Rosé has become the universal beverage of warm weather, quaffed in the south of France, the north of the United States, and everywhere in St.Barths. But there's more to pink wine than, say, bottles from France or California. Below, 10 unlikely, affordable rose-stained drinks—from sake to vermouth to cider—that are as delicious as they are thirst-quenching. Each serves as an unconventional blush wine alternative that challenges the traditional boundaries of "rosé."
10 Alternative RosÉs to Try This Summer
Lillet Rose ($15)
The French often sip Lillet on the rocks or with a slice of grapefruit as a prelude to dinner. While the traditional Blanc tends to be what is frequently found in drinks and on menus, it's the oft-overlooked pink-hued Lillet that's a total gem. Made from a blend of Semillion, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscatel grapes, and fortified with "secret" fruit liqueurs—one of which includes an orange blend made from both sweet and bitter fruit—this lighter-bodied, bittersweet wine is a perfect way to kick off any summer night. The wine plays floral and mildly grassy, with an underlying honeysuckle sweetness and bitter finish.
Ameztoi "Rubentis’ Rosé" Txakoli, 2014 ($19)
Bizkaiko Txakolina, País Vasco, Spain
Txakoli and sidra reign supreme in Spain's Basque region, home to some of the country's most lauded cuisine. And there's no better pintxo partner than a refreshing, effervescent bottle of Txakoli. While in Spain Txakoli is almost always made into a light, palate-cleansing white wine, Ameztoi, one of Spain's largest Txakoli producers located in the Getariako Txakolina province, is part of the minority that makes a rosé alternative (Ameztoi does produce a white Txakoli as well). This slightly fizzy, totally quaffable dry wine is easy drinking, with minerality and green herbal notes. Made from a blend of Hondarribi Zuri (white) and Hondarribi Beltza (red) grapes, Rubentis is a great friend to seafood, not surprisingly as its vineyard sits facing the Atlantic Ocean.
Cocchi Rosa Americano ($16)
With a velvet smooth mouthfeel, this Americano aperitivo wine is perfect over ice, with slight dilution helping to mellow out its body into an excellent warm weather drink. A splash of soda water works well, too, and balances out Rosa's bittersweet flavors. A follow-up to Cocchi Americano Bianco, this newer rosé amaro, which launched in 2013, is made from a base blend of Brachetto and Malvasia di Schierano grapes and derives some of its color from rose petals. Expect punchy red fruit flavors backed up with mulled wine spice plus balanced bitterness from gentian root and cinchon, the plant family known as the source of quinine.
Domaine Pascal Pibaleau "La Perlette" ($15)
This gorgeously cloudy salmon pink sparkling wine is everything one could want in a dry and refreshing summer drink that pairs acidity with funky fruit. Pascal Pibaleau, located in Touraine, produces only 250 cases of this biodynamic wine that has no added sulfur and is a blend of 60 percent Grolleau and 40 percent Gamay. Think of it as fruity but slightly sour alcoholic grape soda that goes down all too easily.
Goose Island "Lolita" ($18)
Don't be fooled by the bottle, this is a rose-toned Belgian-style sour ale in its finest. On the nose the beer smells like a raspberry Fruit Roll-Up, but it's entirely dry and funky, brewed with local Chicago raspberries and the renegade wild yeast known as brettanomyces. Out of the fridge let this beer warm up for five to 10 minutes and notice how its complexity deepens, bringing out a Champagne-esque elegance. And don't fear this as an overly fruity raspberry brew. In fact, the berries play more of a subtle supporting role.
Dúzsi Tamás Kékfrankos Rosé, 2014 ($16)
Hungarian wines generally offer a great value, and this Kékfrankos (that's the grape) rosé is no exception. Dúzsi Tamás is Hungary's most famous rosé producer, and one that supports organic and sustainable farming. Light and refreshing, elegant and easy drinking, this wine offers a bouquet of grapefruit and berries on the nose, but strawberries and rose petals are discernible on the palate.
Dewatsuru Brewery Sakura Emaki ($15)
Just a handful of rosé sakes are produced in Japan, and Sakura Emaki is the only one made from a blend of two heirloom purple rice grains, Asamurasaki and Okunomurasaki. Dewatsuru Brewery in northern Japan is situated five minutes away from Hotta No Saku, ruins of a fort built during the Heian Era (792-1185 AD). When the historical site was excavated in the 1930s, ancient purple rice grains were discovered, and fifty years laters, through DNA analysis, scientists were able to link the rice back to the Heian Era. In the '90s, the rice was successfully re-cultivated and, using these grains, Dewatsuru Brewery then produced the first ever ancient purple rice rosé sake. This Futsu-shu, polished to 60 percent, has been exported to the US for the last year, and it's the only naturally pink sake available outside of Japan. The beautifully silky brewed rice drink carries a touch of sweetness, with a medium body and red berry flavors.
Bantam Rojo ($8)
Cider is all the rage these days, especially domestically-produced varieties. Bantam, out in Massachusetts, bills itself as a producer of "Modern American Cider," and when considering Rojo, that description holds true. This semi-dry cider is made from a blend of local apples that are fermented with sour cherries and black peppercorns. What results is a light and highly quaffable beverage, slightly sour, with apple-forward flavors, and subtle notes of cherry and saffron on the finish. Those keen on sour beers will likely find this one refreshing.
Matthiasson White Vermouth ($33)
Although the family-run Matthiasson winery describes this bottle as a white vermouth, it really takes on a pink-orange sediment-speckled tinge. Winemaker Steve Matthiasson is a highly regarded farmer, a top California vineyard consultant and was even nominated for James Beard award this year. For his own wines, he organically grows grapes on land in Napa and Sonoma, and has received countless accolades for his portfolio. In the case of this vermouth, expect an aromatized wine bearing flavors of citrus and honeysuckle, with balanced bitterness mainly from cardoons. Prior to bottling, Matthiasson fortifies the wine with neutral grape spirits infused with blood orange, sour cherry and coriander.
Laurent Cazottes, Wild Sour Cherry ($60)
The term "artisanal" applies to no one better than distiller Laurent Cazottes. Situated about a three hour drive south east of Bordeaux, Cazottes is lauded for his small-production, super high quality eau-de-vie and fruit liqueurs deemed some of the best in all of France. Especially beautiful is his Wild Sour Cherry liqueur that's made from organic, wild-growing cherries in Tarn. Cazottes picks all his fruit by hand and each year the number of half bottles he produces varies based on the amount of fruit he's able to find. In a "good" year, he makes less than 1000 375ml bottles of Wild Sour Cherry, about 240 of which end up for sale in the US. On the nose this liqueur, which is also sometimes described as a sweet wine, smells of cooked red cherries, but channels a more powerful and complex red cherry flavor, with notes of leather and balanced bitterness. It's sweet but not too sweet, best served chilled to highlight the juice's sophisticated cherry flavor.