Don't blush to judgment with rosé

A friend asked me why I liked to drink rosé. This was back during Christmas season. He said rosé is a “summer wine.”

I laughed. “Think pink when you drink,” I replied.

Then I explained that rosé has actually become a year-round dry, refreshing wine. It’s a great for as a dinner aperitif, party sipper, or to finish a long day with a vibrant pick-me-up.

But my real affinity for rosé is that it’s not my father’s — or mother’s — sweet White Zinfandel of the 1970s and 1980s.

Naturally, tastes change. Sweet, “blush” Zinfandel wines still sell — 17.2 million cases in 2016 in the United States alone — but total sales are declining each year.

Sales of dry and drier rosés, on the other hand, are soaring. Imports from France, particularly from Provence, are up 44 percent in the U.S., according to Impact Databank (To read more about rosé’s evolution, read the June issue of Wine Spectator magazine.)

Today’s rosés are elegantly crafted from a wide range of different grapes from all over the globe. It stands to reason that if unique vineyard locations and terroir lend white and red grapes distinctive characteristics, it will do the same for the gently pressed juice that becomes rosé.

From a consumer standpoint, rosé wines offer great value. The vast majority sell for $10 to $20 and the quality is outstanding.

Dry rosés are made to be drunk young, although there are a few that will stay fresh for one to three years if properly refrigerated. However, I suggest you drink rosé soon after purchase, when it’s fresh in bottle and in your mind.

Here are several recommendations from my recent “pink spree” weekend.

* Justin Rosé 2017, California, $16.99 — From the makers of high-end Cabernet Sauvignon (Isosocles, Justification, Savant) comes this Bordeaux-style blend of both red and white grapes — CS and Syrah on one side and Pinot Gris and Viognier on the other. The mixture produces exquisitely refined tastes of bright cherry and orchard fruit, like apple. The dry finish lingers. The color is beautiful: salmon tone with coppery highlights. A very appealing concoction.

* Belle Glos Oeil de Perdrix (Eye of the Patridge) Rosé 2017, $16.99 — Joe Wagner, son of Chuck Wagner of Caymus fame, made this stunning rosé in honor of his grandmother Lorna Belle Glos Wagner. He also produces three excellent Sonoma County Pinot Noirs under the same label: Clark & Telephone, Dairyman and Las Alturas. Pinot Noir grapes used in this rosé come from the same vineyards. It’s pale pink with a slight orange glow. You’ll find soothing flavors of grapefruit, citrus and dried stone fruit on the palate. A wonderful sweet spice on the dry finish adds to its exuberance. (Belle Glos rosé regularly sells for $22 but it’s on sale at the Wine ConneXtion in North Andover for the above listed price.)

* Wolffer Estate Summer in a Bottle 2017, $21.99 — Ahh, now here’s where it gets really amazing. Here’s what the gliteratti drink while summering in the Hamptons on Long Island. German-born Christian Wolffer first made rosé at his New York estate winery in 1992. He sold 92 cases. Little did he know he was onto something. This year, his winery will likely sell out its entire production of 60,000 cases by summer’s end. Wollfer died 10 years ago but his winemaker, Roman Roth, sticks with the plan to craft vibrant, exciting, quaffable, high quality rosé in a delightfully designed wildflower bottle. Six varietals make up this cuvee: Merlot, Chardonnay, Gewurtzraminer, Cab Franc, Cab Sauvignon, and Riesling. The first sip gets you psyched: your mouth shimmers from flavors of bright apple, pear, and strawberry. The finish is dry and uplifting. I can see why the Hampton set loves this wine. It’s a go-to pick for the hors d’oeurves and smoked salmon by the shore.

* Gerard Bertrand Cote des Roses Rosé, France, $13.99 — Gerard Bertrand is a very accomplished winemaker in his own right, but his recent association with A-List singer Jon Bon Jovi has only elevated his — rosé making. That’s right. Bon Jovi is now making his own rosé with his partner son Jesse. They hired Bertrand to make it. It’s called “Hampton Water ($25).” So, if you want a taste of the Provence-style wine Bertrand is making for the Bon Jovis, try this one at half the price. The grapes come from the sunny coastal vineyards of the Languedoc. It’s a Grenache-Cinsault-Syrah blend, both brilliant and masterful. This is like drinking strawberry candy in a bottle, without the sweetness. It’s a work of art to say the least. Bravo Bertrand!

* Isabel Mondavi Rosé, $20 — Robert Mondavi Jr. crafted this wine for his mother, so it’s got to be good, right? It is. It’s a Cabernet Sauvignon (75 percent) and Barbera mix. The color is a darker shade of pink. It delivers a mélange of strawberry and cranberry flavors on a bright, harmonious frame. It exudes freshness and elegance. A nice rosé for all seasons.

* Il Rosé di Casanova, La Spinetta, Italy, $15.99 — Giorgio Rivetti, the winemaker who never sleeps, makes this pleasant sparkler from Sangiovese, Italy’s No. 1 varietal, and Prugnolo Gentile, which is a type of Sangiovese used to make Vino Nobile di Montepulciano red wine. The color is a bright pink-orange mix, and the flavor profile is decidedly soft and citrusy with strawberry and wild spice undertones. It has a reflective quality to it. Rivetti turns this out in limited quantities (25,000 bottles) from his 10-acre vineyard estate, where he also crafts incredible Barolo, Barbaresco and Barbera.

* Puech-Haut Prestige Rosé, France, $12 — Maybe Monet had a paler pink on his artist’s palette but you’d be hard-pressed to come up with this smoky colored rosé with all the paint in the world. The Cinsault-Grenache blend is a classic. Almost bone dry, it peaks with fresh strawberry rhubarb and a touch of nectarine. It’s from the Languedoc region.

* Healy Rosé, Columbia Valley, $30 — Josh McDaniels, the winemaker for Drew Bledsoe’s Doubleback winery, makes this club wine for allocation members only. A couple hundred cases are produced. I have three bottles. The color leans toward a darker shade of salmon with orange highlights. It’s a blend of Columbia Valley berries, mainly Syrah, and it has a lot of citrus zest to it. If cowboys — and cowgirls — shied away from drinking rosé out on the range, they’d surely hit the town saloon for a taste of Bledsoe’s “brose.”