Nothing says summer like rosé wine. Well, that not true; nothing says summer like bottles and bottles of this captured sunshine!

Sales of rosé have exploded over the past several years and while that has brought many more players into the game, the results aren’t always what we’re looking for. I fear rosé is headed down the path of Riesling! Riesling has a bad rap because it comes in all sweetness levels that are often impossible to figure out until you open the bottle.

Rosés have the same issue, but you can also layer on another variable that makes it even more confusing than Riesling! Some roses are light and fresh; others are rich and resemble a light red wine. I wish more producers would opt for some real speak on their labels instead of the ubiquitous “light and fresh, watermelon and cherry”!

If producers want to continue to enjoy explosive growth in their rosé sales, they owe their consumers a clear, honest, easy to understand back label; otherwise they’ll have to continue to depend on pundits, like me!

Photo courtesy Blazey via Flickr/CC

Check out our Top 8 Roses for July Slideshow

2010 Martin Ray Dry Rose Russian River Valley 13.9%  $12
Fruity and minerally on the nose, smelling fairly red wine-like with black cherry fruit. A bit soft and broad on entry with nicely mineral-laden, if slightly baked, fruit. There’s a nice base of earthy currant fruit here and good length that reveals excellent persistence of fruit with a faint sweet edge to it. This is a bit more than your typical rosé with a nice style that combines richness and elegance. 89pts

2010 Artazuri Garnacha Navarra 13% $10
A bit yeasty on the nose at first, then softly fruity with a light baked edge to the raspberry aromas and an underlay of baked white earth. This shows excellent balance with good acidity and a nice roundness on the palate framed with subtle tannins. The fruit is transparent and dry, very wild raspberry-toned, allowing the low mineral and earth tones here to shine right through. The acidity brightens up on the finish, adding freshness to the fruit and some length. It’s not going to win any awards, but it’s a might fine rosé in my book. 89pts

2009 Bugay Vineyard Long Stem Rose Rose of Syrah Santa Rosa Ca. 113.5% $22
Oily and olivey on the nose with black spice notes and a little edge of poblano chile. Rich and round with a seductive mouthfeel, this offers up a core of distinctly meaty fruit, supported by gentle tannins that lend the wine a subtle bittersweet character. The fruit pops on the finish, revealing a lightly candied cherry aspect that adds to the sweet/savory nature here. Fairly complex and quite interesting.  88pts

2009 Yin Yang Pinot Grigio Rose Willamette Valley 13.5% $12
This smells of pears and plums, with a slight honied edge and some floral top notes.  A touch sweet but at the same time this shows really interesting bitter/sweet tension in the mouth. The wine exhibits a lovely fresh fruit quality, and the texture is clear and tense with good density and just a hint of creamy thickness. The flavors here are more akin to a typical Pinot Grigio rather than a typical rosé, but with several added dimensions. The finish is lightly dusty and ever so drying with a lovely mineral/spice/tree bark finale. This is delicious. 88pts

2010 Prieure de Montezargues Tavel 13.5%
Fruity and deep on the nose with notes of lingonberry and red plum backed up with herbal and floral nuances. This is rather large-scaled in the mouth, but well balanced. I love the fruit here; it’s fresh and obvious without being totally fruit bomb-y and is underpinned by some soft tannins and decent acidity. This is a fruity wine, but fresh with nice peach and apple tones contributing some complexity, but always kept in check by the lightly stemmy tannins. Fire up the grill! 88pts

2010 Jean Luc Colombo Cape Bleue Rose 12.5% $11
Vin de Pays: Syrah 40%, Grenache 40%, Counoise 20%
This has a rather ethereal but very pretty nose with a woodsy feel that combines frutti di bosco (mixed berries) with forest floor tones. With air, this turns more mineral on the nose and even a touch floral. An interesting wine in the mouth with plenty of acidity, but it’s very well covered with rather thickish fruit. The flavors are lovely, bright raspberry with mineral cut and floral woodsy top notes. But the texture is a little less delicate than I would like to see. Still, it’s quite lovely. 88pts

2010 Castel des Maures Cotes de Provence Cuvee Jeanne 13% $14
Nicely complex on the nose with balanced notes of herb, white pepper, mineral and soft red fruit. This is rather big boned in the mouth but finely balanced with integrated acids and a touch of dusty tannin, adding detail to the mineral and peach shaded red berry fruit. A bit on the astringent end of the spectrum, the fruit here recalls red currant and lingonberry that leads to a medium-length, refreshing finish. 88pts

2010 Regaleali Le Rose Sicily 12.5% $11
Lightly floral on the nose with scents of licorice and dusty soil adding detail to the red currant fruit. Smooth and polished in the mouth with nice raspberry fruit up front followed by a bright, acid-driven watermelon note that leads to a gentle, mineral-accented, nicely fruited finish. 87pts

