Many in "the industry" love dry rosés. They're perfect for cutting the summer heat and can accompany any sort of food, from grilled hamburgers to pasta in cream sauce. Most winemakers even produce a case or two of rosés for their own consumption.
Of course, one reason some folks turn up their noses at rosés is the ubiquitousness of White Zinfandel, for years the top-selling wine in the United States. And there are still plenty of rosés out there that reek of canned cherries in syrup. But that's what critics are for: to help you dodge the dogs.
All grapes, no matter the color of their skins, have clear juice. The tint depends on the amount of time the red grape skins are allowed to stew with the juice: days or weeks for red wines; a few hours for rosés, or blush, as some wineries call them. You'll notice that some rosés are darker than others. That indicates the winemaker kept the juice sitting longer with the skins, coaxing more tannins into the wine to give it a more flavorful punch.
Rosés come from most countries and from any red grape: Syrah, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Zinfandel. (Wineries that wish to avoid the déclassé "White Zin" moniker call their pink wines "Zinfandel Rosé.") Some of the best come from the Provence and Languedoc regions of France, where citizens guzzle them by the gallons.
The characteristic smack of White Zinfandel comes from adding sugar to the juice or stopping fermentation before the sugar has been transformed into alcohol. In dry rosés, most of the sugar gets converted during fermentation, yielding a high-octane beverage. One reliable, yet not infallible, method of determining whether a rosé tastes sweet is by looking at the alcohol percentage located on the label. Those with higher alcohol content, normally between 12.5 percent and 14.5 percent, are dry, and sweeter wines show 10 percent to 12 percent.
So it's time to get out there and look uncool, but dammit, you'll be drinking good stuff. Besides, it's certainly cool to be drinking the cutting edge.
Turkey Flat 2004 Dry Rosé Barossa Valley -- A spectacular symphony of red fruit flavors that indulge the palate with strawberry, cherry, and raspberry. Elegant, with fantastic acidic balance. Well-priced for the quality. One word: yummy. $15.
Bonny Doon 2004 Big House Pink California -- Dry, yet kinda tastes like a cherry Jolly Rancher. An odd bit of guava in there, but it works. $10.
Vina Vilano 2004 Rosado Ribera Del Duero -- Like biting into a chilled strawberry, with some gutsy cranberry and cassis coming into play. From Spain and made with the Tempranillo grape. Not your momma's White Zin, my friends. $10.
Fiddlehead Cellars 2004 Pink Fiddle Santa Rita Hills -- A rosé from southern California Pinot Noir, and it's really fun. Zesty and enthusiastic, this pink gem sports tart cherry and some lemon-lime action. $16.
Solo Rosa 2004 Rosé California -- These guys only make rosé, and damn, do they make it well. It's flirty and fun with unusual full-bodiedness. Gorgeously ripe strawberry and raspberry complete this fabulous wine. $13.
Mas de la Dame 2004 Les Baux de Provence -- Pretty flower aromas. Refreshing and flirtatious with strawberry dipped in honey flavors. Energetic acids round out the sip. Limited availability. $19.
Peachy Canyon 2004 Rosé Paso Robles -- A slight sweetness gives this rosé some serious body and fullness. Bright cherry with a delicious lingering aftertaste that keeps giving. $12.