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Molly Laas Headshot

Think Pink For Barefoot Wine Drinking

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It is hard to know what official position to take on pink wines. Not too long ago, no self-respecting drinker would touch the stuff, as pink wine meant sweet white zinfandel and the tasteless people who like it. Then, the world (and I) discovered lovely French rosés and Spanish rosados, dry, crisp pink wines that make you feel like you're sitting at a seaside restaurant in Cannes, even though you're on your roof in Flatbush, Brooklyn. And it was decided that pink was okay.

Good rosés are fruity, with high acidity, and the best ones have the freshness of a white wine with some of the tannins and depth of a red. This is accomplished when the winemaker leaves the grape skins in the juice for just long enough to impart some color. Then the strained juice is fermented in steel tanks that keep oxygen away from the wine, to preserve its bright fruit flavors.

After its popular acceptance, rosé was granted its proper place at the dinner table; unpretentious drinkers could relax. Then The New York Times trotted out an article dubbing rosés "The Summer Drink to be Seen With" and rosé's fledgling reputation got dragged across the dance floor. Now all sorts of people who don't care about wine, but do care about the Times Style section, are now conspicuously quaffing it at a watering hole near you.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with good wine gaining a higher profile. Trends in boozing wax and wane, but for me there's only one way to drink pink wine. Rosés are for picnics, not nightclubs, and certainly not for the MisShapes (unless they're hosting a picnic). A good rosé is best when it's drunk out of doors by barefoot drinkers, and it shouldn't cost more than $10.

For the first picnic of the season I grabbed a bottle of Borsao ($10, Jorge Ordoñez is the importer), a 2005 rosado from Campo de Borja in Spain. This one featured prominent spices, like nutmeg and cinnamon, followed by some prominent strawberry flavors. I would guess from the spice flavors that the grape used in this wine is grenache, or garnacha as they call it in Spain, because that is the dominant grape in the region.

The Borsao wasn't as bright and fruit-forward as I usually like rosés, and the overwhelming strawberry notes reminded me of bubble gum. Rosés are generally drunk as young as possible, and the age of this one muted its freshness. Campo de Borja is in Aragón, the hot, dry north of Spain, and my guess is that the winemaker let the heat of the area get the better of the grapes and they got too ripe, producing the sticky strawberry flavors that marred the wine.

However, with sunlight in my face and my toes in the grass it didn't really matter that the wine wasn't perfect. I drank it with some friends of mine on a Sunday afternoon to accompany chevre and little spicy sausages, and we sipped it while watching some kids and a pet dog chase each other through Prospect Park in Brooklyn.

I'd like to see rosé's reputation firmly established as an anti-snob snob wine. Any noble wine whose reputation has been unfairly tarnished by the popular acceptance of insipid versions of it -- Riesling jumps to mind, as does chardonnay -- would qualify for this designation. Overly oaky California chardonnays that smell like they spent more time in a lumberyard than a vineyard have prompted legions of normally sensible people to declare that they hate every wine made from the grape. They should really just relax, pick up a white burgundy, and any anti-chardonnay snobbishness will be drained out of them by the time they finish the bottle. Burgundy is chardonnay done right, just as French and Spanish rosé is pink wine done right.

So try it sometime: shock your favorite small-minded pink hater by pouring him a glass of a good rosé, and you will have accomplished a wine geek jujitsu move: the anti-snob reverse flip. But please remember the best place to try it is on the grass, not at Bungalow 8.

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