The Wine Cellar: Light, refreshing rosé wines great for summer

Rosé wines are sometimes not taken seriously by restaurants, vendors or consumers, but I think they make a great summer wine. They’re light and refreshing, which makes them perfect for those hot summer days or when dining outside.

You can pair a rosé wine with most of your typical picnic foods, such as vegetables, pasta salads, grilled chicken, roast turkey and hamburgers. It can even be served with pizza.

Rosé wines should always be served chilled, but not iced. Often the term rosé can be misleading since these wines can range in color from a pale orange to a near-purple.

Here in America, we also have the term blush, which we use to describe white zinfandel. This type of wine, which originated in California, is usually put in the rosé category and is typically sweet in taste, as are most American rosés. In contrast, the European rosés are almost always dry. France and Spain are big producers of rosé wines. As the popularity of White Zin (as it is sometimes abbreviated) grows, some producers have begun making sparkling wines. As a whole, White Zins usually are lower in alcohol content.

There are basically three ways the rosé wines are produced. The first is a simple mixing of red and white wine, although most producers don’t use this method. The second is when red-skinned grapes are crushed, and the skins are allowed to remain in contact with the juice for a short time before being discarded. The last method is known as bleeding, which means the winemaker removes some pink must (a mixture of fermenting grape juice, skins, stalks, etc.) from the tank where a red wine is being produced.

Now that you know a little bit about rosé wines, here are a few to try. Most of these are inexpensive and easy to find.

Sutter Home White Zinfandel, California—The winemakers at Sutter Home were the first to produce this type of wine. It has hints of strawberry and melon, and sells for around $4 a bottle.

Beringer Sparkling White Zinfandel, California—To commemorate their 20th anniversary as a White Zin producer, Beringer released this sparkling wine. It’s a nice variation and sells for around $12 a bottle. I also love their white merlot, which is sometimes classified as a rosé wine.

Barefoot Cellars White Zinfandel, California—This wine has a pineapple aroma and tastes of strawberries with a hint of pear. This wine can be purchased for around $5 a bottle.

Domaine Carneros by Taittinger Brut Rosé Sparkling Wine, California—This wine is a blend of pinot noir and chardonnay. The aroma consists of strawberries, roses and peaches. This wine is more expensive at around $34 a bottle, and is a bit harder to find. It would be great for a special occasion.

Valley of the Moon Sangiovese, California—Traditionally, sangiovese is a Mediterranean varietal, but this California wine is great. This wine is great for meals that include tomato and basil. It sells for around $12 a bottle.

Nicole Lindsay is an administrative assistant at Rockford College and a resident of Loves Park.

From the June 28-July 4, 2006, issue

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