By now it’s become desultory. You’ve read a story like this one a thousand times before. Come springtime, it feels like every last website, from mainstream to niche to content marketing hustle, comes out with a poppy vernal riff on the Best Rosés To Drink Right Now. You can set your watch to it. So why bother writing yet another version of the exhausted trope, right now, for my beloved Sprudge?
Because rosé is good. Lost in the mindlessly indulgent bruncheon tropes of today’s rosé coverage is the inalienable truthism, truer than true, that rosé as a wine category contains delicious multitudes. It is not just throwaway ice cube d’Aix plonk. Rosé is a party; it’s also the after-party, and the intellectual contemplation session the day before. Rosé (and Rosato, and whatever we’re calling weird red-white mixes that wind up landing as rosé) can make for some of the most intriguing, delicious wines on this green earth, in any category.
And so, here we are, getting in on the spring schtick, but with a list of wines that I personally love deeply. They represent a broad spectrum from the field of rosé, from all parts of the world, including New Zealand—yes, New Zealand, there is rad rosé from there. Read on.
Kindeli ‘Verano’ Rosé
The knockdown breakout star of Brumaire 2019, New Zealand’s Kindeli Wines have become hotly sought after by wine drinkers around the world. Winemaker Alex Craighead makes utterly natural wines using mostly own-farmed fruit, with an emphasis on cleanliness and meticulous practices resulting in some really stirring beverages. “Verano” is a rose by way of a simple red and white blend, built on a grab bag of grapes including Riesling, Pinot Noir, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, and Syrah. Josh Eubanks from Percy Wine Imports calls these wines “a statement of one of natural wine’s most important values: absolute aesthetic freedom” and damn if you can’t taste it.
Cantina Giardino Rosato Frizzante
Benchmark go-to pleasure juice, a hearty gulping wine that’s like a gateway drug to the more contemplative offerings within the Cantina Giardino range. Their Rosato Frizzante is made from 100% Aglianico, gone troppo in the ancestral style (“frizzante” is like the Italian version of “pet-nat”). It tastes like red Mike & Ikes with a Negroni sidecar, yum yum. I once was given the great honor of curating an all-Italian beverage selection at a dear friend’s pre-wedding getaway bacchanal in New Orleans; we drank a very large bottle of this wine inside of Central Grocery alongside multiple muffalettas, and even this much typing about it has me overcome with emotion and nostalgia and outlinks.
Benoît Déhu “La Rue des Noyers”
This list will not be all glou-glou and jaja. There’s plenty of rosé like that, but very little rosé like this, the utterly transcendent and microscopically available La Rue Des Noyers rose from frankly slept-on Grower Champagne hero Benoît Déhu. I adore the saignée style of Champagne making, but if pressed to drink just one saignée until the sweet release of death, it would assuredly be this one. Polaner Selections has a great deep dive on what makes Déhu so special—mindful minimalism, local wood barrels, tradition and innovation, all good things—but what whomps me about this wine (beyond, you know, tasting like God’s pizza bagel slathered with lemon honey marmalade) is its sheer depth: this is snowing in January rosé, steak dinner rosé, roaring fire rosé. It is not candy fluff, and it’s most deifnitely not brunch wine, unless you’re having A Very Serious Brunch, which is rather not the point of brunch at all.
Lisa & Bertrand Jousset Exile
Which is not to say I’m anti-brunch! Brunch is fine. There is such a thing as a really good brunch wine (you mean riesling?) and I don’t just mean riesling. Wine can be fun. Remember fun? Here we have a fun wine, yummy Loire sparkling Gamay that knows how to have a good time without thinking too hard about it, which I assure you is an underrated trait. It’s also like $25, which is great; maybe you’ll pay $40 to drink it outside on a patio with some friends, alongside eggs and toast and hot sauce and fresh fruit, and it will be worth every penny. Tastes like sakura jam and grilled bread and fresh air.
Andrea Occhipinti “Alea Rosa”
People (especially wine people) are forever attempting to outdo each other with tasting note esoterica. I am hopelessly guilty of this; I mean, look at the paragraph above this one, in which I told you a wine tasted like “sakura jam and grilled bread”—what does that even mean? Most wine notes are nonsense and are meant primarily to heap authority and project taste and good graces upon the ego of the writer (which is kind of traditional wine culture in a nutshell, but I digress). All that to say, one of the single most profound “this tastes like that” moments I have ever had in my entire life came from Andrea Occhipinti’s gorgeous “Alea Rosa,” which is an Aleatico Rosato from the Lazio. It was probably six or seven years ago, and as I tried this wine for the first time at a restaurant it was like stoner synesthesia: this tastes like cannabis! There is this dank, green, ganja tincture thing about this wine that defies explanation, but if you’re inclined to enjoy the combined glories of apero hour and 4:20, I’m telling you, this is the greatest pairing in the history of vinifera and sensimilla.
