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Rosťs are red†...
If you think you donít like rosé, you just havenít tried enough of them
BY DAVID MARGLIN

Well, theyíre not quite red. Rosés are blush wines, difficult to classify because theyíre a bit white and a bit red. Theyíre made like white wine, but from red grapes, and the juice remains in contact with the skins for 24 to 48 hours, which gives the wine its various pink hues (a very few rosés, particularly sparkling wines, are made by combining red and white wines, but these are the exception). While rosés are wildly popular among fine-wine folk outside the United States, for the most part, Americans tend to disdain and ignore blush vintages.

Every year I plead with readers to try rosés, and every year wine-store owners tell me the same thing: we canít really sell them. (One, who shall remain nameless, carries but one rosé throughout the winter. He brings in a handful every spring, but even with his passion for rosé, he canít move them, because Americans who spend a lot of money on wines refuse to spend their dollars on pink wines, except champagne.) The most popular theory behind this American rosé phobia posits that white zinfandel ó the fruity, sweet blush that took America by storm in the 1980s, coupled with pinks like Booneís Farm, Italyís Riunite, and Lancers and Mateus from Portugal ó killed the goose that laid the rosé eggs. Originally wildly popular, these wines eventually came to be looked down on as " non-wines " by fine-wine drinkers. Now, many wine drinkers have decided that rosés are beneath them, and itís hard to teach those old dogs new rosé tricks.

So why do I plead rosésí case so vehemently? For one thing, they please my personal palate ó I like their crispiness, the fruity rush. Their colors entice. Most of all, I love how versatile they are. Wine, for me, is usually appreciated best in the context of food, and in the multi-dimensional sport of pairing the two, rosés make for some pretty nice pieces of the puzzle. They offset spicy foods well, though I would argue that one reason Americans may not enjoy wine as much as they should is that folks who drink wine are partial to exotic and often spicy foods, but they are too often resistant to drinking the wines best suited to such dishes. When many people are dining together and many different dishes are served, a versatile rosé will often work best with everything (some can even stand up to red meat!). In addition to taste, color, and versatility, they offer variety: itís a treat to drink something different than a heavier cab/merlot/zin/syrah/sangiovese or fulsome chard.

If you think you donít like rosé, chances are you havenít tried enough of them ó remember, theyíre made from the same grapes as some of your favorite red wines. You can, of course, " cheat " by trying a rosé sparkling wine (Iíve recommended a couple below). Or have someone blindfold you and serve you a rosé or two in a flight with whites and reds at similar temperatures ó it may be that the pink color is throwing you off. And while rosés may not be for everyone, I would hate for such great wines to be overlooked simply because of their color. One might liken drinking rosé to affirmative action.

So trust me on this: if you like wine, in time youíre likely to realize that some of the best, most affordable wines to drink with a wide variety of foods are rosés.

2000 Domaine Tempier Bandol Provence. Very versatile, 40 percent mourvèdre, plus grenache and cinsaut. Itís copper in color, with strawberry and herbs, like a pie. Wonderful with bouillabaisse, spicy Thai, or a nice slice of pizza.

2001 Vega Sindoa Rosé Navarra. Bombs away! A fruit salad, 50 percent grenache, 50 percent cabernet sauvignon. I dig its bold fruit, but itís not dry at all. Reminds me of a watermelon sherbet. Good with spicy Asian cuisines.

2000 Vinum Cellars Rosé Itís Okay Napa Valley. Despite the cutesy name, itís actually more than okay. Cabernet thatís not deep, yet tasty and not too fruity; would be perfection at a picnic with turkey or pastrami sandwiches.

2001 Storybook Mountain Vineyards Zin Gris. Described on the bottle as the " blood of zinfandel. " Letís face it: vin gris style or not, this is white zinfandel, made of bled juice run off shortly after crush. Unlike most white zins, however, this one was fermented in small oak barriques. Strawberry/raspberry flavors, high acid content, good with fried chicken or veggie chili.

1999 E. Guigal Tavel Rhône. One of the most consistent rosés in the world from one of the more reliable producers, this auburn-colored wine is bone dry and reminiscent of a lovely womanís luxuriant locks. Berries, minerals, rhubarb, and a sensuous finish. Fabulous with a chicken caesar, cheese and crackers, potato salad, pâté, or your favorite cold cuts and mustard.

Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Brut Rosé Mendocino. At $20 a bottle, itís the pink standard for sparkling rosé (sort of a poor manís Bille). I could drink this pale-pink bubbly all day, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (and yes, I have). Fleshy, full, ripe-pear notes, a fine beverage, beautiful with salmon (smoked or otherwise).

David Marglin can be reached at wine[a]phx.com

Issue Date: April 25-May 2, 2002
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