Brace yourself. Rosé season starts this weekend. The drink pink boom means pale and pretty wines will be poured at patio parties everywhere to jumpstart a hopefully decadent summer lifestyle. An oversize tub filled with ice and bottles of pink wine is now de rigueur for entertaining.
So what to put in it? Rosés from Provence have been in vogue for what seems like forever—a new high of nearly 6.9 million bottles were imported into the U.S. last year—and alas, the number of luxury versions is exploding. But you don’t have to pay a lot to get something you'll be happy to drink. If you’re having a party or just want to knock back a glass by the pool, the virtues of those expensive rosés—ability to age, complexity—are beside the point.
In taste testing nearly 150 rosés to come up with my list below, I was dismayed by how many of my past French favorites no longer cost less than $25.
My advice is to get adventurous and expand your taste buds. If you still think only Provence rosé is worth drinking, you’re wrong (though I included several). Other regions in France, Italy, Spain, Austria, and, above all, the U.S. are making super interesting pink wine with plenty of personality.
2015 Bedrock Wine Co. Ode to Lulu Old Vine Rosé ($22)
This savory, red-cherry-scented, Rhone-style blend is made by a young Sonoma winemaker dedicated to preserving historic vineyards.
2015 Matthiasson Rosé ($23)
With only 11.6 percent alcohol, this pale, crisp, spicy blend of syrah, grenache, mourvedre, and counoise is ideal for afternoon sipping. (It comes in magnums, too.)
2013 The Forlorn Hope Ukiyo Rosé ($20)
Sonoma winemaker Matthew Rorick can’t resist experimenting. This serious, savory rosé with salty acidity is mostly touriga nacional grapes and partly aged in barrels.
2015 Edmunds St. John Bone-Jolly Gamay Rose ($23) **CRITIC'S FAVORITE
I've long been a fan of this fresh, bright, light-bodied rosé from one of California's pioneers of the gamy grape. This vintage is all tart berries with mineral depth.
2015 Copain Tous Ensemble Pinot Noir Rosé ($23)
One always reliable pink pick is this balanced, fruity, delicious one made by pinot wizard Wells Guthrie from Mendocino county grapes.
2015 Heitz Cellars Grignolino Rosé ($23)
Famous for its Napa cabernets, Heitz has championed this Italian grape since 1961. The rosé version is zesty and fruity, with strawberry scents and flavors.
2015 Channing Daughters Rosato of Cabernet Franc ($15)
Always pushing boundaries, pony-tailed winemaker Christopher Tracy makes several unusual rosés, including a pét-nat, in the Hamptons. This one is pale, delicate, and mouthwatering.
2015 Red Car Rosé of Pinot Noir ($23)
The taste of wild strawberries and the scent of roses mark this cool-climate pink wine from the cool Sonoma coast; the colorful label looks great on a picnic table.
2015 Stinson Vineyards Rosé ($21)
Yes, this southern-France-style rosé is hard to get; it’s from a tiny winery in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. But it may change your mind about the state’s wines.
2015 Charles and Charles Rosé ($12)
A collaboration of fun-loving, long-haired wine rebels Charles Bieler and Charles Smith, this fuchsia pink, syrah-based blend is a super value from Washington State.
2015 Bodegas Ostatu Rioja Rosado ($15)
Bright, bright pink, this delicious tempranillo-based rosé from high-elevation vineyards is light and floral, with notes of red berries.
2015 Ameztoi Txakolina Rubentis ($20)
Vibrant and subtly fizzy, this tart, racy, brightly fruity Basque rosé beloved by New York sommeliers comes from vines near San Sebastian.
2015 Schloss Gobelsburg Cistercien Rosé ($15)
Monks own this historic castle in Kamptal. It’s known for it superb rieslings but also produces this pale peachy-pink, juicy rosé from zweigelt and St. Laurent grapes.
2014 Nigl Zweigelt Rosé ($15)
Richly fruity, but also tangy and bright, this pink wine from a top Austrian winemaker falls on the full-bodied side of rosé.
2015 Domaine du Vissoux Les Griottes Beaujolais Rosé ($15)
Beaujolais is still underrated, especially when it comes to rosé. Super refreshing, light and floral-scented, this one is made from gamay and goes with just about everything.
2015 Bernard Baudry Chinon Rosé ($19) **CRITIC'S FAVORITE
A star organic estate in the Loire Valley, Baudry is noted for reds, but its very dry pink wine from cabernet franc is loaded with subtle elegance and minerality.
2015 Domaine Sylvain Bailly La Louée Sancerre Rose ($22)
Sancerre is better known for its whites, but top producers like this one make wonderfully complex, elegant pink wines with stony overtones.
2015 Mathilde Chapoutier Rosé Grand Ferrages ($20)
This is the second vintage for this Provence rosé made by the daughter of Rhône wine legend Michel Chapoutier. Pure and light, it has surprising flavor intensity.
2015 Domaines Ott By Ott ($20)
The curvy bottles of this estate’s prestige Provence rosés are ubiquitous in the Hamptons. This blend offers much of the same freshness and elegance at half the price.
2015 Domaine Houchart Côtes de Provence Sainte-Victoire Rosé ($16)
Bright salmon pink, this intense wine with layers of fruit and minerals comes from a special “terroir” subappellation that was established 10 years ago. Picasso once lived nearby.
2015 Château Vignelaure La Source Rosé ($14)
This large estate, one of the most famous in Provence, specializes in red wine but also makes three rosés. This one is the midprice classic style, floral, light, gulpable.
2015 Le Fraghe Bardolino Chiaretto Rodon ($17)
This traditional Italian rosato from a region near Lake Garda is fresh and bright, with flavors of licorice and violets. (Chiaretto is the local name for rosé.)
2014 Torre dei Beati Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo ($18)
Ruby pink and full-bodied, this rich, savory wine with herbal and earthy notes is almost like a light red. Cerasuolo is the name for rosés from this region in central Italy.
2015 Terre Nere Etna Rosato ($22) **CRITIC'S FAVORITE
Mt. Etna is one of Italy’s buzziest wine regions. This orangey-pink, lavender-scented wine made from local grape nerello mascalese reflects the mineral character of the region’s terroir.
2015 A.A. Badenhorst Secateurs Rosé ($15)
One of the push-the-envelope winemakers in South Africa’s Swartland, Adi Badenhorst offers amazing bang for the buck with this plump, mouth-filling wine.