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WINE AND FOOD WEDNESDAY
08/17/2011
Wine and Food Wednesday
Rosé—It’s For Wine Lovers, Not Wine Snobs

By Stephen Eliot

If you think any pink wine is cheap plonk, do not read on. If you turn your nose up and walk away when the Rosé hits the table, keep right on going. But, if you are open to interesting ideas, I’ve got some that work.

I confess that I like a well-made Rosé, and there are plenty of folks who do as well. Most anyone who pays even cursory attention to wine knows that Rosé has gained new fashionability over the last half-dozen or so years, and there is a good deal of the stuff, both good and bad, to be found on fine wine lists and retailers’ shelves.

Now, I remember with wincing nostalgia too many empty Mateus flagons – an apparent favorite of one Saddam Hussein, by the way -- from my college years, but the last half-dozen years or so have seen such a rise in interest of better-made wines that the coming of age of good Rosé is now longer a breaking story. There are brilliant bottlings from the south of France and wonderfully tasty offerings from Spain’s Rioja and Navarra regions. There are terrific versions made from North Coast Pinot hereabouts in California and some downright delicious examples from Grenache further south.

I suppose that, in part, I like good Rosés so much is that they are rarely the stuff of controversy. It is not a fashionable target for terroirists and rarely held up to scrutiny by those obsessed with authenticity. At worst, it is a wine dismissed by would-be wine snobs as candied, big-winery plonk, but, if you hold those views, it is very much time to think again. While even the new devotees of Rosé all too often see the stuff solely in terms of freshness and fruity quaffability, the best can be wines of real interest and depth; wines that can fit in beautifully with a serious meal.

That point was driven home a couple of times during dinners this past week when a random Rosé selection turned out be the wine of the night. The first, a bottle of the 2010 Etude Pinot Noir Rosé, poured at home as an afterthought with a platter of pimenton-laced Spanish white beans and chicken linguisa matched up beautifully with the recipe’s rich-but-not-too-heavy flavors.

The 2010 Goldeneye Vin Gris of Pinot Noir chosen the next night at Lafayette’s Artisan Bistro was as involving as it was refreshing, and it served as a remarkable bridge between an opening course of gazpacho of heirloom tomatoes, Dungeness crab and avocado sorbet and subsequent plates of roasted pork served with black-eyed peas, pickled peaches and mustard jus and a ballontine of sous vide chicken nestled atop red, Bhutanese rice and beans seasoned with ras el hanout. As complex and composed as each dish turned out, our bottle fit in seamlessly and added its own touch of interest to the mix.

I frankly felt more than a little disappointed last night when the featured Fiddlehead “Pink Fiddle” Rosé was already sold out at Picán, one of our favorite Oakland haunts. Maybe next time.

Rosé may have lost its stigma, but it is high time that it earns a little respect. It can be so much more than an unceremonious warm-weather quaff.


 

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Comments

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by Sherman
Posted on:8/18/2011 11:07:14 PM

I spent a few years in Arizona, engaged in the sale of wine (both on the retail and wholesale levels, calling on every kind of account and helping every kind of individual consumer) and one would think that AZ would be the perfect market for rose wines. After all, with eight months of summer ;) there's plenty of opportunity for the crisp and clean flavor profiles of the best examples.

 

Nope -- it would be 112 degrees outside and people would still come in, asking for a big Napa Cab or a lusty Zin from California! After all, with misters and fans on the outside patio (or just eating in air conditioned houses), there seemed no need to acknowledge the heat.

 

But for those few brave souls who would heed my recommendation,  a new horizon would open for them. Barnard Griffin, Syncline, Domaine Ott or Tempier Bandol -- from $11 to $35 and all world-class winners. Most of the time, they would be back the next week, looking for more and introducing their friends to the wines. 

 

Now in southern Oregon, I find that rose is still a "hand sell" -- it needs to be presented with passion to a skeptical customer and a bit of convincing might be required. But great rewards go to those adventurous folk who try something new!

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