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Dan Dawson, Dan the Wine Man: The right rosés
Dan the Wine Man

Dan Dawson, Dan the Wine Man: The right rosés

From the Napa Valley Wine Insider Digest: May 22, 2021 series
  • Updated

Sales of Rosé wines, once considered a "sweet pink drink," have soared, just one of many changes in the wine industry in the past 10 years.  

The Rosé landscape has changed over the last 10 years. A lot. Back around 2010 the “Rosé is more than sweet White Zin” article would have held some interest. No longer, at least not for folks like us who read newspaper wine columns.

I’m almost as excited to recommend wines to pair with Ken’s “Cooking For Comfort” recipes as I am to eat and drink the combinations. Ken’s Europe-trotting trio of dishes has placed a hurdle on my wine pairing track that I’ll explain in a minute. I’ll Edwin Moses that hurdle and set you up with a good drink.

Before my pairings, how about a look at Rosé trends at 2021. This is what I call, “Rosé wines…Dan, your thoughts.”

Another year, another international wine shipping delay. The 2021 edition is especially large and problematic due to Covid and the wine tariff “pause,” a temporary halt on wine tariffs imposed by 45. Huge demand for refrigerated containers and lack of same means you and I don’t get to drink as many yummy imported 2020 Rosés just yet. This leads to my next thought.

In my wine world, it used to be “if the Rosé is over a year old, it’s past due” and if you’re drinking 2019 Rosés now, better hold your nose. This is not true. In fact, I’d say quality Rosé wines tend to taste better with a year in bottle. So many are released too early in order to gain a foothold on store shelves and restaurant lists. Consumers understand this better than they did years back, and it translates to more bargains. For example, I just bought some outstanding 2019 Provence Rosés from Raley’s Napa for under $10/bottle. Check it out.

The days of Provence and domestic Rosés dominating the category are over. Wine regions around the world with a strong Rosé-making history but limited distribution are now available to us. Peter Granoff, owner/partner of Oxbow Wine and Cheese: “We have seen an embrace of rosés from Corsica, Portugal, and other parts of the world, and my sense is that producers in Provence are waking up to the fact that they aren’t the only game in town.”

Finally, allow me to don my wine-buyer hat for a moment. For cold-blooded sales, if I had to rank my criteria for choosing a Rosé for my wine shop, I’d put color #1. Smell, flavor and price follow. Crazy, don’t you think?

The rusty peach skin/dull orange color tells the consumer the wine is bone-dry, high-acid, less fruity, more peppery. Provence-style, if you will. Why it’s the most preferred style of Rosé is a discussion on its own. “In the old days you could just add a little bit of Petite Sirah to bring up the color (blue tint vs. the salmon that Zin or other lower spectrum wines add),” says Chris Dearden of Dearden Wines in Napa. “But these days it seems the lighter the color the better.”

This Week’s “Cooking for Comfort” Food & Wine Pairings

• Campuget Rosé, Costières de Nîmes 2020, $13 at Whole Foods Napa with Albondigas en Salsa.

• Murgo Etna Rosato 2019 ($16 at Raley’s Napa) with Eggplant Caponatina

• Domaine de Fontsainte Corbières Rosé, Gris de Gris 2019 ($14 at Raley’s Napa) with Salade Niçoise

May I interest you in a Sicilian Rosato with your Sicilian Eggplant Caponatina? Murgo Etna Rosato 2019 ($16), made from the indigenous Sicilan grape Nerello Mascalese (ne-RELL-oh mosk-ah-LAY-zay) on the slopes of Mount Etna, Rosatos from here are typically taut and cutting, two appealing qualities in Rosé and ideal foils for the fried eggplant.

Unique in its tastiness, the Murgo has honeysuckle, fresh ginger, tart orange, and smoky flavors along with some of the more usual suspects. Ken takes us to Sicily with his Caponatina recipe and I sit down you down and buy you a drink with the Murgo. Buy it at Raley’s Napa.

My pick for Ken’s Salade Niçoise is neither from Provence nor The Mediterranean. It’s close though – 25 miles inland in the French appellation of Corbières. The wine, Domaine de Fontsainte Rosé, Gris de Gris 2019 ($14) has the perfect earthy orange/rusty peach color and the flavors associated with its hue: faint strawberry, peppercorns, orange zest and lavender. Acidity-check. Peppery spice-check. Texture-check. A perfect compliment to all the tasty stuff in the Niçoise.

You can find the Fontsainte Rosé at Raley’s Market for sure, and most likely at its sister supermarket, Nob Hill Foods. As of Monday it was in Raley’s Rosé section on the lowest shelf, near your shoelaces. $14 is the six-bottle mix and match price so don’t be shy and stock up. That goes for the Murgo Rosato as well: $16 on six-mix and match. Buy three of each, why don’t you? And if you see Tony, Raley’s wine steward, say hi and ask for another recommendation. He loves wine!

I’ve put the Albondigas en Salsa last because, for the life of me, I couldn’t find a Spanish Rosado to recommend. As much as I tried to keep Ken’s regional theme going, there was no Spanish Rosé wine on the shelves I searched that passed muster.

Instead, for a great pairing and hard-to-beat price, get the Campuget Rosé, Costières de Nîmes 2020, $13. A Syrah/Grenache marriage from the South of France, it has the lightest red color, raspberry and strawberry flavors and straightforwardness that makes it easy to like and almost impossible not to. Its frankness makes it the ideal companion for the comforting Albondigas. Buy it locally at Whole Foods.

Keep your eyes peeled for more 2020 Rosés as spring turns to summer. Trust me – they’ll keep on coming. We want them, and the wineries are more than happy to oblige. Heck, I brought home a case of Rosé as a result of column research. Occupational hazard. Take care and, until next week, drink well.

Gin & Juice hitmaker Snoop Dogg is "thinking pink" after launching a new rosé wine line.

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Dan Dawson is a former Napa Valley wine merchant and sommelier. These days he helps small California wineries connect with folks who want their wine but don’t know it yet. You can reach Dan via his website, and @dawsonwineadvisor on Facebook and Instagram.

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