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Rose resurgence: suitable for many drinking occasions, roses, both domestic and imported, are back in fashion and gaining sales.

I have always loved rose wines--at least the dry and off-dry ones--but have often felt guilty ordering them in restaurants. As if the server might think I'm not "manly" because I'm ordering a rose. The exception, of course, is any time I find myself in Provence in the summer, especially on the Cote d'Azur, where everyone is drinking rose wines.

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But now that roses are back in style, I have happily overcome any guilt feelings, and order them with abandon. The simple fact is that rose wines are suitable to drink on so many occasions. For me, it's not only that they go so well with many of the foods I eat, but they also suit my mood so often. There are times when a red wine feels too heavy, and a white seems too insubstantial. A glass of rose is perfect as an aperitif, with a nibble of food. When warm weather sets in, and a red wine doesn't seem right, I turn to rose. I love roses with seafood. Roses also pair well with many Asian foods. And there's always the time when you're dining with someone who wants to drink white wine, but you want red, or the reverse. Rose wine to the rescue.

Over the years, rose wines have dropped in and out of fashion throughout the world. In the United States, during the 1970s, rose or pink wines became especially fashionable, first, with the popularity of two Portuguese roses, Mateus and Lancer's; and then with the birth of white Zinfandels in 1975. Many novice drinkers especially found that the fairly sweet white Zinfandels and blush wines made an easy graduation from Coke and Pepsi. Others, no matter what their age--who always found red wines too dry or too tannic--turned to white Zinfandel.

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However, a backlash took place among "serious" wine drinkers, many of whom believed that all rose wines were sweet and sappy (never true), and avoided them. Rose wines' soiled reputation never really happened to wine drinkers in many countries in Europe--such as France, Spain, and Italy--where dry or fairly dry roses have been part of these countries' wine repertoire for decades.

Now", in the U.S., there has been a rose resurgence. For example, a just-released Nielsen study notes that U.S. retail sales of imported roses priced at or above $12 a bottle increased 22.3% in dollar volume and 17.7% in sales volume in 2010.

Here's a brief dxescription of some of the major rose-growing regions and an admittedly subjective listing of many of my favorite roses from these areas.

France

Roses are a popularly established wine in France more than in any other country. Although some rose wines are made in most French wine regions, they are really important in four: Provence, the southern Rhone, Languedoc-Roussillon, and the Anjou district of the Loire Valley. Note that the first three of these four regions are in southern France, where it's sunny and warm for a good part of the year. This makes sense, because rose wines go hand and hand with mild climates.

Provence is one of the few major wine regions in the world in which rose wines make up more than half of the wine production. Provence is the perfect venue for roses. Not only is the climate right, but the cuisine fits perfectly: fish, seafood, and fresh vegetables pre-dominate. The main grape varieties in Provence roses are Grenache, Cinsault, and Mourvedre. Most of Provence's rose wines come from its largest region, Cotes de Provence, and most retail in the $12 to $24 price range.

Ubifrance, the French trade commission, recently reported that exports of rose and red wines to the U.S. from Provence jumped nearly 50% by value and more than 37% by volume from October 2009 to October 2010. This represents a rise in value 10 times greater than that of total French wine exports in the same period - confirming the rising appeal of the Provence region's rose wines for U.S. consumers. And although the data includes red wines, the reality underlines the strength of roses: "In 2010, 87% of all AOC wines produced in Provence were roses, while 9% were reds and 4% whites," said Julie Peterson of the CIVP/Provence Wine Council's U.S. trade office.

Here are some of my favorite Provence roses (all come from Cotes de Provence, except when noted otherwise):

Chateau D'Esclans (Domaines Sacha Lichine)

Chateau de Saint-Martin

Domaine de Brigue "Signature"

Domaine de La Sangliere

Domaines Ott (Bandol)

Domaines Ott, Chateau de Selle

Domaine Sorin

Mas de Cadenet, "Arbaude"

Chateau Marqui (Coteaux Varois en Provence)

Chateau Les Valentines

Chateau Maupague

Chateau Sainte Roseline

Chateau Robine

Provence Roses are best when they are young. Drink them within two years of the vintage (2009 or 2010, but no older than 2008).

The southern Rhone has two of the oldest rose wine districts, Tavel (where by law only rose wines are produced), and Lirac. Grenache and Cinsault are the main grape varieties of Tavel and Lirac rose--but Syrah and Mourvedre are playing a greater role lately. Tavel wines are dry and tend to have more body and structure than most roses. They can be cellared, but are usually consumed when they're young, like most roses.

Languedoc-Roussillon produces more wine than any other region in France, and more than its share of roses. Languedoc roses, made from the same varieties as in Provence, are typically light and dry, and are invariably great values.

The Anjou district is the rose wine capital of the Loire Valley. Anjou's roses are more full-bodied than other French rose wines. Three different roses are made in Anjou:

Rose d'Anjou--semi-dry; made from Gamay, Malbec, and a local variety called Grolleau;

Cabernet d'Anjou--semi-dry; made from Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon; capable of aging for several years;

Rose de la Loire--dry; mainly Cabernet Franc.

