The Wines of Summer (July 4, 2002)
The perfect wine for outdoor dining is a rosé the style of wine you'd probably turn your nose up at the rest of the year. Not only does rosé look good in the glass that vibrant colour that can range from salmon pink to copper to light cherry it is also a highly versatile wine when it comes to matching food.
I'm talking dry rosé here, not the sparkling, slightly sweet Mateus Rosé from Portugal in those bulbous bottles that made great lamp-holders or candle sticks the wine you probably drank as your very first glass as a teenager when you decided that pop was no longer sophisticated.
The best examples of dry rosé come from the southern French regions of Tavel and Lirac and are made from Grenache, Cinsault, Clairette and a host of other grapes from which the vintners in the Rhône make Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
But you can make rosé from any black grape.
Ontario produces rosé as a by-product of its red wine by "bleeding off" some 15% of the juice from their fermenting black grapes in order to deepen the colour and enrich the flavour of their red wines. Skin contact with the pressed juice for 1224 hours will give the required hue for a rosé. Henry of Pelham and Cave Spring do a good job with these rosé wines.
The California model is White Zinfandel, which, as the name suggests, is a "blush" wine made from Zinfandel grapes. This style of wine has some residual sweetness, but before you dismiss it out of hand, White Zinfandel goes wonderfully well with highly spiced dishes. Try it with a Thai salad or a lightly curried dish. Any dish with peppery or highly spiced ingredients needs a wine with some residual sugar.
When they are dry or off-dry, always serve rosés well chilled and choose a glass that shows off their colour. Cheers!