If you have ever traveled to the south of France, chances are you know the sublime pleasure of a cool glass of rosé on a lazy afternoon. The pink wine is favored in that sun-basked region for its refreshing crispness and ability to pair up with a wide variety of foods. There is even an appellation, Tavel, dedicated to rosé.
In the U.S., however, rosé has suffered from an image problem. Many Americans, remembering the white zinfandel fad of the 1980s, mistakenly assume that all pink wines are soda-pop sweet. Au contraire! Rosés, in fact, are quite dry and can be one of summer's -- or any season's -- great pleasures.
Over the past decade more American wine drinkers have been discovering rosé. "The tide is turning," says Jeff Morgan, who co-owns SoloRosa Wines in St. Helena in the Napa Valley, which produces a well-regarded rosé by the same name. He is also the author of a new book, Rosé: A Guide to the World's Most Versatile Wine. When Morgan made his first rosé five years ago, he was hard-pressed to identify many California vintners serving it up. Today, he has rounded up 58 wineries to join Rosé Avengers & Producers, an industry group he founded "to avenge the wrongs done to dry rosé."
Sales of dry rosé are not tracked separately, but wine stores and restaurants say they are stocking more to accommodate growing demand. At $10 to $15 a bottle, on average, rosé is considered a good value. Rosé should be drunk while it's young -- the 2004 vintage is hitting stores now -- and is served slightly chilled, like a white wine.
"Rosé" means "pink" in French, but it is produced all over. In Italy they call it rosato; in Spain, rosado. Red grapes are typically used -- perhaps grenache or mourvedre in France, merlot in California. What makes rosé different from red wine is the limited contact the juice has with the skins -- as little as a few hours. Depending on the type of grape, geography, and winemaking techniques, the color can range from a pale blush to deep cherry red, and can be clean and mineral-tasting or lush and bursting with berry flavors.
Interested in trying some? Lorena Ascencios, wine buyer at New York's Astor Wines & Spirits, suggests Bardolino Chiaretto, Gorgo from northern Italy, a dry, light-bodied wine that tastes of strawberries and sells for $10. For a heartier wine, she likes Charles Melton Rosé of Virginia, from Australia's Barossa Valley, for $14. The spicy, dark-colored rosé can stand up to grilled lamb or beef. Or try a classic rosé such as Château d'Aquéria from Tavel, which retails for around $18. If you can't travel to the south of France, a bottle of rosé may be the next best thing.
By Amy Cortese