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Spain

Dry rose wines (rosados) come primarily from two regions in northern Spain, Navarra and Rioja. Ernest Hemingway was a big fan of Rosado, while watching the bullfights. The two main grape varieties in Spain's Rosado wines are Garnacha (Grenache) and Tempranillo. Spain's rosados are light-bodied, dry, and delicious--and usually are very good values (S10 to $20, retail).

Italy

Roses, known as rosatos in Italy, are made throughout the country. My four favorite Italian regions for rosato wines are--from north to south--Alto Adige, Veneto, Abruzzo and Sicily.

Lagrein, an indigenous variety in Alto Adige, makes a fantastic, dry, medium-bodied rosato. In fact, I often prefer it to Lagrein's red wine, which can be too tannic. From the Bardolino district on Lake Garda in the Veneto comes a delightful dry rosato, Chiaretto (its full name is Bardolino Chiaretto). It's such fun to sip a cool Chiaretto by the lake while dining on lake fish or pasta. Corvina is the main grape variety of Bardolino Chiaretto.

Perhaps Italy's greatest rosato is Cerasuolo from the Abruzzo region. Cerasuolo, made from the Montepulciano d'Abruzzo variety, is a deep cherry color, almost a light red. It is quite full-bodied for a rose wine, and certainly can be served throughout dinner. Cerasuolo is a serious, delicious wine that even has some aging potential, especially in the hands of Abruzzo's best producers, such as Valentini and Cataldi Madonna.

Sicily has been producing excellent rosato wines for some time. The best ones are usually made from Sicily's premium red variety, Nero d'Avola. Regaleali is one Sicilian producer that is renowned for its rosato.

The United States

The story of modern rose wines' popularity in the U.S. begins in 1975 at Sutter Home Winery, with the birth of white Zinfandel--really, a kind of rose wine. White Zinfandel, as we know it today, was discovered accidentally, as a result of a stuck fermentation. At the time, Sutter Home was making red Zinfandel in its Napa Valley winery. To increase concentration in its red Zinfandel, Sutter Home bled off some of the grape juice before it fermented, and made a dry, almost white wine that the winery called "White Zinfandel," When the fermentation "stuck"--which occurs occasionally when the yeasts in the grape juice die out before consuming all of the grape sugar--the juice was set aside. A few weeks later, Sutter Home's winemaker tasted the batch, and he preferred it--now a somewhat sweet, pink wine--to the dry, almost white wine they had been calling white Zinfandel previously.

The rest is history. Sutter Home's new White Zinfandel became wildly popular, selling six times as much as its red Zinfandel and all of its other wines. Many other California wineries jumped on the bandwagon. Sutter Home remains one of the largest producers of white Zinfandel, selling more than four million 12-bottle cases annually. When I asked Bob Trinchero, owner and chairman of Sutter HomeWinery and Trinchero Family Estates, to account for Sutter Home White Zinfandel's success, he replied:

"Our team strives for quality and consistency, vintage after vintage, to always deliver the consumer the experience they expect from Sutter Home." A further factor, he believes, is the wine's "clean, fruity style that continues to be sought after by our loyal consumers." Another factor is the wine's penetration of the market. "We need to recognize the important support we receive on an on-going basis from our wholesaler network in keeping our White Zinfandel easily accessible to retailers and restaurateurs all over the U.S.," stated Trinchero.

White Zinfandel's popularity rests on its fruitiness, moderate alcohol, no tannin, and mild taste on the palate. Its color ranges from pale pink to medium rose, and its sweetness level goes from off-dry to quite sweet, depending on the producer. White Zin is best consumed chilled, which suits the way that many Americans like their beverages.

Despite Sutter Home's amazing-success, "Beringer's White Zinfandel continues to be the best-selling White Zinfandel across the United States by dollar value," commented Elizabeth Hooker, Director of Beringer's Public Relations-Fine Brands. "The wine's light and refreshing profile has made it a favorite with consumers since its launch in 1983," continued Hooker. "Beringer's White Zinfandel is vinified as a true Blanc de Noir Rose, from grapes harvested from California vineyards at higher Brix for maximum flavor and ripeness. The resulting wine is both approachable and affordable, and a trusted choice from a winery with a rich, classic heritage."

Today, Beringer Vineyards produces the largest-selling white Zinfandel; it's pale pink in color and dryer than most other Zinfandels. Other leading white Zinfandels include De Loach Vineyards; Woodbridge (by Robert Mondavi); Terra d'Oro (formerly Montevina; owned by the Trinchero family, owners of Sutter Home); E. & J. Gallo (who also produce Turning Leaf White Zinfandel); Fetzer's Valley Oaks; and Glen Ellen. White Zinfandel remains California's third-largest selling varietal wine today, after Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.

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Apart from the blush wine category, many rose wines in the U.S.--especially California--are now being made in a dry or off-dry style, and they are in demand. By 2007, rose wines had increased in sales over 50 percent in a five-year period, and are still going strong, despite the general slowing down of wine sales in the past few years. One main reason is the attractive retail price of roses. White Zinfandels are mainly in the $5 to $10 range, with most closer to $5; and the dry-style roses are primarily in the $12 to $20 range.

