Dan, our gracious co-host (pictured at far right below), laid out the ground rules simply in his email:
Bring a favorite bottle of rosé to share. Heck, feel free to bring more than a bottle if you’re the magnanimous sort. We love diversity, so no bring no more than one bottle of any one rosé, unless of course it’s Tempier or Valentini. Note-taking, reviewing or rating of the wines is heartily discouraged, and anyone overtly pimping bottles they don’t make themselves will be asked to leave (but we’re happy to send a note to your boss telling them that you did an admirable job representing the brand).
For eleventeen years or so, Dan has co-hosted a pagan summer event dedicated to the celebration of that most summer-y of beverages, rosé wines. The Tournament started on the deck outside his second-storey Malibu townhome with just a dozen or two people, and has grown geometrically in the years since, relocating to his friend Françoise’s back yard in Santa Monica. At first, it seemed something of a quirky kind of wine to revere. Much like the Jews, rosés wandered for years in the wilderness, having been given a bad name in America by the likes of Mateus and Lancers and (more recently) Sutter Home White Zinfandel. In fact, that one wildly popular White Zin was so poorly received by the cognoscenti that — despite being an economic juggernaut — it nearly tanked the reputation of the Zinfandel grape, and red Zinfandel (or just Zinfandel) is as far from white Zinfandel as red pepper is from white pepper. [That said, my pal Van Williamson makes a delightful rosé of Zinfandel (he calls it Rosato), so it is possible to make a “white Zin” that’s palatable.]
“So what,” I hear you ask, “is the key takeaway here? After all, I wasn’t invited to the party, and even if I had been, I missed it.”
First of all: Don’t be afraid of rosés! They’re the perfect anti-wine-snob wines, mostly inexpensive, and the obvious bridge between people who claim not to like red wines and people who maintain they’re not interested in whites. They go great with food, from grilled meats to seafood to veggies. They’re widely available; most major grocery stores usually have one or two really tasty ones for under $20 (unless you happen to live in one of those unfortunate states where the liquor sales are controlled by the government, and even the state stores in places such as Pennsylvania and New Hampshire frequently carry an acceptable selection). If your local wine store clerk gives you attitude over your selection, give him — trust me, if it happens, it will always be a him — a clout upside his snooty pate and proceed proudly to the checkout counter. After all, the French, who know a thing or two about wine, consumed an average of 11.8 liters per capita in 2010.
Twenty years ago, red wines constituted 73.4% of wines sales in supermarkets in France; in 2011 (the most recent year for which I could find figures), they had declined to 56%. Over that same period, rosé’s market share had grown from 13.1% to 27.3%. As per usual, we’re a little behind the curve, trend-wise, but experts in the American wine business are saying that rosé sales are expected to continue to rise here as well. Maybe Brangelina’s recent foray into rosé territory will jump-start the movement here; the first 500 cases of their Miraval rosé sold out in six hours.
In addition to being a great hang, parties such as this are a terrific way to get exposed to wines you otherwise might never know about. And clearly, having friends who are in the wine business (and who have outstanding cellars) are a positive boon such a gathering. But even without that, getting friends together to share and compare can be both entertaining and educational. [It’s real easy to forget about the educational part after the first few glasses, so I just take pictures of bottles I like.]
I don’t recall who first introduced me to the two-point wine scale, but it’s served me well: ultimately, it’s either “yum” or “yuck.” While far from being an expert, I’ve spent a fair amount of time tasting, reading, and making notes about wine myself, so the last thing I would want to do is disparage others who analyze wine the way people of a certain age used to pore over the cover of Abbey Road for clues that Paul was dead. But the final question for me always boils down to whether or not I would want to consume some particular wine again, ratings be damned. And today, I was richly rewarded.
Here are a few faves (in no special order) that are widely available, all under $20 and many a good deal less:
2012 Charles and Charles, Columbia Valley, WA
2012 Caves d’Esclans ‘Whispering Angel’ Rosé, Côtes de Provence, FR
2012 Domaine de Triennes Rosé, Vin de Pays du Var, FR
2012 Marqués de Cáceres Rioja Rosado, SP
2010 Château Bonnet Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé, FR
2010 Falesco Vitiano Rosato, Umbria, IT
2012 Château de Campuget Costières de Nîmes Tradition de Campuget Rosé, FR
2012 Ameztoi “Rubentis” Rosado Getariako Txakolina, SP
2012 Château de Lancyre Rosé, Pic Saint Loup, FR
2012 Chateau de Lascaux Rosé, Coteaux du Languedoc, FR
2012 Domaine M. Chapoutier Belleruche Rosé, Côtes-du-Rhône, FR
And here are a couple that you probably won’t ever get to taste, and which I will likely never taste again, thanks to the generosity of one of our wine collecting friends, who pulled a couple of special bottles for the Tournament.