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Originally published Saturday, October 22, 2011 at 7:01 PM

Wine Adviser

Pop, pop, fizz, fizz: rosés add the sparkle

Wine columnist Paul Gregutt says sparkling rosés are made almost everywhere in the wine-producing world. At the top are the special-occasion rosé Champagnes. Their more humble brethren are available at everyday prices,

Special to the Seattle Times

Pick of the week

Opera Prima Pink Moscato; $6-$7

SWEET WINES are all the rage these days, and this charmingly unserious Spanish bubbly is made entirely from moscato, a grape that has suddenly become a consumer favorite. It's sweet but not sugary, simply fruity and fun, with alcohol at just 7 percent. (Distributed by Grape Expectations)

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YOU MAY HAVE slurped your last glass of chilled rosé a few weeks ago, but you may find another category of these wines useful as surefire party starters for fall/winter entertaining.

These sparkling rosés come in a rainbow of colors, some as dry as the desert, some candy sweet. They are made almost everywhere in the wine-producing world. At the top of the heap are the rosé Champagnes, often the most expensive offerings from the individual producer. These are special-occasion bottles, and they can cost up to hundreds of dollars.

But their more humble brethren (and sistren?) can be found at everyday prices, and they make people smile just by looking at them. I lined up a dozen bottles from various producers, all scintillating shades of pink, and tasted through them with friends as we nibbled on Monteillet cheese and Marcona almonds. Most of these wines were Spanish cavas or Italian spumantes, though a couple of outriders were tossed in just for fun.

There was nothing in the group that would make you trade in your Dom, your Krug or your Billecart-Salmon. But I don't think any of these wines will disappoint for the price.

Spumante simply means sparkling in Italian; unlike prosecco, it is not the name of a grape, nor is its production tied to a specific region. The Zardetto (a Winebow import; $17) is a good starter bottle. Known mostly for their proseccos, Zardetto's spumante rosé is produced in the Veneto from the raboso grape, which gives it impressive structure, along with pretty cherry and orange candy flavors.

Lamberti (a Wildman import; $12) is light and dry, with pleasant strawberry flavors. It's an equal blend of pinot bianco, pinot nero and raboso.

I had never tasted the Valdo Nerello Mascalese (a Pasternak import; $14) but it wowed me and the rest of the tasters as well. Floral highlights and impressive concentration made this a standout.

Another interesting discovery was the Tenuta Col Sandago brut rosé (imported by Elliott Bay; $20), made in the Colli Trevigiani (near Treviso) from an ancient Austrian grape called Wildbacher. It was complex and fruity, with hints of rock and earth.

Moving to Spain, among the most widely available cava rosés is Segura Viudas ($10), with clean cherry fruit streaked with vanilla. I preferred it to the more expensive Freixenet Rosado.

But my favorite of the tasting was the Mont-Marçal Rosado Brut (imported by Classical Wines; $17). This vintage-dated wine had the elegance of Champagne, with exceptional focus and precision. Fruit flavors of cherry and pomegranate contributed to a sleek, racy, polished wine perfectly suited to the appetizers.

The two outrider bottles I mentioned were from the "now for something completely different" school of winemaking. The Chook (imported by Epicurean Wines; $20) is a sparkling shiraz, a style of blood-red bubbly that is popular in Australia. It's a nonvintage blend of 3- to 5-year-old wines that have been aged in neutral French oak barrels before the secondary fermentation that produces the bubbles. Dry and tannic, it's substantial enough to accompany a platter of hard cheeses and cured meats.

The Opera Prima Pink Moscato is my Pick of the Week. Produced in Castilla-La Mancha, where more than half of Spain's grapes are grown, it is an exceptional value. One Cellartracker taster deemed it a "guilty pleasure," and I can understand why. Sweet, fruity wines are not supposed to appeal to snooty wine writers, but this one did. Be sure to chill it well and serve it as an aperitif or with light desserts.

The revised second edition of Paul Gregutt's "Washington Wines & Wineries" is now in print. His blog is www.paulgregutt.com. Email: paulgwine@me.com.

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About Wine Adviser

My column is all about sharing the joy of exploring all the world of wine. I want to guide people to make inspired choices, and encourage them to try as many different styles of wine as they can. I will always seek out the best wines at the best prices. Wine Adviser runs on Sunday in Pacific Northwest Magazine.
paulgwine@me.com

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