What is that old axiom, don’t knock it until you try it? That’s exactly how I feel when negative comments are made about rosé and blush wines. You know, the pink stuff.
Sure, there was a time when cloying and one-dimensional white zinfandel flooded the wine landscape and ruined the reputation of good, dry, European-style rosés. But that was also the same time when short shorts ruled the NBA and Chevy Chase headlined “Saturday Night Live.” Thankfully, things change, and so should our perceptions of these beautiful wines.
Especially this time of year, when we’re looking for something to chill and sip with lighter foods such as salads, salsas, fish and anything off the grill, rosés fit the bill. I’m surprised more people haven’t discovered, or at least rediscovered, them in the desert. Blush wines are a natural with spicy and grilled foods; they’re fruity and typically made in an off-dry style. Their drinkability complements heat and soothes scorched palates.
So what exactly is a rosé? A red or white wine or something in between? Technically it’s a red wine with cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and gamay, the traditional French varieties, employed. The juice is allowed only limited contact with the skins after pressing, allowing the wine to take on a pink hue. In some cases fullbodied red wines are added to adjust the color and body of the wine. Europeans have been quaffing these for centuries along the Mediterranean. Rosés from France’s Loire Valley and coastal Provence are highly prized, as are some from Spain’s Navarra region, which use garnacha grapes, a cousin to gamay.
So let’s get over the white zinfandel hangover and reconsider this important summer wine. Chill a couple of bottles and have the neighbors over. I tried this last week and paired a couple California blushes with grilled flank steak fajitas and salsa and guacamole. Our friends went from skeptics at first to believers. Here are a few widely available bottles that will have you, too, thinking pink this weekend.
• Mumm Napa Blanc de Noirs, Napa Valley. Yes, a pink sparkler is just the way to celebrate summer. They’ve been sipping them along the Riviera for generations, so why not here? A blend of 85 percent pinot and 15 percent chardonnay, Blanc de Noirs is literally translated as “white of blacks,” or dark grapes. The radiant coral pink color is achieved by just the right amount of contact with the skins, and the aromas and flavor are pure California magic. Nice strawberry and cherry notes come through. Sip as an aperitif or with a Thai noodle salad. $17.
• Twin Fin 2006 California Sunset Rosé. This is a serious wine wrapped in a fun package. Twin Fin pays homage to classic convertible Cadillacs, and the whimsical spirit also translates to the sipping experience. The wine is made 100 percent of the famous Italian variety Sangiovese, which is known for high acidity and ample fruit. Stainless steel fermentation enforces the bright fruit impressions of rhubarb and strawberry. Chill and sip on its own or with a barbecue of grilled dogs and burgers. $10.
• La Vieille Ferme Rosé 2005, Rhone Valley, France. An absolute classic. When I think rosé, this is it. It’s inexpensive, easy to drink and great with food. Combine strawberry and watermelon refreshment and you’re there. Chill and serve with a cheese course or with chicken satays. $9.
• Montevina Winery Sierra Sunrise Rosé 2005, California. This wine is unusual in that the winery uses Nebbiolo, a grape rarely planted outside of Italy’s esteemed Piedmont region, as the principle variety. Lesser amounts of syrah and zinfandel are used to flesh out this lipstick pink bottle. The flavors are clean and juicy white peach and pink grapefruit, along with some kiwi. I can see this wine paired with roasted rosemary chicken with mushrooms. $10.
Mark Nothaft will discuss rosé and blush wines on “Sonoran Living Live,” which begins at 9 a.m. today on KNXV-TV (Channel 15).