Rose Wines for a Festive Valentine's Day

Pink-colored wines, called roses, add a special touch to any Valentine's Day gathering. But, pink wines are not limited to the ubiquitous white zinfandel. There are a variety of rose wines--both sparkling and still--to please every palette, with colors ranging from a light rose to a vibrant red to a burnt orange hue. Below is an overview of these attractive--and often affordable--wines:
Dry Pink Sparkling Wines
Rose sparkling wine or Champagne (from France's Champagne region) adds a festive touch to any Valentine's Day celebration. Rose sparkling wines are created by adding a little red wine to the white sparkling wine before bottling. Even the "brut' (dry) rose sparkling wines tend to be slightly sweeter than their white counterparts. Rose sparkling wines are crafted from a variety of grapes. French winemakers tend to use Pinot Noir grapes; American vintners, such as California's Schramsberg Vineyards, favor Chardonnay grapes.

Rose sparkling wines go nicely with delicate seafood, such as shrimp, scallops, or lobster. They are also good complements to poultry dishes, milder Asian food (like sushi), soft cheeses like brie, and fruit desserts. Serve rose sparkling wines cold, to a temperature of around 43 to 48 degrees Fahrenheit. Chill the bottle in the refrigerator for three to four hours or chill for 20-30 minutes in an ice bucket filled with half water and half ice. Serve in tall flutes or tulip glasses to enhance the wine's bubbles.

Not all rose sparkling wine is expensive; for an affordable addition to your Valentine's Day meal, try Domaine Carneros' Brut Rose de la Pompadour from California (around $33 per bottle depending on your local taxes) or Jansz Vineyards' Premium Rose from Australia (around $24).

Dry Roses
Several wine-growing regions create still (non-sparkling) rose wines. Among these is France's Provence region in the southern part of the country. In fact, 80 percent of the wine produced in Provence is rose. Unlike sparkling wine, still rose gets its pink color by allowing the red wine grape skins to remain briefly with the wine as it ferments. Although rose wine can be made from any red grape, in Provence they use Grenache, Cinsault, Tibouren, Mourvedre, Syrah, Carignan, and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Rose wine from Provence has a crisp, fruity taste.

The Provence wine-growers association recommends serving dry rose with traditionally hard-to-match foods, such as Asian cuisine, Tex-Mex, Indian food, and American regional fare--and, of course, with Valentine's Day dinners. Dry roses are best when served chilled, to between 45 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit. To achieve this, take the bottle out of the refrigerator about 20 minutes prior to serving.

Good picks for affordable rose wines are Bonny Doon Vineyards (California) Big House Pink (around $10) and Domaine Ott's Le Domaniers Cotes de Provence (around $22).

Off-Dry Pink Wines
If dry or sparkling wines aren't to your taste, there are several quality off-dry (winespeak for slightly sweet) wines to savor. Wine-growing regions as diverse as Italy's northern Piedmont region, California's Central Valley, and South Africa's Stellenbosch region produce good rose wines.

Rose wines are extremely versatile and go nicely with a diverse array of foods, including poultry dishes (especially those with a cream sauce), cream cheese-based dips and appetizers, mild cheeses, and spicy food like Indian and Thai.

Good off-dry roses to try include Banfi's vibrant "Rosa Regale," made in Italy's Piedmont region (around $22) and Domaine Renardat Fache Cerdon du Bugy (around $23), a sparkling wine made from Gamay grapes, and Mulderbosch rose from South Africa.



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