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29 May 2024 | Randy Kemner


We had our annual South-of-France Rosé Fest on the first Saturday in June, as we always do.  We served potatoes and carrots, lamb and home-made aioli alongside a dozen new releases of the 2023 vintage.  92 people showed up and took home hundreds of bottles of our kind of refreshing rosé that weekend.  (You can see Samantha Dugan's tasting notes at the end of this article.)

I’ve been hearing that rosé sales have taken a deep dive since the covid pandemic.  None other than importer Mary Taylor told me she dumped her rosé products due to the plummeting demand of the market.  Other suppliers have offered deep discounts on last year's wines due to oversupply.  On the surface, this sounds bad for rose.

What's going on here?  Clearly at The Wine Country, this isn't the case.  Perhaps the rose picture is not as glum as others are saying it is.  Maybe we've always known something that the other guys don't know about rose, like seasonality, style and price.

As I see it, there are two reasons rose sales have been off around the country.  The first is that most of the country's retailers, restaurateurs and wine reviewers don’t take rosé as seriously as we do, otherwise they wouldn’t be so sloppy in their selections.  I warned my colleagues in the wine industry that flooding the market with mediocre pink wine would ruin the category as what happened with Merlot in the early 2000s.  And it appears they’ve gone and done it anyway, and now it appears that some people have burnt out on bad rosé.

Let me explain.  As the popularity of rosé wine exploded in the past twenty years, a predictable problem was about to crop up.  When Cote de Provence and Bandol rosés were all the rage among all the pretty people living in the Hamptons—which were the influencers of their day—everyone wanted to get in on the rosé thing.  Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie made one.  A high-priced invention called Whispering Angel was mass-marketed all over the country.  Before you knew it, thousands of rosés came from everywhere--the U.S., Italy and Spain, mostly--and retailers didn’t care whether they met our “refreshment standard.”  If it was pink, they bought it.  An ocean of mediocre anything is not good for category building, and for far too many retailers and restaurateurs, rosé was just rosé.

But we’ve always known differently.  There are rosés from many places, and they are not close to all being the same.  I knew early on that if we selected the right style of rosé--those in the Cotes de Provence style--providing refreshment above all, we might attract an eager clientele for them. 

We quickly discovered that people would drink these kinds of rosés copiously, all-year round, but the high season started with the time change in March and lasted until mid-September when the evening light became dark when you got home from work.  Rosé is a wine for the light.  People would put one or two bottles in their carts in January, but they were putting in dozens of rosés by June. 

I soon noticed that our south-of-France rosés tasted exceptional with the Mediterranean-ingredient foods they were made for, that many of us were now eating.  Mediterranean rosés soared with foods made with olive oil and garlic. 

I had learned about this style rose during my time distributing Kermit Lynch Imports in the early 1990s.  Later, during the first decade of our store’s existence, I also discovered there were wonderful crisp rosés from the north of France, such as Sancerre rosé made from Pinot Noir, Beaujolais rosé made from Gamay, and Chinon and Bourgueil rosés made from Cabernet Franc.  In some cases, they were even more refreshing than their Mediterranean counterparts due to their cooler climate’s acidity, but they possessed a different character than the Grenache/Cinsaut rosés of the south.  A rosé was not a rosé.  Mediterranean rosés didn’t taste good with buttery foods, and Loire rosés didn’t taste good with olive oil.  Once our customers learned that little tidbit of food logic, their rosé satisfaction shot up even more.

The second reason rose sales were off in the past couple years had nothing to do with the refreshing beverage we've come to love.  Supply disruptions from the Covid shutdown are still being felt in supplier warehouses after the last two years’ late arrivals missed rosé’s high summer season entirely. The jiggered sales cycle resulted in bad numbers because a whole lot of roses were released in the fall when demand was low.  And when the next season started, suppliers didn't have new roses on hand; they had to sell their year-old versions, and a lot of them were beginning to tire.  It’s no wonder that the combination of too many mediocre rosés and lousy seasonal demand resulted in a drop in sales around the country.

So rosé is dying, is it?

Rosé is alive and well at The Wine Country.  And it will continue to be if we can get our hands on enough quality rosé to satisfy our year-round customers.  Rule #1: Roses need to be refreshing above all else.

Here are the standouts from the tasting with Samantha Dugan’s wine notes:

2023 Isle Saint Pierre Medierranné Rosé $12.99

To call this wine a “kitchen sink Rosé” is sort of an understatement. Made from Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Vermentino, Colombard, Petit Verdot, Arinarnoa, Carmenere, Tannat and Syrah, all sustainably farmed in the south of France. A rosé that is always a hit as it delivers way more wine than you would expect for such a great price. I first tasted samples of this wine way back in early January and it was one of the wines that was showing really integrated and together at such a young stage. Nice floral notes with some berry like pops of fruit. Dry and easy drinking this is a buy by the case kind of rosé to have on hand all summer long.

