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Articles,  June, 2003

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Pinks---Summer Time Fun
The underrated choice

Summer.  Yeah, it's here again.   Buy early, by the way, before the wines languish on the shelves of many unprepared retailers throughout the long, hot summer.  Wines can be badly damaged by high heat. 

With the advent of air conditioning, the issue of what wines go best in the summer heat seems less important than ever before. Still, many summer events occur outside, not inside. (Can we say "Picnic"?) And, even when it is nice and cool inside, there is something viscerally appealing about a nice cold glass after dragging your body home through the humid soup of a summer day. So, let's talk about summer wine.

The summer wine choice usually comes down to white wines and rosés, wines that can be drunk cold. There are, by the way,  some lighter reds that fare well in the summer, like Beaujolais and Chinon (from the Loire and made from cabernet franc), but the choices tend to come down to white or pink a lot of the time.  The whites are typical picks,  especially in the crisper or lighter styles, like German Riesling,  Italian Moscato, and Loire Sauvignon Blancs.  But the poor rosés are often ignored or derided.     My recommendation for pinks as perfect summer wines therefore startles some people.  The poor, beleaguered rosés have a bad reputation and are grossly underrated, so, for once,  let's think pink!

The rosés’  bad reputation stems partly from the cloyingly sweet, cheap wines that one sometimes finds in France (although times are changing!)  in regions like Provence and Anjou, but first and foremost  from the white (or blush) zinfandels made in the USA.  But that's like suggesting that all cabernets should be judged only by what the Czech Republic turns out. 

Rosés can be just about perfect choices for summer fare, and the great ones in fact are dry not sweet. They meet all your summer needs, with the exception that, no matter how much you drink, you still have to apply suntan lotion.   You know the old wedding slogan, “something old, something new…?”  With rosés, it is something cold, something bold, i.e.,  a summer wine that can be drunk chilled, but still has enough oomph to stand up to things that might ordinarily cause us to crack a red wine.  They have flavor, and are not TOO subtle, which is great in the summer, since if they are drunk outside or with spicy foods nothing subtle will be noticed.  A good one may even keep a confirmed red wine drinker from having withdrawal symptoms. 

 Just do this: make sure they're fresh. Ideally, a rosé should be at most two or three years old, assuming perfect storage. That is, buy 2001s and 2002s in 2003.  Buy as young as you can find. Only the very best age, and even then, not for long.

At the high end, some rosés seem to be big enough so that they are almost red wines that aren't quite red yet can be drunk chilled. In my view, the best rosés in the world come from Bandol, in the South of France, and the best producer there is Domaine Tempier. Some other fine producers are Domaine Ott and Pibarnon. Ott tends to a lighter styled pink, but still bone dry.

These wines are not your run of the mill rosés. Salmon colored, with body and weight, the wines have incredible versatility. Sure, drink them with chicken salad. But they also manage to hold up to grilled meats, too, although just barely.  Spicy and dry, with tight, focused flavors from traditional Bandol grapes like Mourvedre, these wines aren't exactly what you think about when someone dismisses "fruity, sweet little rosés." The only catch is that the best of them are a bit pricey, running around $20, and hard to find.  For less pricey alternatives, read on.

The other, and perhaps even more traditional, fine rosé region in France is Tavel, in the Rhone Valley . These wines tend to be fruitier than the Bandols,   but  they are also completely dry in style (from most producers, at least). They're a lot cheaper as a rule, too,  although  rarely as good in my view.  One I like a lot, though, is the well known producer Chateau d'Acqueria,  which runs around $13. This is a bargain, relatively speaking. Guigal of Cote Rotie fame makes a nice Tavel, too.  These wines are fairly priced and their airier style can be refreshing.    

America has gotten into the rosé game as well. My perennial pick: Bonny Doon's Vin Gris de Cigare. This wine is on the fruitier side,  more or less dry, but not quite the steely demeanor of a Bandol,  and provides a good value.  For that you get a relatively full bodied rosé that is rich and delicious.   I've liked rosés from Phelps and Saintsbury (made from pinot noir!), among others, too.

Are these all truly great wines? No, although some are and some are pretty close.   You'll be surprised at just how good some of them are. But true greatness is a not a summer event. There's no point drinking  a profound Bordeaux outside in 90 degree heat, as the bouquet wafts away and dissipates, and the heat makes the wine alcoholic and clumsy.  You need some things to drink that will hold your interest, and pique your tastebuds without requiring you to obsess about them.

Remember, too, context is everything. These wines will taste better in the summer than at any other time. Drink the feel good wines, with the feel good food, on your feel good day off. You'll feel good!  

So, there you have it. Broaden your horizons. Drink something different. Have a great summer!

Local Availability

In Pennsylvania

If you’re in Pennsylvania , the new selections are in relatively short supply, so act fast,  but these are some of the better wines expected in during the Spring for the Summer 2003 season.

2002 Tavel (Chateau de Segries) $10.99 Pennsylvania ’s pick in the well known Tavel region.

2002 Vin Gris (Cline) $9.99  For a top American selection, Liquor Control Board tasters decided that the Cline was better than the Bonny Doon this year and only the Cline was ordered as between the two. As of the time this article was submitted, the wines were not available to taste.

2002 Chateau Donjon Minervois--about $9, and delicious.

If you must go for a white zinfandel, one of the better ones, year-in, year-out, is the Beringer. Pennsylvania has the 2002 in stock for $5.99.

In New Jersey

Available at Canal’s—Hainesport, 1500 Route 38 Mount Holly , NJ , 609-519-1000. The 2002s may be available by the time this article appears:

2001 Tavel (Chateau d’Acqueria)   $12.99 This is traditionally one of the leaders in Tavel.

2001 Vin Gris (Bonny Doon ) $11.99  American rosé enthusiasts often like to start here.

2001 Bandol (Domaine Tempier) $21.99  Perhaps the single most famous pink in the world, from what I consider to be the best region in the world (Bandol).

2001 Cotes du Rhone (Guigal)  $12.99 Guigal is a very reliable producer that makes dry rosés of several types, this and a Tavel as well.

Available at Corkscrewed, Village Walk Shopping Center #15, 1990 Marlton Pike (Route 70), Cherry Hill, NJ 08003  856-874-1090

2001/2002 Prieure de St Hyppolyte Coteaux de Languedoc $10 One of the many nice pinks emerging from the Languedoc these days.

2002 Mas de Gourgonnier Les Baux de Provence $12  A familiar entrant from Provence ..



Copyright Mark Squires, © 2003 all rights reserved.