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Ask a Somm: Where Can I Find Great Rosé Outside France?

Welcome to Ask a Somm, a column in which experts from across the country answer questions about wine.


For years, Los Angeles chef Kevin Meehan operated a roving dinner series under the name Kali Dining, and as of January he's planted his plates on Melrose via a full-on brick and mortar home. At Kali, Meehan offers up modern, seasonally-inclined dishes like charred avocado with pistachio and ash, and squab with carrots, honey, and lavender. (Protip: Don't miss his toasted meringue ice cream topped with candied egg yolk.) Meanwhile, partner and wine director Drew Langley helps out on the beverage side, stressing local California wines from small producers. With rosé season upon us, below, Langley considers great pink bottles hailing from outside of France.

Q: During the summer I end up drinking a lot of rosé wine from France, but obviously rosé is produced all over the world. Could you recommend some great rosé-producing regions outside France?

Langley: Part of the reason that rosé from France, in particular Provence and Bandol, has been so dominant in the conversation, is because of the way the wines are produced in those regions. Rosé is less terroir-driven than white and red wines because the final product is contingent upon the stylistic choices the winemaker decides during the production processfrom the grape varietals selected (rosé can be made from any red grape), to when the grapes are picked, to the length of time the juice is in contact with its skins (which determines the saturation of color), to the extraction process, and, of course, to the types of barrels chosen for the wine's fermentation.

Recently, we've been seeing great rosé coming out of regions around the world because winemakers are practicing more restraint in the production process, as well as applying more progressive philosophies that often emulate what you see in France. In California, the Sonoma Coast and Santa Ynez are the strongest regions for this style of production, and some are even referring to Santa Ynez as "Baby Bandol" because of winemakers using Rhône varietals, like mourvédre blended with a little grenache, similar to what you might find in Bandol.

Rosé is a less terroir-driven wine that's contingent upon a winemaker's stylistic choices.

In this vein, I'm really enjoying Liquid Farm's Rosé Mourvédre from Happy Canyon ($26), an AVA in Santa Barbara County. Jeff Nelson and his team there take an Old World approach with their wine, so it's less fruit-focused and has more of that crisp, clean minerality that you might expect from a French rosé with more secondary undertones of red fruit.

From the Sonoma Coast, Red Car's Rosé of Pinot Noir ($22) is an excellent example of a true vin gris, which means the red grapes are immediately pressed and the juice is allowed to ferment without the skins and seeds like a white wine. It's lower in alcohol and bone dry, with well-balanced fruit and floral notes.

If you can find it, Flowers, also in the Sonoma Coast, produces a fantastic Rosé of Pinot Noir ($34) that's similar stylistically, but there's such a small allocation that it's not often available for retail consumers. If you are looking for this style of wine, keep you eyes out for bottles that are denoted a vin gris, and, of course, are made with 100 percent pinot noir.

We're also seeing great, affordable rosé from spätburgunder (pinot noir) coming out of Germany that's made in this same style, particularly from the Rheingau and Pfalz regions, which many people typically associate with riesling. Spätburgunder from Rheingau is considered among the best red varietals produced in Germany. Look for weißherbst on the label, which, like the denotation vin gris, is indicative that the wine was produced using red grapes fermented like a white wine. Like riesling, the rosé coming out of this region can vary and be bone-dry or more fruit-forward. So if you prefer the former, look for trocken on the label (which means dry). Try Barth's Sparkling Rosé ($25).

In the Rioja Alta region of Spain, you get quite a bit of variation in terms of the style of rosados produced, and there are many bottles that are very affordable for the quality. It might be hard to track down, but R. López de Heredia ($30), a family-owned winery that dates back to the 19th century, is doing a beautiful rosado fermented in 100 percent new American oak barrels. On the other side of the spectrum, you have rosado like Cune winery's CVNE Viña Real ($11) that's produced in stainless steel tanks with viura and tempranillo.

Ultimately, when selecting a new rosé, ask questions and look for clues into how it was producedthat will help you zero in on a bottle that will appeal to your tastes.

Have a wine-related question you'd like answered? Hit the comments.


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