Search & Distill: Coming to Terms With Rosé

The Kool-Aid-colored wine is nothing to be afraid of.

Wine shops and wineries have made real headway recently in getting people to drink the pink. Only five years ago, offering rosé to a customer often led to confused looks and apprehensive refusals, such was the damage done by the outbreak of "blush" wines in the 1980s. But the rise of local rosés has helped the cause, and now Northwest wineries can barely keep up with spring and summer demand. But when I'm offered some, I check the bottle first. Rosés differ in flavor just as much as reds or whites do. And unlike red or white wine, you can judge a rosé by its color.You can make a fairly good guess by color whether or not a rosé is right for you, because the color strength—from the palest blush to a full-on electric Kool-Aid magenta—lets you know where the wine stands on the white-vs.-red continuum. The most common way to make rosé involves pressing red wine grapes like syrah and cabernet franc and letting the juice linger for a certain amount of time with the grape skins. All the coloring agents, as well as the tannins, found in red wine live in the skins; the juice when pressed runs clear. So in a sense, all red wine starts as white and transitions through rosé.The big draw of rosé is that you get all the refreshing characteristics of a white wine with the boost of some of the fruit and body of a red, depending on how strong the winemaker made it blush. The palest pink rosés, those the color of a porcelain doll's cheeks, offer the most delicate experience, all elegance and lemon cream with just the hint of red fruit. Right now it's difficult to find what I call a doll's-blush rosé on the market in any substantial quantity, so I hesitate to recommend a specific bottle. Suffice it to say that if you see any rosé of such a fine hue and find this style to your liking, I highly encourage you to buy it all up on sight.Salmon, from the lightest orange to the rich, burnished pink of an obscene sunset, is the mark of many imported rosés, as Europeans like their pink wines crisp. These wines have snappier flavors closer to citrus and sharp-flavored fruit like peaches and nectarines. Any red-wine flavors living in these bottles will hover closer to the tart in nature, like rhubarb or strawberry. Les Domaniers ($19), from well-respected Domaines Ott—whose flagship rosé will set you back but rock your world—looks the exact color of cooked salmon and has a lean and racy mouthfeel punctuated with a kiss of tart strawberries. Syncline rosé ($16), one of Washington's most popular, also counts as one of the lightest local rosés in color and flavor. The color of sashimi, this wine not only smells of peach, it tastes like a peach-Melba sorbet.When a rosé starts to mimic the fascinating colors of a sunset behind the Olympics, you know to expect stronger flavors like raspberry and sometimes even melon. Barnard Griffin's 2008 Rosé of Sangiovese ($10) has tanginess to spare, plumped up by a veritable fruit salad of cantaloupe, plum, and berry. The Wolftrap rosé ($9) from South Africa goes into ripe-strawberry territory and hints at tropical fruit; it epitomizes just how big a rosé can get and yet still be refreshing. Look for these and many more to start occupying the stacks of your local wine shop and grocery. Figure out your favorite shade of pink, and keep yourself from guessing with rosé this spring and summer.msavarino@seattleweekly.com

 
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