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Summer’s elegant drink turns out to be pink

By Catherine Rabb
Catherine Rabb
Catherine Rabb is co-owner of Fenwick's and an associate instructor at Johnson & Wales University.

When Brad Pitt is on the cover of Wine Spectator magazine holding a glass of rosé from his Chateau Miraval vineyard, it’s confirmation of what anybody selling wine these days already knows:

Red and white wine are doing fine, but pink is today’s hot drink.

“Rosé popularity has exploded,” says Chris Woodrow, owner of the Vin Master Wine Shop in South End.

“I think part of the reason is that most people prefer the flavors and bolder tastes of red wine. And while a lot of people do muscle through with a big cabernet, it's tough when it's 90 (degrees) out.”

Rosés have the advantage of being cool and lighter, he says, so they don't make you hot while bringing the red-wine flavors people like.

Five years ago, when I was writing about the increasing popularity of rosé wine, I chatted with one guy who was buying a bottle of rosé in a wine shop to take home and drink. He said his masculinity wasn’t secure enough to be seen drinking a glass in public.

Today, everybody is drinking rosé. And drinking it in public, too.

By rosé, I mean wine made from red grapes with a bit of skin contact, which gives the wine colors that range from very light salmon to deep pink. In wine-making, the color comes from the skin of the grape, so rosés have a little bit of skin contact with the juice from the grape, but not as much as red wine.

Rosé can be made from just about any red-skinned grape from sangiovese to syrah, and made just about anywhere, using the red grapes typically grown in that region.

There is a reason rosés are so popular. They are not at all sweet, and are perhaps even a bit tart. They have the refreshing, thirst-quenching qualities of a white wine and some of the depth and cherry-berry fruitiness and structure of a red. Light enough to enjoy by themselves, they also have enough oomph to be great food partners.

“We are killing it with rosé this year, and having a blast doing it,” says Ian Coyne of Winestore near SouthPark. “This year, the warm weather arrived at the same time as the 2013 rosés from southern France, so it was just meant to be.”

Most rosé wines are very affordable, making it fun to pick up a number of styles and do some comparison tasting. Coyne suggests the 2013 Lafage Miraflors rosé from Cotes du Roussillon ($14.99). Woodrow is enjoying the Fattoria Basciano rosé from Tuscany ($13.99). Made from 100 percent Sangiovese, he calls it “chianti in a bathing suit.”

Craig Brown, sommelier at Arthur’s Wine Shop at SouthPark, loves Elk Cove Vineyards rosé from Oregon’s Willamette Valley ($17.99), enjoying the vibrant red fruit flavors and long, dry finish. Abby Johnson of the Wine Shop at Foxcroft has several rosés on the shelf and is particularly fond of Matthiasson rosé from Napa Valley ($29.99) as an especially elegant rosé, with great acidity and a beautiful pale color.

Catherine Rabb is co-owner of Fenwick’s and a senior instructor at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte. Email: Catherine.rabb@jwu.edu.
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