If you think that pink wine is déclassé, think again: The sleek blush beverage is making a comeback in American markets. Going against all notions that rosé is a gauche wine choice, a local wine dealer describes his pink quaffers as "enlightened drinkers who have traveled abroad and know more about it." And another little secret: You can get an excellent bottle for an excellent value.

One of the most versatile of wines, rosé is as full-bodied and fruit-forward as a glass of red, but also has the distinction of being crisp and refreshing like a white. This means that rosé pairs well with many foods. For instance, a Rhone Tavel works equally well with garlicky fish stew or grilled steak; a Loire Valley d'Anjou is perfect for dessert; and a Portuguese Mateus begs for a cheese and chocolate picnic. A rosé should be rugged and dry to off-dry, with flavors of berry lingering with snappish spicy notes; drink it young and chilled.

Many people think that rosés are a blend of red and white wines, but this is only true for a small percentage of what's out there, mostly champagnes. More often than not, rosé is made by the same method as red wines. The major difference is that the colorful, tannic skins and stems of the grapes are left in the fermentation vat for a much shorter period, leeching off a lighter hue.

Cavanaugh's sells an interesting array of rosés. Off-dry Vi—a Vilano ($12) from the Ribera del Duero region of Spain is made from 100 percent tempranillo grapes. And they carry a Tuscan rosato, Castello di Ama ($15.50), made from lush sangiovese grapes. (1215 Edgewater Drive, 407-426-7510)

Park Wine Merchants report that rosés make up only 2 percent of their stock, but they have some excellent ones. A best seller is Chateau Grande Cassagne ($9.99, a price you can't beat) from Costières de Nîmes in the Rhone Valley. And there's a new world Argentinean rosé by Susana Balbo made from malbec ($11.99). (2816 Corrine Drive, 407-894-0200)

Owner Olivier Uteschill of Pierre's Wine Cellar grew up in Provence and so his palate for rosés is finely honed. He stocks syrah rosé from Renwood Estates ($11.99) that is much like the wines of his homeland. Several times a year, he features delightful Provençal varieties, including one on this weekend's wine-tasting menu honoring the Tour de France. (1210 S. International Pkwy., Suite 114, 407-805-8887)

Speaking of On The Side

More by Adrian J.S. Hale


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