2023 Chateau de Campuget Costieres de Nimes Rosé, Rhone Valley  $11.99

Made from primarily Syrah with some Grenache added for racy, ripe fruit. Always a rosé that is ready for whatever dish you throw at. Generous, vibrant, juicy and with plenty of zip on the finish.

2023 Le Loup Dans la Bergerie Rosé, Languedoc  $12.99

Domaine L’Hortus has a very long history here at The Wine Country and is one of the Roses we stock year round when possible, so this fun little addition to their line had to join the team as well. All sustainable fruit from just outside the Pic Saint Loup appellation, and would you just look at that adorable label! Easy drinking, plenty of strawberry and hints of something floral. This is one of those, “Is the bottle gone already?!” Roses, so make sure you grab more than one.

2023 La Fouquette Cotes de Provence Rosé  $18.99

One of our yearly favorites, we were very happy to see that this vintage is true to what we always love about this wine in that the aromas remind us so much of Sauvignon Blanc. Passionfruit, citrus, some flowering herbs and a tingling, crisp finish.

2023 Chateau Saint Pierre “Eden” Cotes de Provence Rosé  $18.99

I was worried that all the charm for this wine might come from the bottle and not what’s in the bottle but I should have known better considering we have stocked Roses from this Chateau for many years now. In fact I like the extra bit of power you get in this bottle compared to the Tradition from the same estate. Made from Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault and aged in stainless steel which always helps retain freshness. They name this “Eden” in tribute to the Garden of Eden and that is what this wine reminds me of, a garden. Ripe peach, flowering orange blossom, fresh cut herbs and cantaloupe. Nice, full texture with a longer, fantastically fruit driven finish.

2023 Domaine Triennes Provence Rosé $16.99

This label is a collaboration between two Burgundian legends, Jacques Seysses of Domaine Dujac and Aubert de Villaine of Domaine Romanee-Conti, so there are some brilliant palates behind this super-value estate. Made from Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah and Merlot this is an exuberant Rose with great texture. Playful fruit upfront, some spice along with a pop of citrus sprinkled melons. Soft in the mouth but with just enough acidity to make everything nice and crisp.

2023 Les Vignerons de Grimaud “Fleur de Provence” Cotes de Provence Rosé  $16.99

Made from 60% Grenache and 40% Cinsault, this light bodied but fully flavored dry Rose. You are first greeted with juicy red fruit but it quickly gets enveloped in greener, more herbal notes. Lacy and light on the palate with a nice, fruity, but dry finish.

2023 Chateau Saint Pierre “Tradition” Cotes de Provence Rosé $16.99

This wine usually comes in the curvy bottle that is so popular in the south of France Roses but because of bottle shortages they had to bottle it in a more mainstream bottle. Makes no difference in the taste, in fact I like this vintage better than I have liked the past few. Made from Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah and produced by the 4th generation in the family. One sniff of this summery wine and you are nearly transported to a beach in the French Riviera. Notes of fresh peach, citrus and something slightly salty, almost oceanic. Classic on the palate with a light mouthfeel and refreshing finish.

2023 Bergerie L’Hortus Rosé, Languedoc  $15.99

So tropical! We were blown away at how generous this Rose is showing this young, and at this price. So much stuffing here. Explosive aromatics, ripe peach and passionfruit, herbs and tangerine. The palate is soft and almost too agreeable, this one begs for another bottle to be opened. One of my favorite vintages from this long-time favorite.

2023 Chateau La Canorgue Luberon Rosé, Rhone Valley  $18.99

Each vintage, La Canorgue rose is one of our favorites, grown in a part of the Rhone Valley whose soul is still provençale.  The beautiful chateau pictured on the front of this label is a drawing of the winery and not only is it one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.  The movie A Good Year was filmed there. We are massive fans of Chateau La Canorgue, their stunning white wine is something not to be missed, and this rosé is yet again another big personality for not too much money wines. Made from Biodynamically grown Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah, this wine is showing some serious fruit right out of the gate. Intense with berries and melon, a youthful, nearly bubblegum like note on the nose suggests sweetness but this is a dry rosé without question. Stone fruit, plums and anise on the palate with a long, succulent finish. I suspect this rosé will be drinking brilliantly all year long.

2023 Mas Champart Saint-Chinian Rosé, Languedoc   $17.99

I confess that it has been a few vintages since we stocked this wine from Languedoc’s Mas Champart. I think we had wonky vintage or two that took this Rose off our radar but man, am I glad it showed up again. Made from Cinsault and Mourvedre this Rose leans more to the meaty style which is becoming more and more in favor the past couple years. Very floral on the nose with a blast of fresh melon and wild strawberry. Nice and weighty in the mouth, fleshy, staining and quite long this is a Rose that wants to be served with meats or heavily seasoned dishes. So much fun to drink.

2023 Chateau Vannieres Bandol Rosé, Provence  $30.99

The star of the show at this year's South-of-France rose fest is the sublime Vannieres Bandol rose. The wine more than lived up to Bandol's lofty reputation as the finest of all rose Provence appellations. Richly textured, beautifully balanced, the wine has the extra gravitas that makes you know you are drinking something very special.

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