Dry rosés mark rite of summer

Gil Kulers is a sommelier and maitre d’ for an Atlanta country club. You can reach him at gil.kulers@winekulers.com.


2013 Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé, Coastal Range, South Africa

$14

Two Thumbs Up

Pleasant aromas of dry strawberries, watermelon rind and a subtle mint note. Bright flavors of red cherry, tart tangerine, fresh apricot and a creamy quality.

Note: Wines are rated on a scale ranging up from Thumbs Down, One Thumb Mostly Up, One Thumb Up, Two Thumbs Up, Two Thumbs Way Up and Golden Thumb Award. Prices are suggested retail prices as provided by the winery, one of its agents, a local distributor or retailer.

Typical me (maybe typical you, too), I’m running late to get stuff together for a Saturday night concert in Decatur square. “These white wines aren’t going to chill themselves,” I admonish myself as I hurriedly flip a few random bottles into our ice chest. I then stumble across “it.” “Yes! A bottle of J Vineyards Rosé! Perfect.”

And so goes the annual ritual that opens pink wine season. You anticipate the tart, refreshing, spicy, fruity wines all winter and early spring. But, oh, when the temperature crests 85, when folks start tossing around the word “sweltering” in conversation and you lay your hand on that first bottle of rosé wine, summer has arrived.

Of course, you can drink pink wines with great pleasure the year round, but for me, nothing really makes you go “Ahhh!” on a steamy day quite like a white wine with a little color in it. Or is it a chilled red wine without so much pigmentation and the associated astringent, bitter tannins?

Does it really matter how a wine arrives at its level of pinkness?

OK, for the scientists out there, there are basically three ways to birth a pink wine. 1.) Add a little red wine to a white wine. 2.) Squeeze red grapes and let the skins sit in the juice for a few hours before removing the skins. 3.) As you are making a deep, dark, tannic red wine, bleed off a little of the pink juice that has accumulated in the bottom of the tank and make a separate wine out of that.

It really doesn’t matter how pink wines are made. What they do to you is the thing. Since they’re usually crisp and clean, they make for great, stand-alone cocktail wines (think bottled air conditioning). On the other hand, since many pink wines gain a little spiciness, a little body and a unique, subtle berry quality from the contact with red grape skins, they can be truly rewarding food wines. I’m rather fond pink wines with fried chicken — cold or hot. If the pink wine is also bubbly, even better.

In addition to it not mattering how pink wines are made, to a large degree, it doesn’t really matter what shade of pink the wines are. I’ve enjoyed delicate rosés that bordered on fuchsia and I’ve been blown away by the intensity of wines with merely a ghost-like salmon tint. It’s impossible to judge a rosé merely by its color.

Or by its grape type.

Some rosés of cabernet sauvignon are a little too tannic, but the delicious Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé from South Africa disproves any rule against making pink cabs. I recently had two lovely rosatos (Italian for rosé )— Santa Cristina from Antinori in Tuscany and Angelini from the Marche region on Italy's east coast. Made from sangiovese grapes, both had bright cherry notes and a sublime creaminess. Fetch the bowtie pasta salad tossed with diced salami, cherry tomatoes, goat cheese and basil, immediatamente! (Sorry, the Angelini is not yet available in Georgia.)

A quick note on sweetness: Pink wines are not necessarily sweet. Some are. All the ones mentioned here are bone dry. If you don’t like sweet wines, don’t drink them, but also don’t heap every wine with a pinkish hue into the same pot. Otherwise, you’ll forfeit your annual rite of summer.