Olivier Horiot “En Barmont” Rosés de Riceys
Let’s settle down now. Rosés de Riceys is very serious wine for very serious people and should not be made the subject of fun. Yes, it’s from Champagne, but it’s not, you know, Champagne, nor is it Coteaux Champenois—it’s a very special ancient sub-division of the Aube, on the border with Chablis, and one of the only AOC in all of France dedicated to rosé production (although, confusingly, the villages of Les Riceys is also home to AOC Champagne and AOC Coteaux Champenois designations). These are big, broad, burly still rosés, spiritually more like red wines—built for cellaring, and capable of sublime depths.
Literally everything Olivier Horiot makes is great—his Champagnes are extraordinary, particularly the Cuvee “5 Sens”, which includes the old school Champagne grapes Arbane and Pinot Blanc alongside the holy trinity of Chardonnay and Pinots Noir and Meunier. But the Rosés de Riceys “En Barmont” is a scene-stealer, a musky head shop of patchouli and sandalwood, cut with pungent tangerine peel and blood orange. This is one of those “one for now, one for later” bottles, which is 100% something you can do with the right rosé. This is the right rosé.
Travis Tausend “Agori”
I’ll keep this short and sweet: Tausend‘s “Agori” is lovely, luscious juice from the Adelaide Hills, home to a growing coterie of world-class winemakers. Merlot and Pinot Noir from an up-and-coming winemaker, drink it with a chill in the heat with friends. Stunner.
Leave the Susucaru to the ghost of Action Bronson. If there’s one nat-nat Instabeast trend drinking rosé I can’t live without, it’s Eric Pfifferling’s incomparable L’anglore “Tavel”, a stunningly gorgeous wine one from of the most consistently excellent natural winemakers in France (who only very accidentally happens to be the subject of obsession and quest for wine drinkers around the world). We visited Pfifferling a few years back here on Sprudge, and the cult around his wines has only grown since. Tavel is another AOC dedicated entirely to rosé and was the preferred plonk of interwar period Paris—Hemingway, Balzac, and Jay McInerney are all fans, so uh, complete this sentence however you choose.
L’Anglore’s Tavel might be the perfect wine: both gulping and moreish yet exquisite and profound, a wine of pleasure and of contemplation. I want to drink it every single year in the liminal moment between winter and spring—say, March 14th, or thereabouts—where the world is still rainy and waterlogged but there is beginning to be the theoretical hint of the promise of spring. I can’t outlink this wine to a shop, sadly, because it’s so highly sought after it sells out immediately. Last year I scored from Ardor Natural Wines in Portland, Oregon, and have seen it elsewhere at other similarly very good wine shops, but only rarely. This is a see-it, buy-it kind of wine.
Arnot-Roberts Touriga Nacional Rose
Hot take: the Arnot-Roberts Rosé is actually the best wine they make. No, it is not a $100 + austere Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast you shouldn’t drink for like a decade, or some whopper of a single-vineyard Cabernet lurking on a wine list for $200. The Touriga Nacional rosé is like the perfect under-$30 California blush, built on a variety better known in Portugal, where it’s one of the five primary grapes used for Port. Mssrs. Roberts and Arnot source theirs from the Clear Lake AVA, which (checks notes) is like an hour north of Healdsburg, tucked up adjacent to the vast Mendocino National Forest. It shouldn’t work, but fuck, what a great wine—like cotton candy and li hing mui powder, just wildly tropical, a damn camp collar vacation shirt of a wine, but also incredibly refreshing to drink, perhaps not unlike a glass of Hawaiian Punch. It’s so good. I’m not sure it’s particularly cool of me to unabashedly stan Arnot-Roberts here in 2021, but whatever. I love this wine.
Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé
Yawn! What a boring way to end this hopefully unboring listicle, with the most Kermy of all Kermit Lynch wines, an entire chapter in the still-beloved, occasionally problematic Kermit Lynch book, a $50 rosé for whom the very concept of “high-end rosé” was coined. And yet… when was the last time you had some? It’s not at the hip natural wine shops; you’re more likely going to find it at the like, older person’s wine firm in your city or town, or else at BevMo, because this is the sort of wine they sell at BevMo.
And yet…you should drink it ice cold, and it shouldn’t be the only thing you drink that day—there should be more good things to drink after this, but the Tempier Rosé is what you drink first, perhaps as guests arrive. This wine has this inarguably patina of grace and sophistication, as though a thousand little fêtes before yours were fueled by the very same stuff you’re drinking right now, and those were damn good times, so yours will be, too. I think my only gripe about the Tempier Rosé is that it’s all wrong for where I live. It never gets properly hot enough here in Portland to drink this stuff; it needs to be like 90 degrees for really cold, really pink, really herbal rosé like this to properly hit. I also feel like one should be wearing, you know, not what people wear in Portland, which is a Patagonia shell year-round or else a grubby hoodie—this wine begs for summer formal linens, a light suit coat, maybe even seersucker, something flowing and light yet effortlessly dressy. Tempier has a hot weather casual-formal duality thing going for it; you are not supposed to drink this in hiking boots. It’s a $50 rosé and it’s classy and you drink it as cold as possible, perhaps by the magnum, if the guest list calls for it, and the wind is at your sails. (May it ever be.)
Jordan Michelman is a co-founder and editor at Sprudge Media Network. Read more Jordan Michelman on Sprudge.