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In the Pink at Culinaria’s Rambling Rosé

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Wines are poured for panelists, audience, at Rambling Rosé 2011

Inviting hues of deep rose, palest pink and salmon are characteristic of one of summer’s most popular wines: dry rosé. The fact that the wine is served well-chilled, even iced, as is a good bottle of Champagne, sure doesn’t hurt, either!

This wine, so beloved in the hot, southern regions of France, particularly in Provence, has fought an uphill battle for respectability in the United States. For decades, wine aficionados have turned up their noses at pink wines, and in some cases for good reason. We can sum that up in one word: sweet.

The sugary white zinfandel that came of age more than 30 years ago earned the term “blush” wine and the unenviable reputation for being sweet, bland and really not what any self-respecting wine drinker would waste his or her time with.

Now, rosé is the rage, with sales still on the rise as well as its overall quality and reputation.

At Saturday’s Rambling Rosé, an annual event for Culinaria held at Becker Vineyards in Stonewall, there were stalwarts who insisted that to them, this was still a “ladies lunch” wine and they weren’t giving up their red wine for rosé.  And to that we say, to each his own.

But as more and more wineries in the  U.S. start making fine, dry rosés in a variety of styles — some New World and robust, with deep rosy colors, some of palest pink, such as Old World styles from Provence — we are finding that this wine is not something you drink “instead of” something else. There is so much to explore and appreciate and a good rosé holds a place of its own. And, its respectability is growing.

“We started making our rosé (Provenςal) when Bunny suggested it in around 1996,” said Richard Becker, Becker Vineyards owner with his wife, Bunny. Because the Beckers had traveled through Provence and fallen in love with the excellent rosés produced in the Bandol and Tavel regions, this seemed a natural progression. (For a video of Richard and Bunny Becker discussing the Provenςal, click here.)

Chef John Brand and sommelier Steven Krueger at Rambling Rosé 2011.

Since then, the Becker wine has held pride of place on the tasting tables at Rambling Rosé’ since the beginning of the popular event. Provenςal always been one of the top crowd pleasers during the blind tasting. Becker also served his Chenin Blanc during the food-wine tasting after the panels were over. Fillets of steelhead trout on a bed of seasoned quinoa was prepared by John Brand, executive chef for two River Walk hotels, Omni La Mansion del Rio and Ostra at Mokara Hotel. He was assisted by sous chef Javier Vasquez of Ostra.

Leading the panel at Saturday’s tastings were Steven Krueger, sommelier at Westin La Cantera, and Becker. Other panelists were John Griffin and Bonnie Walker of SavorSA, Jennifer McInnes of the Express-News and Becker winemaker Russell Smith.

The Becker rosé, said Smith, is made in a Provence style, where the red grapes (Mourvèdre) are pressed just enough to allow the juice (which is white) to retain some of the color from the skins. The wine has received a varying amount of time in wood barrels over the years to see just how much oak tastes best. The 2010 Becker Provenςal was very pale, with a good zing of acidity balancing the fruit, bone dry and refreshing.

Refreshing was the word of the day. As one panelist said, summer around South Texas lasts a long time —and we still have a couple of months ahead of us to really appreciate the dry rosé.  As Becker pointed out, rosé and Champagne are the two wines the French ice down to serve. Its good to give a rosé a chance to breathe as well.  Our suggestion: The refrigerator keeps the wine at just above 40 degrees. Take it out, open it and let it breathe 10-15 minutes. It will still be cool (42-44 degrees) when you serve it. If you want it to stay at the cooler temperature, keep the bottle or carafe on ice after opening.

The following rosés (most 2010) were poured at this year’s Rambling Rosé:

• Belle Glos Pinot Noir Rosé, Santa Barbara County (around $19): One of the day’s favorites, dry, well balanced.

Dr. Richard Becker

• Becker Vineyards Provenςal, Texas ($12): A wine in the style of Provence, pale pink, bone dry, well-balanced fruit and acid, and a pleasant scent of berries and herbs.

• Folie à Deux Menage à Trois Rosé, California ($9-$10): Much too sweet for this panel, though some made the argument that the sugar would help balance the wine with barbecue made with a sweet sauce.

• Robert Oatley Rosé of Sangiovese, Australia ($13-$15): Not as sweet as the Menage à Trois, but a little residual sugar, cherry aroma, a deeper pink color.

• Chateau du Campuget Costieries-de-Nimes, France ($10 -$12): This is very Old World in style, pale rose color, with pointed acidity and minerality, very dry, dusty earth and berries on the nose. One of the day’s favorites.

• Chateau d’Esclans Whispering Angel Rosé, France ($20): Pale peach in color, aromas of herbs, flowers, sleek rather than rounded flavors, dry, good acidity.


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