Wine: Looking ahead to a rosé future
Does the arrival of spring have you craving rosé? Montgomery County residents Kay and Dick Efron crave it year-round. In fact, they prefer rosé to most red wines. Each spring and summer they search wine store shelves looking for the new releases.
The Efrons have a tried-and-true method of finding rosés they like. "We use color as a guide, because it seems to work," they explained in an e-mail shortly after I wrote about sparkling rosés for Valentine's Day. "We don't buy from Anjou or Provence, because they are pale compared to the Costieres de Nimes that please us. We also find winners from Spain using color as a guide. We buy one bottle to try within a few weeks, then hurry back if we find a winner."
The Efrons wondered about the market for rosé: Will the growing popularity of pink wine mean a wider selection will be available? Will it push up prices?
Yes to both, I answered. Increased demand has resulted in a wider selection, but popularity comes with a price. The dollar's continued weakness against the euro also puts pressure on price. French rosés that just a few years ago sold for under $10 have in recent vintages crept into the $15 neighborhood. That's a significant hike. I suggested they might look for rosés from Chile and Argentina, where some bargains around $10 can be found.
And they were concerned about rosé's seasonality. As the selection dries up in the fall, the Efrons find themselves stocking up like squirrels hoarding acorns. It would be nice if the growing interest in rosé resulted in more of it being available through the winter. I think they'll have to continue their late-summer buying sprees. For better or worse, rosé is considered a hot-weather wine.
There is also a market preference for fresh rosé -- meaning the previous year's vintage. So this year we will see a bunch of 2009s, and any 2008s or remaining 2007s will be on closeout. I advise the Efrons and all rosé fans to seek out those closeout bins, because many rosés hit their peak in their second year after harvest.
Just a few years ago, almost all Spanish rosés on the market were two years old, as traditionally Spaniards prefer an extra year of age on their rosado. That seems to have changed; last year I noticed more and more Spanish 2008s, which led me to believe the winemakers were responding to the market's preference for freshness.
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A question asked in a recent Free Range chat echoed an occasional lament I hear from readers. "I enjoy your wine reviews, especially the monthly value selections," a reader in Crystal City wrote, "but wonder why almost zero of the wines you review are described as available at Total Wine? They seem to be a big local/East Coast chain with lots of customers and advertise regularly in The Post. Distributor issues? No free samples? Long-running family feud?"
The stores and restaurants listed with my wine recommendations are given to me by the local distributors, who provide most of the samples I taste. Those lists are not meant to be exhaustive, but I do not intentionally leave off any store. Typically, the distributors tell me who has purchased a wine recently. Total Wine & More has been named in my column several times. But I tend to favor unfamiliar wines from smaller producers and local importers, and those wines are more likely to be found at specialty wine stores.
Each week, I try to recommend a variety of wines available throughout the Washington area. If your favorite store carries a recommended wine but is not mentioned in my column, tell the storekeeper to speak with the distributor.
If your favorite store does not carry a recommended wine that you would like to try, the store can always order some from the listed distributor.
McIntyre can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.