Pour pink for fun in sun Wine: Vintners are finaly getting serious about roses, which at one time were considered frivolous. They seem to fit right in with summer, and they go well with ham or salmon.

August 18, 1996|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

Pink just doesn't command respect.

You seldom see the color in a national flag or a military uniform. There are no football teams called the Pink Tide, the Pink Devils or the Pink Knights. Professional women leave their pink dresses in the closet when they have important business meetings.

It's much the same in the world of wine. Pink wines, with the exception of champagnes, are widely regarded by commentators and "serious" wine consumers as frivolous beverages.

Fortunately, an increasing number of wineries around the world appear to be taking their pink wines seriously instead of treating them as afterthoughts. It's paying off. Never before have consumers had such a wide variety of well-made roses (that's roh-zays) to choose from.

Roses can be especially fine choices to serve with ham or salmon. And they are especially well-suited to summertime sipping on backyard decks or by the shore.

A recent check of the Maryland marketplace found an impressive selection of high-quality roses from the 1995 vintage.

No 1994s were considered, though many remain on retailers' shelves. Smart consumers will avoid them.

Ironically, one of the least successful wines tasted was the most famous and most expensive in the group -- the 1995 Domaine Tempier Rose from Bandol in Provence ($17). Instead of a brilliant pink, it was a dull salmon color. The bitter, flat flavors suggested heat damage in transit.

The honor of France was upheld by the performance of three other southern roses -- the 1995 Domaine Richaume Cotes de Provence ($10), the 1995 Commanderie de la Bargemone Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence ($10) and the 1995 Domaine de Fondreche Cotes du Ventoux from Barthelmy-Vincenti ($8).

Cherry, strawberry flavors

Each of these wines was bone-dry and offered crisp red cherry and strawberry flavors, floral and herbal fragrances and excellent length.

One other southern French wine lacked the intensity of the big three, but, like them, offered fine value. Consumers shouldn't hesitate to try the 1995 Les Jamelles Cinsault Vin de Pays de l'Oc ($7).

California now offers an abundance of serious, well-made pink wines from top-caliber producers such as Joseph Phelps, Simi and Bonny Doon.

Their results suggest that many other producers should get off their high horses and devote a portion of their red grape harvests to producing a high-quality rose.

Perhaps the finest pink wine being made in California today is Phelps' Vin du Mistral Grenache Rose ($12). I was unable to obtain the 1995, but the 1994, tasted several months ago, was holding up surprisingly well.

Simi's Rose of Cabernet Sauvignon is a perennial favorite, but in recent years it has been plagued by a case of the "slows" in reaching East Coast markets. It was a real pleasure to find the 1995 ($9) in the stores while it's still fresh and vibrant.

Bonny Doon's Vin Gris de Cigare was not tasted for this article, but the Provence-style rose has been a consistent delight since its birth in the mid-1980s.

The venerable and underrated J. Pedroncelli winery in Sonoma County offers consumers a double dose of pink pleasure with its 1995 Zinfandel Rose and 1995 White Zinfandel (white zinfandels are actually roses). I gave the edge to the dry, intensely flavorful rose, but both wines were spectacular values at $5.49.

Perhaps the most unusual rose tasted was the 1995 Saintsbury Carneros Vin Gris of Pinot Noir ($8.49). With 13.5 percent alcohol, it was a big wine for its pink britches, but it also offered a mouthful of flavor. Where most roses retain little of the character of the underlying red grape varietal, this was an exception. Serve with food.

White zinfandel often gets a bad rap from wine critics because it's not red zinfandel.

That's silly. The quality of grapes used in white zin generally would produce mediocre red wine. It's better they should be used to produce rose.

White zinfandel

Many so-called white zinfandels are oversweet glop, but there are also significant numbers of elegant, well-delineated dry wines. One of the best white zinfandel producers is Amador Foothills, whose 1995 Amador County White Zinfandel is a terrific bargain at $6.

None of these wines will win you oohs and aahs from the type of guests who examine each label and compute the price you paid. But if impressing people is less important to you than sheer enjoyment, go ahead and drink pink.

Pub Date: 8/18/96

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