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Real Men Drink Pink
OK, I admit it. I used to snicker at people who drank White Zinfandel. My thoughts went something like this: “Why drink a wine that more closely resembles iced tea or cherry Kool-Aid than real wine?” Luckily, that was as far as I made it down wine snobbery lane. A very enlightened wine guru helped me do a U-turn when she shared her cardinal rule of wine enjoyment: “If you happen to like a particular wine, then who cares what anyone else thinks about it? Just drink and enjoy.” Wine is all about enjoyment. If you happen to like White Zin then bully for you! I must admit; it takes a courageous person in the often hyperpretentious lounge culture to order a glass of pink wine. I’ve seen an entire table collectively roll its eyes at a courageous (or blissfully naïve) thirtysomething ordering the lone glass of White Zinfandel amidst a sea of inky Cabernet and oaked up Chardonnay. Well, I now proclaim myself to be a rosé drinker and I’m damn proud of it. I still don’t care for White Zinfandel. But I have discovered a nice little universe of rosé wines outside the White Zin realm that are perfect for springtime sipping.
A few years ago, my wife and I vacationed on the Caribbean island of Martinique in the French Antilles. Martinique, while not easy to get to (a seemingly endless five-stop string of flights guaranteed to make the most seasoned traveler’s tucus numb), is quite literally a chunk of France in the tropics. After spending one morning lying on the beach, making my own skin a nice shade of rosé, we decided to enjoy a light lunch in a nearby café. I needed a nice cool drink. I looked around at my fellow, mostly European, vacationers and noticed small carafes filled with something suspiciously pink in color. Having never visited Paris or the south of France during warm weather months, I didn’t realize this was the same Provençale rosé, which is enjoyed in hundreds of outdoor cafes when the temperature rises. Feeling a little adventurous and very thirsty, we ordered a carafe of rosé to go along with our seafood and cheese crepes. Yum. What a fantastic warm weather wine. The rosé was nothing like I expected. It was fruity yet dry, light and refreshing. This wine was very easy to drink and went well with our food. It was an uncomplicated beverage for vacationers intent on maintaining uncomplicated states of mind. I’ve since learned that most rosé wines from southern France are blends of several red grapes including Syrah, Mourvedré, Grenache and Cinsault. Rosé wines get their color from limited exposure to red grape skins. Basically, this means the grape skins are separated from the fermenting juice before the must becomes red.
After the vacation, I made my way to the wine store and found two rosé gems – one from France and the other from Spain - and both less than seven dollars! The French rosé is from the Languedoc region. Les Jamelles Cinsault Rosé 2003 ($7) is made from 100% Cinsault grapes. This rosé is a pretty pink color and offers up fresh fruit scents of raspberry and strawberry. Drinking a chilled glass of this wine made me think of two words: ‘pleasant’ and ‘fresh.’ On the domestic pink drinks scene, I still avoid White Zinfandel. However, there is one bona-fide jim-dandy rosé wine from California, which I enjoy whenever it’s warm enough to sprawl on the grass. Terre Rouge Vin Gris d’Amador 2003 ($12) is primarily a blend of Mourvedré and Grenache. Far from the pale pink prettiness of its French counterpart, Terre Rouge is intense cherry-red in color with nifty copper undertones. This wine behaves a bit more like a red in the glass. Thus, allowing it to warm up just a bit before sipping is a good idea. Terre Rouge is one notch up the complexity pole from Les Jamelles. When it comes to distinctiveness, many rosés are more or less the same. If you want unique in your pink, head to Sicily and give Tasca D’Amerita Rose di Regaleali 2002/2003 ($16) a try. This wine, made from a blend of native Sicilian grape varieties, offers an unforgettable scent combination of spiced pear, lilac and red apple. It’s quite full-bodied, which allows this pink Italian to stand up to most anything off the grill.
These rosés go well with nearly any food you’re likely to toss in the picnic basket. Try them with cold pasta dishes, olives, chicken, fish or even mom’s potato salad. My favorite rosé pairing is a bottle with beach towel and book. Like me, you too will soon be a proud pink wine drinker. Cheers.
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