2009 Thumbprint Cellars Dry Rose Alexander Valley 14%
Funky! There’s plenty of VA here and a touch of brett, but this is all filled with funky, leathery, spicy, animal and medicinal notes. Crazy complexity. In the mouth this is fairly large-scaled and nicely layered with burnished red fruits, dried apple peels, earthy base notes and some licorice and fennel top notes. This finishes like a small-scaled red with those herbal/medicinal notes adding contrast to the modest fruit. This sounds worse than it is and I actually enjoyed this. Think of it as a light red and pair it with grilled duck, lamb or venison ribs. 87pts.

2010 Valley of the Moon Rosato of Sangiovese 13.5% $16
This has big cherry fruit on the nose with gentle suggestions of moss, green spice and anise seed. Lightly but noticeably sweet in the mouth with fair intensity of fruit that really exhibits good Sangiovese character, if in a very sweet style that turns fairly thick on the finish. If you prefer sweeter rosés though, this one is worth checking out. 86pts

2010 Marques de Caceres Rioja 13.5% $10
A bit earthy and maybe even leathery on the nose, but at the same time full of lightly herbal and almost vanilla-scented cherry fruit. This is nicely focused in the mouth, fruity yet dry with good cherry inner mouth perfumes. It’s got a round edge to it that leads to a nicely dry, fairly long finish; but it remains quite fruity overall. 85pts

2010 Les Deux Rives Corbieres 12%
Syrah 40%, Grenache 40% Cinsault 20%
Fruity on the nose with notes of raspberries and a light, fresh stemmy accent. This is lightly sweet up front but with plenty of acid to keep things balanced. The sweetness isn’t quite matched by the fruitiness, so there a bit of a disconnect between the sugar and the savory flavors; but the sugar does add roundness and softness in the mouth. Quite mineral on the finish with a bit of candied raspberry on the finale. 84pts

2010 Falesco Vitiano Umbria 12.5% $11
A nice sweet spice greets the nose, lending an almost nutmeg-like note to the simple red cherry fruit. Round and easy in the mouth, but nicely balanced with good acidity lending freshness to the raspberry fruit. This is smooth with a relatively rich feel but it does end with a fairly sticky finish. 84pts

2010 Torres Sangre de Toro Catalunya 13.5% $10
Not very fruity on the nose with some dark cherry tones and a hint of peach skin. This is a bit sweet with plenty of acidity, lending this a fruit punch-like quality. It also tastes like fruit punch which means you’re either going to love this or hate it. It does make this an ideal wine for a rosé sangria. This would also work well with burgers on the grill. The wine redeems itself a bit on the finish, which sees a nice little tannic grab, lending some cleansing dryness.  84pts

2009 Cathedral Ridge Rose Columbia Valley 12.5%
The smells exactly like ketchup. Maybe with a dollop of barbeque sauce stirred in, or maybe including the burger and a strip of bacon. A bit fruity in the mouth with some nice tannins adding some mouthgrab. This is popularly styled and easy with an unusual combination of flavors that would work well with some food; I’m thinking burgers (duh!). But it may not be the best sipping rosé, though it is easy to drink. 84pts

2009 Banfi Centine Rose Toscana 12.5% $11
A little reductive on the nose with a creamy edge to lemon-framed strawberry fruit.  Light and a bit round in the mouth with soft flavors and nice refreshing acids. There’s a nice, gentle cherry core of fruit here and some earthy tones that follow on the back end and lead to a modest, steely, hard finish. 83pts

NV Saint Croix Vineyards Minnesota 12.5% $13
Rather unique nose with classic foxy aromas that layer feral and spice notes over the base of jammy wild cherry fruit. This is frankly sweet and while there’s good acid here, the wine is a touch ponderous and syrupy even. The fruit is complex on the palate with burnished cherry notes and liquor raspberry tones all topped with a faint foxy/herbal edge. The sugar drives the finish, which ends on a cotton candy note. Interesting, but particular. 83pts

2010 Le Jaja de Jau Vin de Pays Rose of Syrah 13% $10
Aromatically this is pretty tight with soft cherry/berry fruit on the nose. Round and smooth in the mouth, this has clean fruit but is quite simple. It’s fresh and easy with a very brief finish. 82pts

2009 William James Cellars Grenache Rose Santa Barbara County 14.5% $19
Confected and marginally overripe on the nose with notes of Bovril alcohol and molasses. There is some weight on the palate but this lacks intensity and freshness, with disjointed flavors and an alcohol-revealing thinness. 78pts