Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pink is Pimp

In the aftermath of an incendiary tirade berating the awful deficit of wine color-blindness in our culture, I received the following comment from the fine blokes over at Sediment Blog (which you should check out):

Almost hate to ask, but... where do you stand on rosé?

I can understand their meekness. I was on fire. "A madman drunk on adrenaline," my old friend from Arkansas might say. But such a relevant question warranted no apprehension, as the post ignored pink wine: the proverbial pink elephant-in-the-room. And when one is seeing pink elephants, an explanation is often required. "Drunk on adrenaline" is rarely a satisfactory answer.

Pink wine- referred to as "blush" in the 80's and on Franzia boxes, and now going by the more sophisticated name of rosé (accents and italics make anything more cosmopolitan)- gets a real bad rap among folks getting into the fermented grape...

Blame it on a guy named Bob Trinchero. One of the owners of Sutter Home winery in Napa, Trinchero would start making a dry, red Zinfandel wine in 1972. In order to concentrate the must (crushed, fermenting grapes), he would "bleed off" some of the juice (a process known as saignée) , ferment it to dryness, and bottle the pink juice for sale. However, in 1975, Trichero ran into a stuck fermentation with his byproduct, and the sugar just wouldn't ferment out. The brass at Sutter Home decided that they preferred the sweet style, and the infamous "White Zinfandel", as we know it, was born.

Perhaps you're like me. When I was cutting my teeth as a "serious" wine drinker (that moniker has since derailed), I dismissed all pink wine as crap. I decried "sweet" wine as an elixir of the hillbilly. I dismissed anything not red or white as the garbage found in gas stations next to the St. Ides double-deuces.

Maybe you cursed Bob Trinchero for his scourge upon the civilized wine world. And though Trinchero was too busy banging a giant pile of money to hear your lamentations, his Frankenstein-wine set the tone for a rampage against everything that shared it's horrid hue.

All rosé was not only unpalatable, but also the color of a cocktail befitting a bachelorette party, never to be confidently quaffed with the boys. Drinking wine among the beer crowd draws ridicule enough; knocking back something presumably sweet and the color of a Hello Kitty baby backpack... well, there just wasn't swagger to it, right?

Wrong. Hey, I was wrong too. I been there, man (clearly, my new catch-phrase).

We'd gone through life thinking "pink is wimp", not realizing that pink is pimp. Much of it is NOTHING like White Zinfandel (which has its place, too). There are examples that are fresh, vibrant, and acidic. They can be incredible with food. And, when you spill these wines on your 3-piece cotton-candy suit with flamingo derby hat, they don't stain.

I live in the South. And people from the south eat a lot of pork. We especially like to smoke the tasty critters in the summer. So, let's say I'm sitting out on my back porch on a July afternoon, sweating like a hoarder at a garage sale. As good as Pinot Noir is with pulled pork, I'm not reaching for a perspiration-inducing red. I'd like a rosé wine with a slight chill on it. It's got just enough red fruit to sing with that pork, but retains a lightness that gives a good yard beer a run for its money.

Some of the best examples of pink wine come from the Southeastern corner of France. Seek out the wines of Provence, especially the Mourvédre-based wines of Bandol, and- my personal favorite- Grenache-based Tavel from the southern Rhône. These wines tend to be dry, and they promise an unexpected and mighty enjoyable experience, offering aromas that often bely the dryness within the glass. Still not convinced? You can look on the labels and view the alcohol content. If it's hovering around 12% or higher, there's a good chance you're not dealing with anything sweet...

Not that there's anything wrong with that. But- alas- that is another rant, and I don't want to get off-point, as is my M.O. Rather, the time has come to embrace your inner-Huggy Bear and give rosé- the pinkest, pimpest wine of all time- a shot. Sip it from a wine glass if you're really cool. The rest of you insecure jive turkeys can ease into your pink drinkin' with a transitional vessel if necessary:

Or, if you're really slick:

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