Cover Story Plant Life On Fitness Northwest Living Taste Now & Then Sunday Punch


WRITTEN BY AND PHOTOGRAPHED BY JACQUELINE KOCH

Blushing No More
Finally, rosé is getting the good reputation it deserves


Crisp, dry and soothing to a searing thirst, rosé blends the best of red and white wine.
"... SO, WHAT is the bottle of pink stuff?"

My contribution to the wine stock at a party always draws attention. The mixture of disbelief and distaste is the reaction I've come to expect. But I am not dismayed. Instead, I'm buoyed by my French mother's two guiding principles for the good life: Never be afraid to share your passion and never go to a party empty-handed. So, true to myself and proper etiquette, I always bring a bottle of rosé — dry rosé.

For many, dry rosé is an oxymoron. For me it's a raison d'être, especially at cocktail hour. But I understand why dry rosé strikes so many wine fans as a contradiction in terms. Pink wine invariably conjures the syrupy-sweet memory of domestic versions, white zinfandel and blush. Forgive me for being blunt, but with few exceptions, these have all the sugar and sophistication of Cherry Coke. They are an unfortunate take on their European predecessors, and have given good rosé a bad name.

Europeans don't share our skepticism of rosé. Nor should they. After all, they've been drinking the right stuff all along. In France, rosé, yes dry rosé, is the cornerstone of the national pastime — aperitif. The social ceremony that gathers friends and family before dinner isn't complete without a chilled and inviting glass of pink wine. I acquired my taste for this ritual effortlessly in the warm Indian-summer afternoons of Provence. Paired with tangy olives to entertain your appetite, rosé is served cool and sipped casually. Blending the best of white and red wine, rosé is crisp and gently infused with fruit. Above all, it promptly soothes a searing thirst, which I suspect fuels its tremendous appeal in the sun-baked lands surrounding the Mediterranean. I have always found myself thirsting for more.

Recommended Rosés

Imports

1. Chateau du Trinquevedel 2000 Tavel, Côtes-du- Rhône, France. $13

2. Marqués de Cáceres 1999 Rosé Rioja, Spain. $8

3. Domaine de Fontsainte 2000 Corbierès Rosé "Gris de Gris," Languedoc-Rousillon. $12

4. Domaine de la Mordorée 2000 Vin Rosé Tavel, Côtes-du-Rhône, France. $12

5. Domaine Tempier 2000 Bandol Rosé, Côtes de Provence, France. $24

Domestic

1. Bonny Doon 1999 Vin Gris de Cigar, California. $10

2. Robert Sinskey 2000 Gris de Gris, California. $17

3. Chinook Cabernet Franc Rosé, Washington. $14

They say all good things take time. Finding a good rosé back home has tested my patience but been worth the wait. Slowly, "French-style" rosé, as they call it, has trickled into the American market. Like an unknown actress seeking fame, dry rosé made a quiet debut in specialty wine stores, gathering momentum on occasional restaurant wine lists and, finally, hitting it big in the major supermarkets. To my great joy and shameless sense of vindication, I can now shop at Thriftway and pick from several options of pink wine — all of them dry.

A friend who stocks a rotating selection in her specialty grocery store puts it this way: "Rosés are fun to try; there is so much variety in them." The hallmark pink shades range from deep cherry to a near-transparent copper sheen.

A rosé's color is a good cue to its complexity and depth of flavor. Darker rosés are often bolder, voluptuous and with more forward fruit. They are laced with berry flavor from the syrah or cabernet sauvignon grapes. A lighter shade comes from the pinot noir or cabernet franc variety. They yield a snappy, brisk pour, with a hint of minerals. In between extends a range of medium-bodied rosés, but the one characteristic they share is this: They are all dry, bone dry.

Though a good French patriot would sneer at the mere suggestion, dry rosés hail from all corners of Europe: Spain, Portugal, Italy, even Greece. As the American thirst for these pink wines quickens, importers are reaching deeper into European selections. Meanwhile, vintners stateside are moving quickly to add to the domestic selection. California, the birthplace of white zinfandels, has pulled a vinicultural U-turn, becoming the vanguard of the spectacularly dry rosé. Some are worthy of making the French, well, blush. Washington State's Chinook Winery is weighing in with "French-style" pink wine, its grapes culled from our very own Yakima Valley.

The variety within these wines promises versatility. Whether it's picnics or pizza, tapas or tapenade, rosé is ideal with finger food but stands up to a full meal just as well. Dress it up, dress it down, rosés are unpretentious, flexible and practical. They aren't limited to the traditional toast to old friends or celebrating a new job. Reward yourself for finally mowing that lawn; a glass of pink is worth the sweat.

Shying away from self-importance and pretension, rosés don't carry the high prices of the "Grand Cru" crew. The cost has little bearing on what the bottle beholds. One of my favorite imports can be had at $8, a price that beats out the better summer chardonnays I used to settle for. The high end tops out at about $24, so sampling isn't an expensive venture. Instead, it's something you can savor, without having to save for.

It's a good thing, since a single bottle doesn't seem to go as far as it did before. My party friends are catching on. And since my mother's maxims haven't let me down yet, I'm bringing two bottles now. You never want to be caught short.

Jacqueline Koch is a freelance writer and photographer living on Whidbey Island.


Cover Story Plant Life On Fitness Northwest Living Taste Now & Then Sunday Punch

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