The Case for Rosé 

Food-friendly, low-alcohol Rosé is a hit in France

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When this article publishes—on St. Patrick's Day—your head might be full of green beer and Irish whiskey. I will be spending this St. Paddy's Day in France, and chances are good that there will be a glass of Rosé wine in front of me. I don't think I've ever been to a bar or restaurant in France that didn't have more than one Rosé to choose from, and it's not unusual to see a dozen different kinds on French wine lists.

Although, here in America, we tend to think of the French as being so serious about wine—picturing them as pondering pricey reds and whites—but many of them aren't. They often drink local, unpretentious and inexpensive wines, and Rosé is very popular there—even in Paris, where Bordeaux tends to be the go-to drink of choice.

To this day, I remember exactly where I was when I took my first sip of Rosé. It was on the beautiful terrace of the restaurant Le Fournil, in the small provençal village of Bonnieux. I noticed that at least half of the tables surrounding mine had carafes of Rosé on them, Provençe being the home of French Rosé. So, I ordered an inexpensive carafe myself, and have been a militant campaigner for Rosé ever since.

Now, let's not confuse good Rosé with other sweetish blush wines, such as White Zinfandel. White Zin is nothing more than the bastard cousin of real Rosé. And, it drives me nuts when I see White Zinfandel on American restaurant wine lists taking up room where a proper Rosé should be.

As I've said before, Rosé is a red wine that drinks like a white wine. Most is virtually tannin-free. Rosé is made from black-skinned grapes—Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Mourvèdre, Sangiovese and the like—that are crushed and left to intermingle with the juice for just a short time, usually one to three days. In red-wine making, the skins would be left in contact throughout the fermentation process. With Rosé, the skins are discarded, which also removes most of the tannins from the wine.

Many people have the mistaken notion that Rosé wines are sweet, probably due to their color—which ranges from pale orange to light purple—and, also due to the common misconception that White Zinfandel and Rosé are the same thing. But in fact, many of the best Rosés are bone-dry, with great acidity. And that makes them a very good partner for a wide range of food pairings.

One such domestic example is Lorenza Rosé 2014 ($17.99), a blend of Grenache, Carignan, Mourvèdre and Cinsault from Napa. It's desert-dry and, like most Rosés, fairly low in alcohol (11.4 percent). I love the fact that Lorenza and other Rosé wines don't overpower a meal. They are very versatile with foods, and can pair with everything from seafood, sushi and chicken dishes to pork, veggies, salads and lighter pastas. Whereas many people opt for Pinot Noir with salmon, I think Rosé is more often a better pairing, depending on the sauce and/or seasoning. Perhaps surprisingly, it's not unusual to see Parisians sipping Rosé with simple steaks and other meat dishes.

While Rosé is a natural for springtime and summer sipping, I drink it year 'round. There's always a bottle in our easy-to-reach wine cooler. And, although Rosé wines have risen in price the past few years, they're still quite affordable. Even the best Rosé from France typically sells for $20 or less. The prototypic Chateau d'Aquéria Tavel—which garnered 90 points from Robert Parker—is $21.

So, go forth and drink pink!

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