Rosé prices swelling, but bargains remain

Courtesy PhotoThe Vitiano Rosato Umbria offers summer refreshment with a blend of sauvignon

Like flowers, rosé wines are starting to bloom. Yes, it is the season, and producers know that there has been a growing demand. I’ve tasted some really good stuff, but the prices are rising.

The $10 rosé is not totally gone, but is much more scarce, I’m afraid. And as I write about different types of rosé over the next few months — and for those who are fans, there is a trove of jolly pink wines waiting for you — be prepared, as it is no longer uncommon to see rosé in the $20 price range.

Today, though, is all about value.

First, here are a few general tips:

  • Forget Provence. Call it supply and demand, ego, whatever, but most of the Provencal rosés that are worthy of your palate cost more than $15.
  • California? Surely you jest. There are so many delicious rosés being made in California these days that if I don’t touch an imported rosé all summer I’ll live, but many are in the $15 to $25 range.
  • Think about Iberia. Starting in Spain, Navarra, Rioja’s neighbor, makes some “muy bien,” often grenache-based wines that are reasonable. This is doubly true of another Spanish region, Campo de Borja. On the other side of the border, Portugal has its fair share of rosé too, and areas such as Vinho Verde have jumped in headfirst, making simple albeit often pleasant wines.
  • Languedoc, Roussillon and southwest France have a vast selection of rosé using a variety of grapes from negrette to syrah, and some of the prices are still pretty good.
  • Ask a salesperson you trust what is exciting but not pricey. If you have yet to find your wine muse, do what I do when I go to the Apple store: Randomly pick someone’s brain, and if they seem to know what they are talking about, then listen.

The final option is to hunker down and search out one of these three tried-and-true wines.

  1. Vitiano Rosato Umbria IGT, 2012 (Umbria, Italy): Falesco makes a lot of wine, and its 100 percent varietal merlot is often seen as the feather in its cap. However, for $12, it is hard to beat the Umbrian offshoot, Vitiano, especially the rosso and rosé. Composed of 30 percent each cabernet sauvignon, merlot and sangiovese, and the rest aleatico, it is relatively full-bodied for rosé but still maintains a fresh vibrancy filled with fruit that reminds me of drinking a dry red fruit punch. Suggested retail: $12
  2. Cune Rioja Rosado, 2012 (Rioja, Spain): Not everyone in Rioja makes rosé, and few do it as consistently well as what is officially called the CVNE (Compania Vinicola del Norte de Espana) but more commonly known as “cune.” Made entirely from hand-harvested tempranillo, it jumps out of the gate with juicy red berries, underscored by white pepper and a hint of tobacco. Suggested retail: $13
  3. Domaine du Poujol IGT Rosé, 2012 (Languedoc, France): Poujol is owned and run by British expats Robert and Kim Cripps, who purchased the domaine north of Montpellier in 1994. A blend of cinsault, carignan, grenache and mourvèdre, this is a light, crisp rosé with subtle floral notes, citrus and minerals. Suggested retail: $15

Some of these wines can be found through Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant and The Spanish Table.

Note: Pamela Busch has done consulting work for the Languedoc AOC wines, but not those labeled as IGT.

Pamela S. Busch is a wine writer and educator who has owned several wine bars in San Francisco, including Hayes and Vine and CAV Wine Bar & Kitchen.

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