Rosés and Fizzy Reds Are The New Light Winter Wines

Tired of heavy winter reds? Here are some of our editor's go-to rosés and sparkling reds that are perfect accents to snow white.
Photo by Julie Benedetto

By the time February rolls around, chances are you’re tired of being cold and bundled up inside, drinking big-bodied, well-oaked red wines, and you’re looking to break out of the rut. Fortunately, sparkling reds are on the rise from producers in Italy, California and points in between. The Golden State, meanwhile, has also hit a pink-hued stride, with a plethora of bodacious and textural rosés that stand up to the cold.

Reds that Sparkle

Frothy, fizzy, racy and—red? With high-quality versions produced in more places, sparkling red wines are in demand. Experts guide us on what to drink and why.

Why are they so hot right now?

“People freak out—they’re just really fascinated with something that’s not typical,” says Drew Cuddy, co-founder/owner of Satellite SB wine bar in Santa Barbara, California. His customers love the sparkling Syrah by Solminer Wine Co. in nearby Los Olivos, and the Château de Minière Bulles de Minière rouge, a sparkling Cab Franc from the Loire Valley that he calls “Frambrusco.”

Who’s making them?

The style goes back more than a millennium in the form of frizzante Lambrusco from Italy, and Australia’s sparkling Shiraz has been around since the late 1800s. The latter inspired Santa Barbara winemaker David Potter to produce “The Fizz” under his Municipal Winemakers label. Petaluma bubble master Michael Cruse crafts a Valdiguié version for Cruse Wine Co. There are also scant amounts of sparkling Gamay from Beaujolais, Sangiovese from Italy and others from Spain.

From left to right; Hudson Vineyards 2017 Estate Grown Grenache Rosé (Carneros), Municipal Winemakers, Stella Rosa, Château de Minière Bulles de Minièr, Idlewild 2017 Flora and Fauna Rosé (Mendocino County) and Eric Kent 2017 Rosé (Sonoma Coast) /
From left to right; Hudson Vineyards 2017 Estate Grown Grenache Rosé (Carneros), Municipal Winemakers, Stella Rosa, Château de Minière Bulles de Minièr, Idlewild 2017 Flora and Fauna Rosé (Mendocino County) and Eric Kent 2017 Rosé (Sonoma Coast) / Photo by Julie Benedetto

Where to buy?

Hipster wine bars are almost guaranteed to stock them, but they’re just tiny players in this game. The big boy is Stella Rosa, America’s top imported Italian brand and the 15th best-selling wine in the country.

“The product itself is not pretentious. It’s not about having to know appellations and vintages, which can make wine intimidating,” says Anthony Riboli, whose Los Angeles-based family started the brand with Italian partners and brought it to the U.S. in 2005. “It’s also a taste profile that has resonated with new wine drinkers, including a lot of cultures that have not traditionally been associated with wine drinking.”

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What to pair?

“You don’t want to have it with a delicate, aromatic, light dish,” says Matt Kaner, a longtime sommelier and the co-owner of Los Angeles’s Bar Covell, Augustine Wine Bar and Good Measure. “It overpowers almost everything. It needs something fatty with a lot of flavor, something bold. Or just as an apéritif. It’s fucking delicious on its own.” —Matt Kettmann

Pink Rock

We’ve stubbornly stuck to spring and summer as the main seasons for rosé. No more. Heady, fragrant pink wines are transporting this time of year. Well-made rosé from California has enviable body and texture in a crisp, complementary framework. It’s made, after all, from the same red grapes we enjoy in their more voluptuous forms. Served near room temperature, the wine will be fresh and fruity with just enough weight. —Virginie Boone

Six California Bottles to Get You Through Winter 

Hudson Vineyards 2017 Estate Grown Grenache Rosé (Carneros); $32, 94 points. Pale copper orange in color, this is a tremendously delicious and thirst-quenching contemplation of 100% Grenache, whole-cluster pressed and fermented in both stainless steel and neutral oak. Lemon, grapefruit peel and green apple mingle around bristling, beautifully integrated acidity and a lasting burst of strawberry. —Virginie Boone

Idlewild 2017 Flora and Fauna Rosé (Mendocino County); $25, 93 points. Piedmontese-inspired owner and winemaker Sam Bilbro, born, raised and based in Sonoma County, picks selectively to make this light, refreshingly complex wine, cofermenting 47% Nebbiolo with 28% Barbera and 25% Dolcetto. It holds its acidity well, balancing it against a backdrop of fruity tangy grapefruit and orange, with a mineral stoniness that’s hard to pin down. Editors’ Choice—V.B.

Eric Kent 2017 Rosé (Sonoma Coast); $22, 92 points. This is made from 77% Pinot Noir, 17% Syrah and 6% Grenache. The trio works well together, combining to offer a distinct minerality of crushed rock around complex, curious flavors of cured meat, citrus and strawberry. The wine is dark as Dolcetto in color. —V.B.

Stewart Cellars 2017 Rosé (Sonoma Mountain); $28, 92 points. Robust with a floral nose, this is juicy and generously fleshy, with strong flavors of blood orange and strawberry. The acidity is balanced and uplifting, with just enough heft to pair effortlessly with food. —V.B.

Brick & Mortar 2017 Rosé (California); $8/375 ml, 91 points. This is an impressive can of wine, refreshingly complex and lively in acidity. Bright flavors of pomegranate and cranberry come from a saignée of West Block Syrah in the Petaluma Gap and several Pinot Noir sites, stainless-steel fermented and radiant in depth and structure. Editors’ Choice. —V.B.

Lava Cap 2017 Rosé (El Dorado); $18, 91 points. This wine has almost enough color and flavor to be called a red. It shows a deep pink or light ruby color, aromas like rose petals and flavors like black cherry and pomegranate seeds. It’s unusual, vivid and fun for adventurous drinkers. Jim Gordon

Published on January 7, 2019
Topics: Wine and Ratings


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