Friday, July 17, 2009

If You Haven't, Do Try Dry Rose'

It is summer and time to think pink!

No, I’m definitely not talking about white zinfandel – that of the high sugar content and guaranteed headache. The hottest wine of the past few summers has been dry Rose’ made from a wide variety of grapes from every major wine producing region in the world.

A chilled dry Rose’ is a delightful summer beverage. They are refreshing and a super wine to serve at a summer gathering. Many Rose’ wines will hold up nicely with about any food. It’s like drinking a white wine with a bit bigger flavor.

The great thing about Rose’ is you can buy great bottles for under $15 – and sometimes a lot less. I opened a Cabernet Sauvignon Rose’ recently, which I’ll recommend below, that was just $6.99. You can buy the very best Rose’ wines and not spend more than $30.

The pink wine gets it color the same way red wine does. Winemakers leave the skins in contact with the juice to get just the color they want. Most Rose’ wines will have a hint of strawberry flavor. Most are soft and easy drinking wines.

For years no serious wine drinker would be caught dead sipping pink wines, but that has changed. Sales have jumped by double digits annually for several years. The Nielson Company reported U.S. Rose’ wine sales jumped 25 percent in 2008 alone.

Traditionally it has been France producing Rose’ and primarily from Provence. The Tavel region has long been known for its fine pink wines.

But now you’ll find Rose being made from every imaginable grape. Most of these wines have a light taste but you’ll find sophistication and enjoyable satisfaction in how easy they are to drink and share with friends. I’ve sampled Rose’ wine made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Sangiovese, Grenache, Malbec and others.

These wines are not hard to find in any wine store. They are not only very affordable but generally low in alcohol. I’m constantly surprised how well they pair with food or appetizers.

I’m going to devote a little more space in this column to specific wines that I have purchased in Central Indiana wine shops. This is a bit of an expanded Howard’s Picks. Also, I have several in the wine rack I’ll be drinking over the rest of the summer. You can read about those on my wine blog:

Calderona 2007 Rose – This Spanish Rose is 70 percent Tempranillo with Garnacha and Verdejo making up the mix. It’s a bigger and bolder Rose that that pairs well with food. I bought it for $12.

Pavie Macquin 2007 Rose – This French dry Rose’ has a juicy quality that any wine love can appreciate. It’s definitely on the lighter side but a beautiful wine. I paid $10.95 for this remarkable bottle.

Crus de Piedra Garnacha Rosada – The Spanish make some great Rose from the Garnacha (or Grenache) grape. This wine is easy to find. I’ve spotted it in several Indiana shops. This one has a big strawberry nose and is a medium-flavored wine. You can often find this one under $10.

Miguel Torres 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Rose – This is a Rose’ with big flavor that wine critics have loved. It’s a beautiful transparent cherry color with incredible balance. This Rose’ pairs really well with food. You’ll find it for up to $12 but I got a deal in Indianapolis for just $6.99.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Have A Sparkler for Fourth of July

Tired of the same old Merlot and Chardonnay? Tired of that light beer with a burger?

If you’re going to try something different this summer, then really try something new.

How about a sparkling wine? Sparkling wines aren’t just for New Year’s Eve or weddings. They can be a refreshingly different beverage that is more flexible than you might think. And summer is a great time to try something light, refreshing, with some effervescence.

Sparkling wines can be delightful with fresh fruit. A nice light sparkling wine will surprise you with white chocolate. Sparkling wine with cheese or most appetizers will also work. And after you develop a taste for a sparkler, I wouldn’t hesitate to serve it with some grilled shrimp as an appetizer. Don’t rule out sparkling wine with grilled seafood or lightly seasoned grilled chicken for dinner either.

The tough part of any sparkling wine/food combination is finding a really good wine. Who hasn’t had a taste of the bubbles at a wedding only to find yourself looking for a place to set that glass down and go back to whatever else you were drinking?

I usually don’t spend an entire column on a specific wine but I’m going to write today about two that are widely available and very drinkable.

It starts with Cristalino Rose Brut from Spain. You can find this pinkish sparkler in many wine shops across Indiana. It’s 60 percent Pinot Noir, with just 11.5 percent alcohol, and usually is sold in the $9-$11 range.

The second is California sparkling wine icon Gloria Ferrer’s Sonoma Brut. This traditionally colored sparkling wine is a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with just the right amount of bubbles. You can find it from $16-$20 everywhere.

I opened both bottles with a friend of mine and her daughter and wanted to share our impressions. The ladies thought the Rose Brut was too mild in its effervescence. They didn’t think “it had enough bubbles.” They agreed with me that it had a light taste and grew on them as they sipped more from our champagne flutes.

Both suggested this sparkling wine had enough body to hold up to appetizers and light food.

They just loved the Gloria Ferrer Brut. “It’s crisp without being too sharp,” one said. “It’s quite effervescent. It has a soft flavor profile … it doesn’t taste cheap.”

The ladies thought it would be nice with a fruit tray or a mild cheese. They thought it was a visually appealing and tasting glass of wine.

The three of us tasted the sparkling wines while nibbling on fresh strawberries in early June. We felt very continental!

We finished off the Gloria Ferrer but not all of the Cristalino. What else do you need to know? Wine Spectator consistently rates this wine in the upper 80s to 90 points!

Ferrer makes sparkling wines at higher price points. This entry level would be a huge improvement for most I’ve tasted at weddings.

There are other great options in most wine shops as well. Ask your wine shop helper for Spanish Cava or an Italian Prosecco.

Howard Pick:
Gloria Ferrer’s Sonoma Brut
. This was by far our pick of the two, though I liked the Rose’ as well. The ladies appreciated the lighter and balanced flavor of the Sonoma wine. You will be surprised how much you’ll enjoy the bubbles with a creamy mid-palate and lighter-than-expected finish.