Shadows are growing longer and days are growing shorter, but don't for a second think summer is over — even if the kids are heading back to school. There are plenty of sultry days in store. Warm weather can extend well beyond Labor Day; just ask any New Englander about Indian summer, a San Franciscan about what life is like in October (especially life without air conditioning) or a Floridian pretty much any time of year. Rose will matter for quite a while now.
Good rose has a crisp kick and a fresh berry essence that can revive the flagged spirits and heat-dulled tongues. As you would expect, rose works with those foods and fruits of high summer, like vine-ripened tomatoes, corn on the cob, red peppers, berries of all sorts. But the wine also is compatible with fall and its classic flavors: cabbage, Brussels sprouts, pears, cauliflower and broccoli, just to name a few.
One of the most memorable rose food pairings I ever encountered happened during an interview one snowy day. My host served lunch and poured a Tavel from the Rhone with a sausage- and potato-festooned platter of choucroute (French for sauerkraut). My spirit was instantly warmed and revived.
"For me, they're like pumpkin spice coffee drinks: best enjoyed early in the season,'' replied Robert Dwyer of Wellesley, Mass., the man behind the Wellesley Wine Press blog.
"It's never too late to drink rose in my opinion. Stays hot in Alabama till October," declared Christy Turnipseed, a recent college graduate and blogger from Birmingham.
"Rose is good all year round; the problem is that wine myths are difficult to change,'' wrote Tim McDonald, president and owner of Wine Spoken Here, a public relations agency in Napa, Calif. "I'll have one with my Thanksgiving meal, thank you, and it is always my surprise wine with the assembled."
So, there you go. Dispel the myth that rose is only for summer; enjoy its ruddy glow well into the golden dusk of fall. And don't forget to take a tip from McDonald: Consider rose for Turkey Day too.
Tasting a world of rose
Roses are most often associated with France, perhaps because the word "rose" is French. Yet you can find rose wine made around the world. The tasting panel sampled eight moderately priced examples and found them all good — each of the wines received two stars. The New Zealand bottle was the favorite; the wines are listed in order of preference.
2009 Wild Rock Vin Gris: This dark rose-pink wine from Hawkes Bay in New Zealand is a blend of merlot, malbec, pinot noir and syrah. The nose offers notes of strawberry, spice, hay and lime. The layered flavor has touches of pear and lemon and an acidity so lively the wine almost sparkles in the mouth. Serve with sea scallops, tuna noodle casserole and grilled whitefish. $15
2008 Angove's Nine Vines: From South Australia, a blend of grenache and shiraz advertised as "the red wine drinker's white wine." The flavor is round and full of fruit, with touches of spice and minerality. Serve with grilled tuna, swordfish steak, fried chicken. $10
2008 Paul Jaboulet Aine Parallel 45: A mix of grenache, cinsault and syrah from France's Cotes du Rhone region. The wine has a dry berry and lime flavor that ends with a tartly peppery finish. Serve with soy-glazed chicken wings, salade Nicoise, turkey burgers. $12
2009 Miguel Torres Las Mulas Cabernet Sauvignon Rose Reserve: Made with organic grapes in Chile's Central Valley, this rose is colored a vivid cranberry red. The wine has a strawberry sweetness with a bitter, lime-kissed edge. Serve with tuna salad, chicken satay, spinach salad. $12
2009 El Coto Rioja: A 50-50 blend of tempranillo and grenache from Spain. The flavor is mild, too mild for some tasters, with hints of strawberry, watermelon and limestone. The nose is a bit musty. Serve with chicken-green olive tagine, veal in tonnato (tuna) sauce, pulled pork sandwiches. $10
2009 Domaines Ott Les Domaniers de Puits Mouret: From France's Cotes de Provence region, a subtle wine with touches of caramel and vanilla on the nose and a coppery berry and lime flavor. Serve with shrimp salad, ceviche, cold poached salmon. $19
2009 Santi Infinito Bardolino Chiaretto: From Italy's Veneto region, a blend of three red grapes, corvina, rondinella and molinara. The wine has a light berry nose and a sweet-tart Jolly Rancher flavor. Serve with macaroni and cheese, mushroom pizza, turkey burgers. $11
2009 La Scolca Rosa Chiara Rosato: This wine, mostly made from the white cortese grape with a splash of red pinot noir, comes from Gavi in the Piedmont region of Italy. It both smells and tastes like ginger ale with touches of cherry and peach; very sweet. Serve with eel sushi, fruit salad, panna cotta, tofu pad Thai. $16
You want that wine. But your store or area distributor may not carry it. State law may prohibit you from ordering a wine online. What to do? Ask your wine retailer for a wine similar in flavor, style and price. Remember, too, prices vary.
How roses are made
Skin contact: The skins of red grapes are left in contact with the juice for a short time, then discarded before fermentation. The skins stain the juice a pinkish hue. The length of contact determines how intense the color of the rose wine will be.
Blending: A small amount of red wine is mixed into white wine to create a pinkish or rosy color.
Source: "The Oxford Companion to Wine"
Great rose food pairings
Barbecue sauce, bouillabaisse, Caesar salad, cheese souffle, eggs Benedict, fried calamari, fried catfish, grilled chicken, hamburger, Manhattan clam chowder, minestrone, ratatouille, salade Nicoise, stuffed eggplant, sushi, tomato soup, winter squash.
Source: "Exploring Wine: The Culinary Institute of America's Guide to Wines of the World"