It was the first bottle of wine I ever bought. A rosé. Turner’s Rosé. You see they didn’t ask for ID at the Turner’s shop. And Turner’s Rosé was $1.30 a bottle, the cheapest bottle of wine anywhere in town. I graduated to Mateus (loved the shape of the hip flask bottle). Then to Lancer’s (loved the shaped of the stone crock bottle). Then to Baby Duck. Women liked Baby Duck (loved the shape of women). Rosé was my drink of choice for almost a year.
I think I stopped drinking rosé around the time women stopped drinking it and switched to white wine. Oh there was the occasional bottle. You couldn’t holiday in Provence without drinking one or two or three bottles. Or in the Algarve in Portugal. Especially if you were eating lunch outdoors on a warm day.
Perhaps that’s why I returned recently to rosé. Because in Mexico, we often eat lunch outside on a warm day. There’s something about rosé that’s fun. It’s a drink that you don’t take very seriously. It’s the wine you take on picnics. Though it’s not something you think much about pairing with food. It’s something that you use more to wash down food.
Now before I tell you what rosé is, let me tell you what rosé isn’t. You probably already know this but just in case you don’t (because there was a time when I didn’t), rosé is not a mix of red and white wines. At least it’s not supposed to be.
Rosé is most often created by allowing the skins of purple grapes to have minimal contact with the juice during the process known as maceration. The contact period for rosé is usually less than three days and occasionally less than one day. What is left is called must and it is then pressed and the skins are discarded. In the production of red wines, exposure to the skins continues through fermentation. Many of the aromas and flavors that we associate with wines come from the skins so there must be some exposure but rosés are as much about fruit and freshness than they are about intricate nuances in smell and taste.
It wasn’t just warm afternoons that made me a rosé drinker again. It was my desire to drink more Mexican wine. Shortly after I discovered that wine from the Valle de Guadalupe in Baja California was the best Mexican wine, I discovered that much of the wine from the Valle de Guadalupe was rosé wine. Why I wasn’t sure. Except rosé is probably the easiest wine to make. And rosé that was made last week can be enjoyed as soon as this week.
Actually, now that we are talking Mexican rosé, we should change its name to rosado, the Spanish word for the wine. A couple of things about Mexican rosados: One of the problems you may have encountered with Mexican wine is the price; generally speaking, you can almost always find a similar wine from another country at a lower price. Rosados are a little bit different but not totally. The most expensive rosado I’m going to recommend today is 353 pesos which makes them reasonably affordable for my budget. That doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find better and cheaper rosés from other countries so you have to have the green, white and red stripes tattooed somewhere, even if it’s just on your mind. Or, you’ve got to be very curious like me.
I found fourteen Mexican rosados available at retail (no, it wasn’t easy). One was over my budget (you can’t have a rose without a thorn). From the other thirteen, I have chosen eight to recommend, five of which come from the Valle de Guadalupe, one from the nearby Valle de San Vicente, one from Valle de Ojos Negros, and the first one from further east in Chihuahua.
Winery: Reyes Mota
Wine: Francisca 2012
This is not just the only rosado I’ve ever drank from Chihuahua, it’s the only wine I’ve ever drank from Chihuahua. It won’t be to everyone’s taste as it has quite a bit of sweetness, not a cloying sweetness but enough that you might want to restrict when you enjoy it to accompanying dessert.
I think why I liked it so much is it’s made from the Grenache grape, as are a lot of good French rosés. In addition to the usual berry aromas there are also some peach and citrus nuances. It retails for $250 at the winery and you’ll also find it on the wine list at San Miguel restaurant Vinos+Tapas where it goes great with their pannacotta.
The wine currently being sold is a 2012 but I suspect that was not to purposely age the wine. The winery recommends drinking it at 10 to 12°C. I would suggest about 5°C.
