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Rosé-red wine light

For many, rosé is synonymous with inexpensive, sweet jug wine, popular in the seventies and eighties. Unfortunately, rosé’s reputation has been slow to change, even though exceptional versions of the wine are widely available today.

Old World versions of rosé have always followed their traditions, which is why Europeans drink as much pink wine, as they do white. French, German, Italian, and Spanish styles of rosé are usually zesty, savory, and refreshing. Although sweet versions can be found in Europe, most rosés are dry and some even contain a touch of tannin, just like a red.

Breaking down the rosé barrier is often futile. All too often when I suggest that someone try a rosé at a wine tasting, I watch them slowly draw it to their mouths as if it were turpentine, all the while making eye contact as if to signal an understanding; ‘you’ll resuscitate me right?’ The twisted grimace on their face insures that no matter what the wine tastes like, they are not going to like it.

Understanding how rosé is made reveals its substance and the reason that those who study wine have an affection for its style. Red wine is made by allowing the juice of freshly crushed grapes to ‘rest on the skins’ for a period of time in order to add color, tannin, and flavor. Rosés are made the same way, with red –not white grapes. The amount of time the juice rests on the skins is considerably less for rosé, hence the lighter color. You could say that rosés are ‘red wine light.’

Rosés are loaded with raspberry, strawberry, and cranberry flavors. They often have hints of lime peel, ground spices, and minerals. Honey, flowers, ginger, and fresh herbs are other descriptors, especially with sparkling rosés. Many fans of sparkling wine eventually become experts in sparkling rosé because of its complexity, especially those made in Champagne. Sparkling rosé is made by adding red wine to a white wine base during fermentation process.

Acquiring an affection for rosé is a journey for many. One of the best ways to experience rosé is to pair it with food. Rosé can pair well with difficult foods. Turkey and ham are wonderful with rosé. Pink foods like lobster and shrimp love pink wine. The elegant flavors of Salmon, tuna, red snapper, and swordfish stand out when paired with a dry rosé. Salads are one of the most difficult food categories to pair with wine. Rosés work well with most types of lettuce and are not overwhelmed by the acidity of vinegars and citrus juice.

Rosés have mouthwatering acidity, offering zesty flavors, much like white wines. On the other hand they can contain a touch of tannins and texture similar to red wines. European versions are less fruity than new world versions.

One of my favorite bottles of rosé comes from winemaker Serge Laloue in Sancerre, France ($24). Loaded with nuances of wild strawberries, this wine is lithe and elegant. Muga Rioja Rosé from Spain ($13) is a garnacha (grenache) based pink wine with savory notes of raspberries and hints of lime zest. Domaine de Fontsainte Gris de Gris, Corbierès France ($14), is yet another excellent choice when dabbling in pink wine. My newest discovery is Charles Melton’s Rose of Virginia Rosé ($18). An Australian pink wine with lots of muscle; it tastes more like a red wine than a white.

We are easing into warmer weather, where barbequing, sitting on the back porch, and thirst quenching beverages are the on the agenda. If exploring rosé fits into that plan, make sure the one you pick is from a recent vintage. As fleeting as a cherry blossom, the fresh flavors of rosé are at their peak in their youth.

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