Rosé has gone mainstream. Nowadays pink wines appeal to more people than ever—including even … guys! Not only that, once regarded mainly as a seasonal summer sipper, rosé is now enjoyed year-round—and gets serious respect as a super flexible food pairing partner. All of which explains why, around the world, rosé sales are booming, now accounting for about ten per cent of all wine production.
It’s no surprise that rosé is so popular here in British Columbia. In fact, you can pretty well count on one hand the number of wineries that actually don’t make rosé. However, the really good news is that the quality of BC rosé has improved by leaps and bounds compared to, say, a decade ago.
Overall, today’s wines are more sophisticated, subtle and elegant. They’re also drier and more likely to emulate Provence and the South of France—compared to the cloying styles that all too often used to pop up on local shelves. Rosé is no longer an ‘also ran,’ wine made as an afterthought, dependent on which grapes were available. Today’s impeccably stylized wines are increasingly made with grapes specifically planted for—and eminently suited to—rosé.
A natural choice
Lower sugars and higher acids—a BC hallmark—all contribute to wines that are focused, mouth-watering, juicy and sexy; that you can sip on their own; enjoy as an apéritif; or pair with everything from small plates to mains and more. BC rosé has really come of age, especially as a food wine. You could say it’s truly your wine BFF, always there when you need it! It also lends itself well to cocktails. Regardless as to how you choose to serve it, the big caveat is ‘not too chilled.’ Just as with white wines, it pays to take the bottle out of the fridge some 20 minutes before your pour.
Stylistically, there are no hard and fast rules. Rosé can truly reflect the winemaker’s craft, especially with the shift towards less heavy styles—and lighter colours, with less skin contact. In the realm of BC rosé, less is definitely more. However, also increasingly popular are saignée wines—where red juice is ‘bled’ from the tank, often yielding more intense flavours.
A variety of varietals
Expect to find more rosé made with Bordeaux and Rhone varieties coming from the South Okanagan, while cooler growing regions, especially nearer and on the coast, tend to favour Pinot Noir.
The 2020 vintage delivered some of the best rosés in many years. However, the harsh winter that preceded it took its toll on overall production; quantities are limited, so it pays to shop smartly. Here’s a quick guide to just a few stellar drops to launch you on your own little rosé tour all around BC.
Buy your wine on-line and consider joining a wine club for the real deals! Or, check out your favourite wine store for a good selection, including at Save-On-Foods, where the whole of August is rosé month.
Affordable, versatile and approachable, it’s no wonder that BC rosé is on a roll!
Since opening in 2010, this winery has become the standard bearer for the handful of small wineries which have sprung up in the bucolic Creston Valley, the province’s easternmost Geographical Indication (GI). Made from 100% Pinot Noir grown on a south west facing slope. Winemaker Wes Johnson leaves the grapes on their skins for three days to achieve the pretty, medium salmon colour. Forward, vibrant red fruit aromas with some earthy hints. A juicy, well-balanced palate with flavours of wild strawberry, rhubarb and quince, supported by just enough mouth-watering acidity to carry the fruit well through the lengthy end. $21. Locate in the Wines of BC Explorer App.
Cabernet Franc (48%) plays a leading role, with Syrah (17%), Malbec (15%), Cab Sauv (12%) and Merlot (8%). Cab Franc ripens earlier than its Cab Sauv cousin, and performs well on this cooler, western side of the valley. Just four hours of skin contact results in a very pale salmon colour. Up front red berries and stone fruits lead to a superbly balanced, complex palate of red-currant, cherry, watermelon and quince through a lingering close. Also, one of the prettiest and most elegant bottles on the market, with a glass stopper. $24. Locate in the Wines of BC Explorer app.
Of note, this wine is made with 100 percent Lillooet grown fruit, a estate blend of Pinot Noir as well as Cabernet Franc and Merlot, reflecting the winery’s impressive progress towards eventually using only estate-grown grapes. The Pinot character is apparent, with extra heft from the other varieties. Forward, lively red berry notes precede a vibrant and juicy palate of cherry, raspberry and melon flavours, ending dry and gently tart. $19.99. Locate in the Wines of BC Explorer app.