Winery: Villa Montefiori
Wine: Rosado (actually called a Rosato due to the Italian grape variety used) 2016
The Paolini family originates from just outside Tuscany and founded Villa Montefiori in the Valle de Guadalupe back in 1997. Their rosado is one of the palest in color and Winemaker (and Doctor of Oenology) Paolo Paolini told me that was because the juice had only 24 hours of exposure to the skins.
It is made from the classic Italian grape varietal Sangiovese that Paolo told me he chose “for its sensory profile”. That profile includes aromas of raspberries and strawberries.
At $353, Villa Montefiori is the most expensive of my recommended rosados. I think it’s worth it.
Winery: Cava Maciel
Wine: Venus Rosa
If you attended this year’s Smart restaurant awards in San Miguel, you were served this with dinner. The recently shuttered restaurant Aguamiel had this rosado as well as a red and white from the very popular Cava Maciel on its wine list.
Merlot is an unusual choice for rosados but this is one of two on my recommended list. The flavor is fresh and youthful with tastes of raspberries and blackberries.
It makes a nice late afternoon/early evening aperitif without food.
Winery: Adobe Guadalupe
Wine: Uriel 2016
Adobe Guadalupe is as celebrated as a small resort as it is for its wines.
Their rosado combines more grape varietals than any other rosé I have ever heard of. I asked winemaker Peter Lonnberg why so many, why tempranillo, syrah, mourvedre, cinsault, barbera, sauvignon blanc and grenache? He never did give me an answer.
Regardless of whether or not all of those varietals contribute something to the rosado, there is a freshness and crispness that goes very well with garlic shrimp and sharp cheeses. It’s retail priced at $300.
Winery: Viña de Frannes
Wine: Legat 2014
I was especially intrigued by this rosado as it combines three of the grape varietals used in Bordeaux reds. That probably has a lot to do with using French winemaker Michel Rolland as consultant.
Rolland does something that winemakers generally never do with rosados, he ages it, for three months in French oak barrels. It adds a complexity to the aromas and flavors but there is a sacrifice in freshness.
Because of that added depth, I would pair Legat with main courses and it would be perfect with salmon or tuna. The wine retails for $310.
Winery: Vinos Dubacano
Wine: Merlot 2013
The second of our Merlot-based rosados is another wine that hails from outside the Valle de Guadalupe. It was the first Merlot rosado ever produced in Mexico and comes from the neighboring Valle de San Vicente, 100 km south of Ensanada.
The color is more of an orange/gold rather than pink. Aging six months in the bottle may be some of the reason for this but I was unable to get in touch with anyone at the winery to comment.
Dubacano is one of Mexico’s most confident winemakers, believing that Baja California makes world class wines and pricing their top reds accordingly. Their rosado though is still affordable at $321.
Winery: Bodegas San Rafael
Wine: Desseo 2013
Desseo combines two French varietals, Carignan and Syrah, in an 80/20 ratio. Both are grapes that I think do very well in the terroir of Baja California.
There is a hint of sweetness that is reminiscent of Portuguese rosés. Close your eyes and you might think you’re drinking a wine made with green grapes rather than a red with its hints of pear and grapefruit.
This is to me the almost perfect Mexican lunch rosado and, with only 10.25% alcohol, you could be semi-functional after (but please don’t operate heavy construction equipment). It retails for a very economical $215.
Winery: Legado Sais
Legado Sais began by making Port which may have influenced their decision to make a rosado with a considerable amount of sweetness.
Tintillo is made from Spain’s Tempranillo grape and the aroma, taste and bright pink color are somewhat reminiscent of Rioja rosados.
There are tastes of blueberries and cherries and a freshness that works well with a creamy pasta. I paid $268 for Tintillo at retail.
The best place to purchase Mexican wines, especially the more affordable ones, is online. The best place to buy them online is retrogusto.com. They pack them extremely well, will ship as few as three bottles, get them to you by FedEx, and ship free on orders of $1500 (Mexican pesos) or more.