Only in summer can a Madison wine lover sample more than 20 rosé wines in the span of two days.

After a weekend of copious rosé consumption, it would be hard to argue against rosé as the perfect wine for hot weather. The best bottles in the bunch, hailing from France, California and South America, were light and fruity with a dry finish.

It’s easy to find a yummy rosé for less than $15. But it’s important to try the new vintage every summer, since rosé can vary wildly from one year to the next — a 2010 favorite can turn out to be a dud in ’11.

Given the number of wines we tried, I’ll leave out the ones we didn’t much care for, as well as the bottles purchased out of state. (That said, if you do find the 2011 Veritas Rosé from Afton, Va., it’s full of bosc pear, red apple and peach flavors, and it’s a steal at $15.)

All three nonvintage sparklers we tried were worthy of a July 4 barbecue. The Jaume Serra Cristalino Cava ($10 at Jenifer Street Market) is made from 60 percent pinot noir and 40 percent trepat, an indigenous Spanish grape. It had flavors of red currant and toast, and a pleasant jamminess.

Most everyone loved the Hugo rosé sparkler ($14 at Barriques), made in Austria from pinot noir and a slightly exotic grape called zweigelt. It tasted a bit like pickled watermelon — tasters pointed out “melon” and “vinegar/kombucha.”

The Punkt Sparkling Rosé ($16 at Steve’s on McKee) was a little creamy and a bit less sparkling than the Hugo. I detected flavors of cherry-strawberry-light watermelon, a touch of mustiness and honey and lots of acidity in the round rose.

Of the still rosés, we found several excellent deals among the 2011 crop. My personal best buy was the 2011 Hecht and Bannier (H&B) Rosé, a lovely French blend of syrah, grenache and cinsault ($9-11, various locations). A bright, strawberry-filled wine, this rosé also had hints of spice, tart pomegranate and a long, lush finish.

Nearly as good was the 2011 Charles & Charles ($11 at Barriques), a collaboration between two irreverent winemakers — Charles Smith and Charles Bieler. (Their motto is “Yes, you can drink rosé and still be a bad ass.”) The wine, watermelon in color and in taste, showed additional flavors of raspberry and a satisfyingly acidic finish.

Additional favorites were the 2011 L’Orangerie Rosé ($9 at HyVee), a very pale pink wine made from mostly grenache, merlot and cinsault from the Languedoc-Roussillon area in France. Tasters liked the “slightly sweet,” “green” flavors in this rosé, as well as tastes of red pear.

For a classic example of a perfectly dry French rosé, try the Mas de Breassades Rosé ($11 at Barriques). A fruit forward wine with a salmon color and a bone dry finish, it was lovely, and the style was “textbook,” one taster confirmed.

Venture outside of France for a couple of good buys, starting with the 2011 Michel Torino Malbec Rosé ($10 at Jenifer Street Market) from Argentina. Among the darkest of the rosés, the Michel Torino had a bit of muskiness at first but tasters described it overall as “fruity and bold.”

I love the sparklers from Toad Hollow, and their ’11 rosé ($11 at Woodman’s) was equally nice, a pretty rosé of pinot noir that smelled of roses and tasted of candied cherries. Also a hit was the delightful ’11 Paul Jaboulet Aine Côtes du Rhône Parallele 45 Rosé ($11 at Woodman’s; look for the big “45”). Tasters found flavors of melon, cherry and “tart and sweet” fruit.

If you’re able and willing to spend a few more bucks on rosé, the Chateau de Lancyre Rosé from the Languedoc in France ($18 at Barriques) is simply lovely. With a light, almost orange-pink color, this wine opened with ripe fruit and flowers and finished dry.

Also quite fine was the 2010 Chateau Trinquevedel Rosé from Tavel ($19 at Steve’s). Made primarily from the Rhône grape grenache and a white grape called clairette, this rosé had the complexity of a serious red wine, with tart red fruit at the start and a slightly candied finish. It was delicious, and a perfect way to start the summer.

Prices are approximate. Lindsay Christians occasionally pours wine tastings at Barriques.


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