Another excellent example of a Cab Franc rosé, this comes from a southeast facing Osoyoos site, certified organic since 2012. This Okanagan Crush Pad wine shows how fermenting in concrete and extended lees aging can really add mouthfeel and texture. Pale copper in the glass with aromas of red berries and stone fruit. A juicy palate defined by fresh fruit and balanced acidity. Strawberry and quince prevail, with a little savoury undertone. $27.90. Locate in the Wines of BC Explorer app.
This ‘intriguing’ Lake Country blend of mainly Riesling and Pinot Gris, with Gewürztraminer, Merlot, Rotberger, Pinot Noir and Malbec is vibrant orange pink in the glass. An easy sipping, mouth-filling, gently off-dry drop with forward berry fruits and tropical hints through a juicy palate of raspberry, melon and grapefruit, with a touch of lychee through the refreshing close. Excellent value at $17. Locate in the Wines of BC Explorer app.
Cab Franc is rapidly becoming a rosé favourite, in part because it’s an earlier (and generally more reliable) ripener than its Cab Sauv. cousin. These grapes are sourced from the higher altitude, north facing Pozza Vineyard, which is one of the Similkameen’s cooler sites. Brief skin contact yields va ery pale peach colour in the glass with inviting wild berries, herbal and dusty hints before a well structured, strawberry and raspberry toned palate. Excellent value at $19.04. Locate in the Wines of BC Explorer app.
There’s not a whole lot of Sangiovese planted in the Okanagan but these grapes come from below a rocky bluff on the Sandhill Estate in the South Okanagan, part of their Small Lots program. Made ‘Rosato’-style, hand-harvested, with only 12 barrels (250 cases) produced. Pale salmon in the glass. Aromas of red berries and orchard fruits lead to a nuanced palate of red currant, cherry and rhubarb, before an earthy edge through the finish. Inaugural release. Another elegant bottle. $30. Locate in the Wines of BC Explorer app.
“An off-dry blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir, sourced from the two regions where the winery grows grapes: the Fraser Valley and the Okanagan Valley. Stainless steel, cool fermentation preserves the lovely aromas of stewed raspberries, strawberries and rhubarb, which lead to pleasing flavours of fresh strawberry, pomegranate and elderberry.” (winery notes) $22.50. Locate in the Wines of BC Explorer app.
Leaning more towards Provence, made with 100% purpose grown Syrah, from a sandy loam site on Osoyoos west bench. Vibrant rose gold in the glass with forward red berries, a fresh and juicy entry reminiscent of strawberries and cream, with citrus and melon as well as some peppery undertones and definite savoury herbal notes. Well structured with approachable tannins, mouth-filling and refreshing, with good acidity. $24. Locate in the Wines of BC Explorer app.
From one of the longest established vineyards in the Okanagan, in east Kelowna. A tricky winter brought a week of minus twenty temperatures that ultimately reduced the crop by three quarters. Hand-harvested, whole cluster direct pressed and stainless steel barrel fermented. Superbly refreshing, juicy and dry with red berry notes, packed with strawberry and darker wild berry fruits. Thirst quenching and very food friendly (think sushi and cold cuts). Excellent value and, a bonus, vegan and gluten free. $24. Locate in the Wines of BC Explorer app.
A blend of mainly Merlot and Cabernet Franc with Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Petit Verdot, from vineyards in Naramata, Oliver and Osoyoos. A brief cold soak (four hours) resulted in a very pretty pale pink colour. Up front red berries with some herbal notes before a juicy and luscious but focused and superbly balanced palate of strawberry and watermelon with spice and savoury hints to finish. $25. Explore in the Wines of BC Explorer app.
Made from 100% Pinot Noir, mainly from Fraser Valley, with some estate and other Vancouver Island fruit. Pale copper in the glass with wild red berry and earthy notes before rhubarb, apple and strawberry flavours through the appealingly dry finish. $24.49, $1 per bottle donated to BC Hospitality Foundation throughout August. Locate in the Wines of BC Explorer app.
By Tim Pawsey – Vancouver-based Tim Pawsey writes and shoots for numerous publications, including: Quench, The Alchemist, Vitis, Taste (BC Liquor Stores), and others. Tim was also delighted to be the recipient of the 2020 Wine Growers of British Columbia Industry Recognition Award. When not poring over a wine glass or on the business end of a fork he can be found at hiredbelly.com and @hiredbelly / Instagram / Twitter