California's dry roses come in many varieties; the four most-popularly used varieties are Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Grenache and Syrah (the last two often combined). Grape varieties are often, but not always, listed on the wine label.

It is no accident that rose wines have captured the fancy of wine consumers. It is a modern wine: pretty to look at, easy-drinking, food-friendly and very affordable. And it's available in dry, off-dry, and sweeter styles. Viva Rose!

RELATED ARTICLE: Favorite Dry-Style California Roses

* A Donkey and a Goat Winery, "Isabel's Cuvee," Grenache Rose (McDowell Valley, Mendocino County)

* Alexander Valley Vineyards, Dry Rose of Sangiovese (Alexander Valley)

* Bonny Doon, "Vin Gris de Cigare Rose" Carignane (Santa Cruz Mountains)

* Chateau Potelle, "Riviera Rose" (Paso Robles)

* Edmunds St. John, "Bone Jolly Rose," Gamay Noir (El Dorado, Sierra Foothills)

* Emmolo, Syrah Rose (Napa Valley)

* Etude, Rose of Pinot Noir (Carneros, Napa Valley)

* Heitz Cellars, Grignolino Rose (Napa Valley)

* Hitching Post, Pinot Noir Rose (Santa Barbera County)

* I'M Wines (Isabel Mondavi), Rose of Cabernet (Napa Valley)

* Lazy Creek, Rose of Pinot Noir (Anderson Valley, Mendocino)

* Lynmar, Rose of Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley)

* McDowell Valley Vineyards, Grenache Rose (McDowell Valley, Mendocino)

* Pietra Santa Rosato, Dolcetto (Cienega Valley, San Benito County)

* St. Francis Winery, Rose, Merlot/Syrah (Sonoma County)

* Saintsbury, Pinot Noir Rose (Carneros, Napa Valley)

* Scherrer Winery Vin Gris Dry Rose, Pinot Noir/Zinfandel (Sonoma County)

* Tablas Creek, Estate Rose, Mourvedre/Grenache/Counois e (Paso Robles)

* Terra d'Oro, Rose, mainly Nebbiolo (Amador County, Sierra Foothills)

* Valley of the Moon, Rosato di Sangiovese (Sonoma County)

* Ventana Vineyards, "Rosado," mainly Grenache (Arroyo Seco, Monterey) Favorite Dry-Style California Roses

* A Donkey and a Goat Winery, "Isabel's Cuvee," Grenache Rose (McDowell Valley, Mendocino County)

* Alexander Valley Vineyards, Dry Rose of Sangiovese (Alexander Valley)

* Bonny Doon, "Vin Gris de Cigare Rose" Carignane (Santa Cruz Mountains)

* Chateau Potelle, "Riviera Rose" (Paso Robles)

* Edmunds St. John, "Bone Jolly Rose," Gamay Noir (El Dorado, Sierra Foothills)

* Emmolo, Syrah Rose (Napa Valley)

* Etude, Rose of Pinot Noir (Carneros, Napa Valley)

* Heitz Cellars, Grignolino Rose (Napa Valley)

* Hitching Post, Pinot Noir Rose (Santa Barbera County)

* I'M Wines (Isabel Mondavi), Rose of Cabernet (Napa Valley)

* Lazy Creek, Rose of Pinot Noir (Anderson Valley, Mendocino)

* Lynmar, Rose of Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley)

* McDowell Valley Vineyards, Grenache Rose (McDowell Valley, Mendocino)

* Pietra Santa Rosato, Dolcetto (Cienega Valley, San Benito County)

* St. Francis Winery, Rose, Merlot/Syrah (Sonoma County)

* Saintsbury, Pinot Noir Rose (Carneros, Napa Valley)

* Scherrer Winery Vin Gris Dry Rose, Pinot Noir/Zinfandel (Sonoma County)

* Tablas Creek, Estate Rose, Mourvedre/Grenache/Counois e (Paso Robles)

* Terra d'Oro, Rose, mainly Nebbiolo (Amador County, Sierra Foothills)

* Valley of the Moon, Rosato di Sangiovese (Sonoma County)

* Ventana Vineyards, "Rosado," mainly Grenache (Arroyo Seco, Monterey)

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RELATED ARTICLE: Three Top-Value Rose's

Detailing for Under $12

* Folie a Deux Winery "Menage a Trois" Rose (California)

* Pedroncelli Dry Rose of Zinfandel (Sonoma County)

* Toad Hollow Vineyards "Eye of the Toad" Dry Pinot Noir Rose (Sonoma County).

Ed McCarthy is a wine writer, wine judge, guest speaker, Certified Wine Educator, and wine consultant. He is co-author (with Mary Ewing-Mulligan) of Wine For Dummies, White Wine For Dummies, Red Wine For Dummies, Wine Buying Companion For Dummies, French Wine For Dummies, Italian Wine For Dummies and California Wine For Dummies. Ed's own book, Champagne for Dummies, was nominated for the James Beard Award as best wine book of the year.
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Author:McCarthy, Ed
Publication:Beverage Dynamics
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Date:Mar 1, 2011
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