Seeing the World Through Rosé-Colored Glasses

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Given: Ross are the underdog. Wine critics love them, but the U.S. public is suffering from a little post-traumatic White Zin syndrome, in which anything pink is deemed greasy kid stuff. Europe, on the other hand, has been drinking pink&emdash;the good stuff, with zingy flavor and a dry wit&emdash;for generations. They drink it young, within kilometers of the vineyard and without the aid of wine magazine scores. In the United States, we still think wine must be Pondered Over. Truth is, if you’re too serious for pink wine, you’re missing out on a juicy E-ticket ride tricked out with wild-strawberry Smell-O-Vision.

Dry Ros With Warm-Weather Meals

A well-balanced, dry ros is like the actor Luke Wilson: He’s enticing on his own, but in ensemble films he makes his co-stars look great. Dry ros is that food-friendly. But local restaurant pros, such as Michael Chandler of Enotria, tell me that, no matter how much they rhapsodize about the pink, their customers are afraid to be seen with it on their tables.

Here’s what tickles me: how many pink foods go with pink wine. There’s prosciutto with melon, fresh rosy figs stuffed with goat cheese, strawberry spinach salad, beets with sour cream, red-onion tart, ham quiche, poached salmon and rare ahi tuna burgers. If you still need convincing, grab a big bowl of bouillabaisse, some crusty bread and a dry ros from southern France. A toast to all those manly Provençal fishermen who wash the rouille out of their mustaches with carafes of local ros!

Pink Wines From Red Grapes

White wine comes from white grapes, red wine from red grapes. Pink wine also comes from red grapes (thanks to some simple magic in the winery). As you may know, red grapes produce white juice. I’ve always found it a poignant paradox that only after the juice has broken free from the crushed grape can it take on the color, or anthocyanins, in the red skins. Red wines need days of hanging out with the skins in a fermentation bin for the juice to take on that wonderful Burgundy color. Most pink wines are made by crushing and pressing the juice off the skins fast, just like white wine is made. This ros method is called vin gris (literally gray wine, in between blanc and noir). Depending upon the grape variety, the resulting color may be pale to powerful pink, salmon, copper or even magenta.

Another way of making ros is saigne (san-YAY’). It means bled in French, and that makes sense when you see it happen to a nice new tank of red grapes fermenting in their own juice. Within a day, before the juice has absorbed much color, a portion of the pink liquid is drained, or bled, off and bottled as ros. Saigne-method wines are thought to be more complex, since the juice has more time to pick up flavor. Historically, this yummy pink stuff has been, in fact, a byproduct of what the winemaker is really after: darker red wine. What’s left in the tank has a higher skin-to-juice ratio, producing a red wine with higher extraction of color and flavor. Bloody clever!

A Ros by Any Other Name

When thinking pink, look for the terms rosado (Spain), rosato (Italy), vin gris and saigne. Seek out place-names such as Tavel, from the benchmark Rhone region in France, its cousins in Provence and Navarra in Spain.

In the New World, the language a winery uses can give you a clue as to the grapes in the wine. Amador Foothill Winery uses the word rosato for its excellent ros of Sangiovese, an Italian grape. Robert Hall Winery’s delish Ros de Robles is inspired by the Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault-based ross of the Côtes du Rhone.

Blush wines are usually off-dry, which means slightly sweet. Same for anything labeled as the white version of a red grape, such as White Zinfandel or White Merlot. Check out the Chilean White Carmenère from the Oops brand.

Pink all too often means Lilly Pulitzer print pants, Barbie and bubblegum. It’s girly, whine our man friends. Guys, free your minds: Think steak cooked rare and the crisp twill of a pink Ike Behar dress shirt showing off your tan as you close that career-clinching deal. Live the full life, says my studly husband, who coolly reaches for a bracing Tavel more often than an uptight Pauillac.

Elaine’s Pick of the Month

Château Soucherie Ros de Loire, imported by the Mad Rose Group, is a charming European ros. This bright pinkie has voluptuous strawberries and melons on the palate, with a comparatively low alcohol count (12 percent) and food-friendly tartness. Look for the 2006, which will run you $10 to $14.

Wine Trivia Contest

In winespeak, the French term oeil de perdrix (partridge eye) means pale pink. In Spain’s southeastern Rioja region, rosados are called ojo de gallo (rooster eye). Can you name a California ros also named for an animal’s eye?

E-mail your answer to wine@sacmag.com by July 15. The winner will receive an insulated wine tote. Make sure to include your name, address and telephone number. The winner will be selected by random drawing from all the correct responses.

We’ve got a winner! In May, we asked: Which of the following are actual names of Grenache-based wines? a) Goats do Roam; b) Ghosts du Roam; c) Rhone de Robles; d) The Custodian; e) all of the above. The correct answer: e) all of the above. The winner, Sabrina McKinney of Rancho Cordova, received an insulated wine tote.