Pinot or Cabernet?

When it comes to Roses there are differences, or are there?


Last week I published reviews of some varied roses currently on the market. At the same time as I tasted those wines I also tasted these examples. I’ve chosen to publish the results separately for two reason. First off there is the pricing issue, the Pinot Noir Based examples were simply much more expensive than all the rest, and there there was the simple fact that being produced from Pinot or Cabernet, these wines have a bit of an advantage in the marketplace.

We know Pinot and cabernet and are in all likelihood somewhat predisposed to buying wines with familiar names on the label. So my sort of follow up question was a simple one. Is it worth spending more on Pinot Noir based roses when rose wines tend, for my palate at least, to be more similar than they are different?
It’s not the fault of the producer of course, but rather of the process. Almost all of the delicious complexity we enjoy in red wines is found in the skins, and when you limit the time the juice is in contact with the skins, as is the case with rose, you also limit the extraction of all those delicious flavors and aromas. Pinot Noir though has a bit of an advantage. You see their skins are relatively low in coloring so a winemaker can keep his Pinot Noir juice in contact for a longer period of time than say would be the case with Cabernet and he still will get a pleasantly lightly colored finished wine, though one with potentially more complexity and intensity of flavor on the palate.
That’s the theory at least. The truth of the matter is that, like with all wine categories, there are those who exceed expectations, and then there is everyone else. The best wines of my tasting were indeed the relatively expensive Pinot Noirs, though the fair cheaper Cabernet based wines were not terribly far behind. For my money I would probably choose one of the Cabernet based wines to serve this summer. Unless I was planning on a dinner with true wine geeks. It’s also worth noting the great values I discovered last week 5 FAVORITE ROSES FOR SUMMER 2014. As you can see the Mulderbosch made both lists, it’s a great value wine and a terrific rose as well. 
It’s also worth noting that even though the Pinot based roses may have a bit more nuance and complexity, those based on Cabernet tend to be more obviously varietal, with the intensity of Cabernet’s currant fruit and herbaceous character being decidedly obvious. It’s a combination of flavors that I find attractive, and pairing with the relative intensity of the wine makes for a rose that is well suited to being paired with food, from grilled salmon to burgers and almost anything in between. Another factor in its favor. 

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5 Top Roses for Summer 2014

Le Roi des Pierres Sancerre Rose (2013)
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Winter's Hill Dry Rose Pinot Noir Dundee Hills Oregon (2013)
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Stoller Family Estate Pinot Noir Rose (2013)
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Mulderbosch Cabernet/Rose (2013)
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De Morgenzon Cabernet Sauvignon Rose Dmz (2013)
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Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: johnmmoore
    170772 16

    I don't think I've ever come across a Cab rose. The choice for me is usually between Pinot, Grenache, Syrah, and the occasional Sangiovese. And I usually prefer the Rhone roses - for me they have that perfect balance of fruit and acidity.

    Jul 07, 2014 at 3:24 PM

  • Snooth User: intellmkt
    1418066 30

    It's not likely that I'm going to pay more than $20 for a Rose unless I'm really curious. For the most part, Rose's subtleties are usually not remarkable for most palates, including mine. I recently ordered a case of a Spanish Rose made from 100% Garnacha, and my wine merchant asked me, somewhat surprised, "What do you like about that wine?"

    It was hard to describe, but it was mostly about what the wine was not. It left no aftertaste, it had no unpleasant acidity, and it was not expensive ($8). It was just pleasant on the palate and somewhat thirst quenching.

    I've recently tasted over twenty different Roses, some mentioned in this column, without finding a wine I enjoy as much drinking often and regularly, even though I could say something nice about most of them.

    So, for the vast majority of us, who are concerned with price for our everyday wine, and I've yet to taste a Rose that is "special", I would have to say NO, the price difference in drinking a Rose made from Cabernet or Pinot Noir is not worth it.

    Jul 07, 2014 at 3:27 PM

  • If you want to try a great Rose, the Lucy Rose of Pinot Noir is wonderful and is priced at $18 per bottle. It is made by the Pisoni family from the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA. I have not tried the Rose wines mentioned in your article but am now curious to compare.

    Jul 07, 2014 at 4:19 PM

  • Snooth User: Mern
    103234 140

    Our go to rosés are: Mourchon and Balandran, south of France; Vina Sastre, Ribera del Duero, Spain; and the Fisher "Unity", A Tribute to Grace, and Lasseter "Enjoue", all from various areas of California! The Unity is the most expensive at $ in Texas, these are instrumental in enjoying our pool time and great BBQ!

    Jul 07, 2014 at 7:20 PM

  • hey everyone, try Georges Bertrand rose wines, coming from Aude region in France. pretty good wines and not that expensive.

    Jul 09, 2014 at 1:28 PM

  • Snooth User: Mern
    103234 140

    Xurus makes a cab based rosé, very tasty! From the Lake County, California....

    Jul 09, 2014 at 4:04 PM

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