By guest columnist Thomas Matthews, senior editor
Real men don't drink rosé. Right? White Zinfandel is only for wine wimps. Pink wines are for people who really wish wine would taste more like Coca-Cola, or vodka mixed with cranberry juice. Ah, the Cape Codder. Now THERE'S a rosy-colored drink you can respect.
I know lots of people who think that way. I did myself, once. But not any more. My sister Ellen changed my mind.
Ellen has very acute taste buds, which unfortunately magnify harsh flavors as well as pleasant ones. She finds many foodsand most winesdifficult to appreciate. But she likes to drink wine with her food, and she has pretty much settled on white Zinfandel. Her favorite producers are Beringer and Deloach, which fall on the less sweet, lighter side of the white Zin spectrum. What she doesn't appreciate, though, are the responses she gets from sales clerks and waiters.
"They assume I know nothing about wine," she told me. "It's almost as if they'd rather not sell white Zin at all."
My philosophy is: Wine for everyone, and for everyone the wine they like. So I began to pay more attention to white Zin, and rosés in general. In retail stores, I discovered, they are the wines most likely to be packaged with screwtops, in huge jugs with handles, even in cardboard boxes. On restaurant wine lists, they are most noticeable by their absence. You will find some in the kind of places where the wine list is a plastic table tent, but often listed without vintage or even producer indicated. Restaurants with culinary pretensions usually don't offer any white Zins, and often only one rosé. I decided that no matter what obscure kind of wine you may favorMadeira, Brunello, hockyou have better chances of finding a good selection than people who really like rosé.
But I persevered, and now I can truly say I enjoy white Zinfandel. At least, the better ones, in the right situation. Especially as a summer aperitif, on the deck of our family cottage in New Hampshire, with the aroma of grilling hamburgers in the air, while slowing down and catching up on busy lives.
This summer, I'm drinking rosé at every opportunity. Last month in Paris friends and I found Les Nomades, a delightful one-star restaurant with Provencal cuisine and a dozen rosés from the region; we drank two bottles. Two weeks ago my wife, Sara, threw a birthday party for Anne, an old friend; there were 12 of us at long candlelit tables in our Brooklyn garden. I served a sparkling wine for the birthday toast, but the rest of the evening was devoted to rosé. Most recently, two Spanish rosados watered our barbecue on the Fourth of July.
I've discovered that rosés can show many different personalities. Unfortunately, not all are winners. It must be said that rosés are not very reliable. On the other hand, they're rarely expensive; even the best generally retail for $15 or less, and many pleasant wines are priced under $8. Their easy fruitiness is their chief appeal. But more and more I appreciate their variety, which appeals to a curious palate. Rosés offer tastes of obscure varietals and offbeat blends you'll rarely find in a classic red or white.
Rosés can be the most refreshing wines. On the Fourth, we practically gulped a 1996 Martinez Bujanda Rioja Rosado Valdemar. Neither sweet nor tart, the blend of Garnacha and Tempranillo was fresh and clean, tasting of cherries and strawberries. Rosés can be gutsy and surprising, like a 1996 Cline California Vin Gris Cotes d'Oakley. Made from Mourvedre, Carignane and Cinsaut, the grapes of the southern Rhone, it has color so deep as to be almost red, and at 13.5 degrees of alcohol, all the power we needed. But it was still a rosé, with snappy berry, spice and herbal flavorinclude "_t/bottom.btl"}s and bright acidity for balance. And rosés can be classy, too. A Domaine Richeaume Cotes de Provence 1996 lit up our garden party with its elegance and the harmonious match it made with grilled chicken marinated in basil, garlic and lime.
There may be occasions in summer when the best wine choice would be red or white. But I can't think of many. Even with a steak, I prefer Dolcetto or Beaujolais, light reds slightly chilled that are as close as red comes to rosé. And if the occasion wants majesty more than a quaffing wine, well, there's always rosé Champagne. Otherwise, almost anything you cook on the grill or eat out of doors will be perfectly happy with some of the world's many pink wines.
And so, I venture to predict, will you.
tapenade on endive
New York fresh goat cheese
grilled chicken with Tom’s marinade
Nancy's potato salad with Vidalia onions
cold asparagus with housemade tarragon mayonnaise
farmer's market greens
Piper Sonoma Sonoma County Brut NV
And a bouquet of rosé:
Chateau de Jau Vin de Pays d'Oc Le Jaja de Jau 1995
Cline California Vin Gris Cotes d'Oakley 1996
Domaine Richeaume Cotes de Provence 1996
How many bottles of rosé have you uncorked so far this summer?
Let us know in the current Weekly Poll.
Thomas Matthews, New York bureau chief and a senior editor of Wine Spectator, is sitting in for vacationing Web columnist James Laube. Laube, a senior editor of Wine Spectator magazine, has written three books on California wine. Check this space every Monday for his views on the latest in the wine world. And if you missed a week, or want to reread a piece, back editions are available in the Column Archive.
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