Yesterday, when the outdoor temperature gauge in my car read 108, I knew that a glass of chilled, dry rosé was in my near future. By the time I got home, the gauge was reading a slightly cooler 106. Make that two glasses of rosé. I am happy to say that in the dozen or more years I've hoisted the flag to salute this delicious wine, its popularity has steadily risen. In the warmer climes of Europe they have, for a very long time, been quaffing rosé in the summers. It's only in the past few years that Americans have taken to rosé, and the sales figures have risen accordingly. "I'd say it's now a serious category in sales, in the same league as Zinfandel or Sauvignon Blanc, says Don White, wine seller at Seazar's on North New Braunfels Avenue. Rosé wine took a bad hit to its reputation with the mass production of white zinfandel, back in the 1970s. That was, and is, almost always fairly sweet, and it is still popular. It can technically be considered rosé wine. It's just not dry rosé. One might call it a beginner's wine, but on the other hand, if it has good acidity to balance the sweetness, it might be quite acceptable with ultra-spicy foods. This is why Asian restaurateurs in the know often have Riesling or Gewurztraminer on their wine lists. Actually, a lightly sweet rosé wine is pretty good with a plate of Mexican food, too, from a serrano chile-laced guacamole to a mellow carne guisada. But it's dry rosé we're talking about here. That is wine produced to be orange or coral or pink or even close to red in color, and to contain little, if any, residual sugar. There are a number of ways to make rosé wine. The juice of red grapes is nearly always white. The color, some of the flavor and structure of red wine depends on leaving the juice in contact with the skins. If the juice is taken off the skins within a day or two, it is going to be pink rather than red and won't have the concentrated flavors of red wine. The juice is fermented in the usual way but is almost always drunk within a year or two of being bottled. There are exceptions to this, including a rosé made by Spanish winemaker, Lopez de Heredia. This Grenache-Tempranillo-Viura blend is made only during good vintages and aged in oak. The above blend includes juice from the widely produced white Viura grape. This blending of the red with white to produce a rosé color is done in Spain. It also is done in some New World countries, such as South Africa and Australia. But this summer, there was great controversy when the European Commission put forth plans to allow blending of red juice with white in France and Italy. Winemakers lobbied passionately against it, basing their arguments on economic reasons (loss of jobs) as well as traditional. In June, the EC, which is the executive arm of the European Union, dropped its plans -- to the joy of the winemakers. Chill the wine down well, then open and serve it with, say, grilled chicken, salmon or pork. You'll eventually not only know the styles you like, but which red grapes used to make the pink wine most appeal to you. I've seen more and more rosés made from Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault, Syrah and others. Very good Old World wines are the traditional rosés from Provence, the rosatos of Italy, rosés of Pinot Noir from the Burgundy and Sancerre appellations of France. More and more very good dry rosés are being made in California. Becker Vineyards in the Texas Hill Country also makes a pretty, dry rosé every year called Provençal. Without further ado, I'll list below wines I've sampled this summer and can recommend, as well as suggestions from Don White at Seazar's, 6422 N. New Braunfels Ave. The wines can be found in the San Antonio market and are rarely more than $23 in price, with most ranging from $9 to $16.
- Montes Cherub Rosé of Syrah, Chile: excellent, concentrated flavor; crisp yet tasting of plenty of good, red fruit.
- Vina Salamanca, Spain: diverse fruit flavors come from a single grape, Rufete, which grows in the Salamanca region west of Madrid. Spicy, with red berry fruit flavors.
- Côtes du Rhone Parallele 45, from Paul Jaboulet Ainé, France: sleek, very dry, spice flavors blend with typical Rhone fruit flavors. Blend of Grenache, Cinsalut and Syrah.
- Hoya de Cardenas, Spain: Made from the rare Bobal grape, this wine shows very rich but well-integrated berry-cherry fruit; very dry but deeply textural.
- Chateau Trinquevadel, Tavel, France: Lots of structure, with a definite herbal note. This wine, says White, is for drinking with food rather than sipping as an aperitif.
- Marques de Caceres, Spain: A perennial pleaser, fruity, dry and just a bit spicy.
- Mulderbosch Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon, South Africa: The perfect wine with Tex-Mex. It even goes with jalapeños.
- Sancerre Rosé, France: This 2007 vintage is pale salmon in color, and elegant blending of rich cherry flavors with just a little meaty note. Made with Pinot Noir.
- Cline Mourvedre Rosé, California: Deep raspberry fruit, full flavored, made with Syrah.