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Pink the new colour of chic

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The wine formerly known as rosé is in its element come summertime

"Think pink" is the current summer mantra among West Coast wine drinkers. The movement back to rosé is in its third season and while response to pink wines is better than ever it’s not exactly a sipping frenzy yet.

Anything to do with change in wine takes time, and the acceptance of rosé is one of those movements, like riesling and screwcaps, that’s moving faster in some markets than it is in others.

If you're not sure what the new pink is, think blush wine with some guts. In the "good old days" (I can see my kids' eyes rolling upwards), wine similar in colour to the eye of the partridge was called rosé. However, it would appear the term rosé is now passé with the young crowd, which is why it's best to "think pink."

Eventually, even the most serious wine drinker will turn to pink if the conditions are right. For me, it happened in the south of Spain. The temperature was in the high 30s. There was a warm wind blowing in from the Mediterranean, the tapas were tiny and perfect and the pink wine was ice cold. It was magic.

So what is it that’s holding us back from drinking more rosé in Canada?

I’ve narrowed it down to the endless cold fronts that dampen most springs and early summers on the coast – cool wet days simply aren’t conducive to drinking pink. Rosé that was super-sweet, including most white zinfandels, did not cut it with wine drinkers whose expanding wine palates were leading them toward drier labels and bigger flavours.

But what goes around comes around. Today pink wine, albeit drier and fruitier, is making inroads into local restaurants and wine bars, and lately even the shelves of B.C. Liquor Stores (look for a current end-of-aisle display in most stores). And the warmer the weather the better they sell.

For the record, there are few places rosé is made by simply blending red and white wines – at least legally. Most pink wine begins life as red does, crushed black grapes fermenting on its skins. After a few hours, the skins are removed and fermentation continues a la white wine making. (Hint: served chilled like white wine).

The result is delicate pink wine with just enough flavour and tannin to stand up to a wide array of al fresco summer bites. In fact, just about any cold plate you can think of will work with rosé, not to mention grilled white meats and vegetarian pasta dishes. Your choices are endless.

For best results, just add sunshine and a picnic basket. What follows is a round up of some of the hottest pink wines in the market.

The Blouberg Rosé ($7.99) is an unusual blend of South African sauvignon blanc, cape riesling, sémillon, merlot and pinotage. It takes its name from the blue-tinged mountains of the Cape. It's meant to be an easy-drinking pink fashioned in the Portuguese Vinho Verde style. The colour is deep raspberry; the nose a mix of cherry and spiced apple and the taste: cherries, citrus and minerals. A fun patio sipper with a modicum of residual sugar.

• If you haven't tasted Mateus Rosé ($9.49) recently, you're in for a pleasant surprise. The colour is an attractive light raspberry red. With a mix of mineral, earthy, cherry, slightly floral notes on the nose. It's refreshingly drier than the old version with some spritz, and earthy, light cherry, citrus, mineral apple flavours. A very sound, affordable summer rosé.

• The success of the dry red Castaño Monastrell has spawned a rosé from this Spanish producer that hits the mark. Castaño Monastrell Rosé ($9.49) has a cherry, berry, spicy, mineral aroma with a touch of game and earth. Look for fresh black cherry, licorice, spicy, mineral and citrus flavours with a touch of raspberry. Great value and a versatile picnic party drink. Try with chilled salmon and potato salad.

Arrowleaf Red Feather ($12.99 VQA stores) is one of the best local pinks in the market. The Okanagan Valley rosé is a refreshing blend of pinot noir, merlot and auxerrois with a pale salmon colour. The aroma is a mix of mint and strawberry. It’s fresh and round with just enough sugar and acidity to hold your interest. A perfect summer patio wine and that’s two vintages in a row. Well done.

Gallo’s Sierra Series White Zinfandel ($9.99) has pretty, fruit-scented nose of cherries and plums with fine acidity – breaking the super sweet mold. The entry is fresh and the intensity fine. This is a solid, summer sipper that will double as a versatile food wine around the barbecue.

• A sheer delight is Château la Tour d'Aigues Poeme Rosé ($12.95) from Côtes du Lubéron. It has an attractive flowery, cherry nose with almond notes and dry cherry, citrus, baked quince and earthy flavours. It’s terrific value and surely one of the best pinks in the market. Drink all summer.

• Another fun bet from the Okanagan is the Blasted Church Rosé ($13.99). Its bright fuchsia colour is magnetic. The nose is ripe and sweet with candied banana strawberry scents that follow through on the palate. A true summer sipper best served well chilled.

• Finally don’t forget to consider sparkling rosé. Two best bets begin with Segura Viudas Lavit Rosado Brut Cava ($15.99). Look for a bright attractive pale raspberry colour. Delicate cherry, baked red apple flavours with just a hint of toasted earth. Good value and quality for a sparkler that can be served at most any occasion.

• Ditto that for the Codorníu Pinot Noir Brut ($20.99). Again, the colour grabs the eye while the toasty mineral, raspberry, red currant, earthy flavours grab your tongue. It’s soft, creamy and round, perfect for sipping by the pool.

Clean fresh and pink. Drink some before summer slips away.

Anthony Gismondi is a globetrotting wine writer who makes his home in West Vancouver, British Columbia. For more of his thoughts on wine log onto www.gismondionwine.com

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