sangiovese is an Italian variety and in this bottle you can really see the difference in hue to some of those darker rosé tones. Like red wines, rosés can be very light or very dark. Despite its color – again just an indication that it sat on the skins a bit longer – it’s dry, bright, crisp and refreshing with impressive aromas and flavors of melon rind and strawberry with hints of raspberry and pomegranate. This is a super food friendly wine.
Barnard Griffin Winery was established in 1983 by Winemaker Rob Griffin and his wife, Deborah Barnard in the Columbia Valley. The Columbia Valley AVA is home to 99% of Washington state’s total vineyard area. A small section of the AVA even extends into northern Oregon! Because of its size, it is necessarily divided into several distinctive sub-AVAs, including Walla Walla Valley and Yakima Valley. On the whole it experiences extreme winters and long, hot, dry summers. The towering Cascade mountain range creates a rain shadow, keeping the valley relatively rain-free throughout the entire year, so it needs irrigation from the Columbia River.
3. AA Badenhorst 2020 Badenhorst Secateurs Rosé – Mourvèdre
AA Badenhorst Family Wines are grown, made and matured on the Kalmoesfontein farm in the Swartland appellation of South Africa. The property is owned by cousins Hein and Adi Badenhorst (who you see here), who are originally from Constantia. Their grandfather was the farm manager of Groot Constantia, South Africa’s first wine farm, for 46 years. Their fathers were born there and farmed together in Constantia. Together the two cousins have restored a neglected cellar on the farm that was last used in the 1930s to make natural wines in the traditional manner. The aromas are complex red fruits, spice, rose water, and currants. The palate is generous and textured with a long finish.
4. “The Meadow” Rosé from Angeleno Wine – Graciano
Named after a little, locally-known park called “The Meadow” in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles, this perfectly crisp, clean, dry wine is all you need for a hot summer day. This wine is made by my friends Amy and Jasper at Angeleno Wine from the lesser known Graciano grape from Spain.
It’s not widely known but Los Angeles is where winemaking really began in California, not Napa or Sonoma. According to historian Thomas Pinney, commercial winemaking began in California in 1833 when Jean-Louis Vignes built his winery beneath a giant sycamore named ‘El Aliso’ (featured at the center of Angeleno Wines’ logo). Los Angeles used to supply wine to Northern California and the East Coast so when a bottle said ‘California Wine,’ people knew it came from Los Angeles. “The most striking fact about the history of winemaking in Los Angeles…is the completeness with which it has been forgotten,” he says.
5. 2020 Côte des Roses Rosé – Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault
Ok, so this is one of those rosés from grapes you’d expect: the typical blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Cinsault by Gérard Bertrand. It’s also a bottle you can find anywhere and everywhere and yes, it’s in a pretty bottle and yes, it’s always a crowd-pleaser. Its originality lies in its original rose-shaped bottle, created by a young designer from Ecole Boulle. The rosé is a soft, pale, brilliant pink with bluish tints developing over time towards more orangey nuances. The bouquet releases aromas of summer fruits, cassis, and redcurrant with floral notes of rosé and hints of grapefruit. On the palate, the impression is fresh and full, with great aromatic persistence and balance.
So there you have it: a few rosé treats for your next patio or porch party. All can be found at Wine.com but I also strongly encourage you to purchase directly from the wineries if you can, or from small retail shops in your neighborhood. I hope you enjoy the suggestions and please let me know if you have comments. And, of course, let us know your favorites.