June 12, 2002
Arts and Entertainment
A FRIEND FROM New York wrote recently with the news that his birthday dinner at a chic SoHo restaurant featured a bottle of Bandol rosé. Once the shock of this revelation had passed he is a sophisticated person, and sophisticated persons drink blush wines? the horror of not knowing what Bandol is set in, and I scurried for my wine dictionary.
It turns out that Bandol is grand. It's a small appellation near Toulon, in Provençe, that produces some of that southerly region's best wines. But rosé? Isn't that just a foofy Euro-euphemism for Sutter Home white zinfandel and all those other blush 1980s wines (not to mention their close but even lower-rent relations, wine coolers) that appealed to wine drinkers who really didn't care much for wine? Wasn't "white zinfandel," in fact, cooked up by marketers as a way of making (cheap) wine and (lots of) money from an early-'80s glut of zinfandel grapes red zinfandel wine being, at the time, in a pretty bad odor as cheap, rough pizza wine?
Yes, all true. But rosés are too venerable and distinctive a group of wines to have their reputation be wrecked for eternity by some MBA twit's marketing scheme. White zin is pretty much a distant memory now, up there on one of time's dustier shelves, with Michael Milken, "read my lips," and so on, but rosés are enjoying a modest renaissance on local wine lists. Maybe a modest renaissance is the best kind.
Rosé is even the preferred wine for certain sorts of dishes, like the Provençal seafood stew (Pierre Franey recipe, with Pernod) I made over the weekend for some neighborhood friends. They were skeptical openly skeptical, if you see what I mean but nonetheless agreed to an impromptu tasting of two French bottlings: a Canto Perdrix Tavel, from the Rhône Valley, and, from the Loire Valley, a Roger Neveu Sancerre.
The second wine was a bit of a bomb ("tastes like nothing," said one guest; "tastes like water," said another), which wouldn't have come as quite such a surprise if we had read beforehand Robert Parker's admonition that nonwhite Sancerre wines "are rarely recommendable." The Tavel was much, much better, with a rich pink color and definite hints of cherry and raspberry in its flavor.
And did it make a nice match with the Provençal seafood stew? Yes, but then so did the bottle of Wente Arroyo Seco chardonnay that sneaked its way onto the table. Rosé is, and most likely will remain, an exoticum an aperitif, a match to special dishes but if you're looking for that sunset blush in your goblet, it's the only choice.
Paul Reidinger firstname.lastname@example.org