More than Summer Wine: Take a Road Trip Through the Regions of Rosé

More than Summer Wine: Take a Road Trip Through the Regions of Rosé

May 10, 2022Kate Angus

Rosé gets a bad rap. Through decades of mass production and marketing, it’s gained a reputation for being a sickly-sweet style reserved for pool parties and reality TV binge sessions. But contrary to that rep, rosé can be just as serious as any other red or white wine.

Yes, it can be fun. And, it can also have a sense of place. If it’s farmed and vinified thoughtfully, rosé winemakers can achieve what all great winemakers hope to accomplish: a wine that shouts its terroir, that holistic combination of a place’s culture, geography, history, and climate.

Terroir is what makes great wine transportive and inspiring. And while we can’t always take a spontaneous vacation across the world, or even across the country, a solid rosé de terroir can transport us — at least momentarily — with just one sip.

And our destinations will be many. Because great rosé is made in almost every wine region. In the Loire Valley, winemakers are experimenting with forgotten grapes and ancient winemaking styles to create fun, cutting-edge rosés. In Tuscany, a wine culture dominated by robust reds, Sangiovese takes on a new life in a glass of structured, savory pink wine that will transport you directly to the herb-perfumed breezes of the rolling Tuscan hills.

Each region, and winemaker, has a distinct take on pink wine. Take a road trip with us through our favorite regions to find rosé, and let yourself travel sip by sip.

Napa, California

Start your road trip close to home. In the sunshine state, where winemakers often plant unexpected varieties, you’ll find rosés with a huge variety of flavor profiles.
Napa Valley is dominated by robust Cabernet Sauvignon and opulent Chardonnay, but there’s another side of the iconic American wine region that’s experimenting with different varieties and leaning into their local terroir through organic and biodynamic farming. Trying Californian rosé from thoughtful farmers and winemakers is a rewarding way to explore Napa Valley beyond the red and white styles it’s known for.

We are especially loving the crisp, bright rosé from Matthiasson. A nod to the iconic rosés of Provence (more on that later), this wine is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre. And while some rosés might seem a little thoughtless, like they were thrown together to meet public demand, this bottle is anything but an afterthought: all the fruit that goes into Matthiasson’s rosé is grown specifically for that purpose, from three organically farmed vineyard sites. How’s that for attention to terroir?

Corsica, France

For rosé production, Corsica has the perfect confluence of conditions. Proximity to the ocean, cool breezes, granite soil, and a fiercely protected cultural tradition give this island everything it needs to create transcendent rosé.

Corsica has a long and storied history of cultural revolution, which manifests in winemaking traditions not seen anywhere else, particularly in its enthusiasm for unique, indigenous grapes. Nielluciu and Sciaccarellu take on a sea-breezy minerality from the coastal cliffsides on which they’re planted to produce a rosé that bursts with energy.

Domaine Abbatucci’s Faustine rosé is a perfect example of that buzzing electricity. Head of Sales Gage Kinney describes drinking a glass of Faustine as “that feeling when your crush likes you back,” and he couldn’t be more spot-on. Jean-Charles Abbatucci treats his vines like the loves of his life, playing Corsican folk music in the vineyards and farming organically.

Loire, France

In the Loire, rosé winemakers don’t shy away from having a little fun. This region is most often associated with crisp white wines and serious, rustic reds, but winemakers across the region are leaning into the unexpected aspects of common local grapes, and instilling a healthy dose of hedonism while they’re at it.

There is perhaps no better example of vignerons who understand the fun of winemaking than Catherine and Pierre Breton. The husband and wife duo produced wine out of the Bourgueil and Chinon appellations of the Loire, focusing primarily on the Cabernet Franc grape. They recently passed along operations to their two children, France and Paul.

Their wines have a certain playful charm: their rosé is called ‘La Ritournelle,’ translating to ‘the jingle,’ and reveals a new side of Cabernet Franc in rosé form. This is a wine to open at the beginning of a dinner party, at the end of a long day, or any time at all, really. It takes the often-serious Cabernet Franc grape and transforms it into something easygoing, bright, and downright joyful.

Bruno Ciofi’s pet nat ‘Zero Bulle’ is another example of how fun Cabernet Franc can be when turned pink. Spritzy and slightly sweet, this bottle is both completely unexpected and a perfect party pleaser. Don’t be fooled by its darker color, either. The rustic bubbles and the unexpected fruit character make this wine light as air, yet again forcing us to reconsider the possibilities of working with Cabernet Franc.

Tuscany, Italy

Like the Loire Valley, Tuscany is another perfect example of how rosé can reveal undiscovered aspects of a certain grape. Sangiovese is king in Tuscany, manifesting in classic bottles of Chianti, robust glasses of Brunello, and on tables as a versatile red. When taking a tour of the rolling hills of wine country in central Italy, it may be even hard to remember that anything but red wine matters.

But as a rosé, Sangiovese takes on a new vibrancy, giving a serious edge to each bottle. Try the rosato from biodynamic winemaker Sesti. Structured, savory, and robust, this bottle is Brunello’s distant, pink cousin. While you can certainly sip on a glass of Sesti’s rosato on its own, this bottle deserves a dedicated spot on your dinner table. It pairs perfectly with anything from porchetta to veal chops to even Thanksgiving dinner.

Provence, France

How could we talk about rosé without mentioning Provence, and how could we mention Provence without mentioning Domaine Tempier? Based in what is arguably the rosé capital of the world, Tempier might be one of the most fierce champions of Provencal terroir that we know. They established Bandol as an AOC and almost single-handedly ensured the return and large-scale planting of the indigenous Mourvedre — the variety used in most iconic Provencal rosés.

Tempier goes even further to immerse its guests in the local terroir by providing unmatched hospitality, a tradition largely attributed to matriarch Lulu Tempier. Lulu understood that wine is only enhanced by good food and good company, and always ensured that guests of their domaine are provided with a long lunch made up of local dishes.

Can’t get your hands on a bottle of Tempier? You can just as easily travel to sunny Provence with any bottle of rosé from the prized Bandol region. We especially love wine from Gros'noré and Domaine de la Tour du Bon. One sip of the structured Mourvedre and you’re transported to a bright picnic among the lavender fields.

You can also bring your rosé picnic to the beach with the Cassis from Clos Sainte Magdeleine. Cassis is an ancient port city, where colorful boardwalks and terracotta roofs overlook a turquoise bay. No matter which rosé you choose, make sure to take a page from Lulu's book and serve with Nicoise salad and some crudité for a taste of sunshine with good friends.

More articles