Hot Pinks

We’re getting hot. Summer swelter bears down on us. Gone are those sweetly cooling mists and marine-effect clouds and those lovely air-washing rains. I mean really hot, gasping, throat-drying hot — and just about the same time as our local growers are filling our markets with eye-popping piles of fresh produce.

Happily, we’ve got the right wines, pretty pinks that can perk up produce and cool out the BBQ. And suddenly pinks are popular. Sundance proprietor Gavin McComas expressed amazement at the increasing sales of rosés and at “how much tastes have changed.”

For years, rosés have languished in the shadows, lost to the unsavory reputation (and jumbo sales) of so-called “blush” wines, especially mass-produced, sickly sweet white zinfandels.

Let’s get clear about this: There’s nothing wrong with liking sweet “white zins,” as they’re called in the trade. In wine, as in other matters of “taste,” personal preference comes first. Too, those “white zins” made fortunes for some California wineries.

For just one notable example, Beringer white zin probably provided that producer with the capital underpinnings (profits) that made it possible for them to develop the program that led to some of the world’s best (Napa Valley) cabernet sauvignons. The wine is sweet, sure, but it takes chilling very well and it’s cheap ($6) and hugely popular, despite the scorn of wine sophisticates.

But wine sophisticates much prefer drier rosés, particularly those produced in the Provence region of France, where rosés have long been taken very seriously, and some of which now command prices in three figures. 

The rosés bearing the labels of Chateau D’Esclans, for example their Garrus 2010 ($97.50, on special), tend to be very pale yet complex in flavors, at least as complex as rosés can get, with distinctive orange-rind notes accented by ginger and spice. Save some bux, try Domaine de la Fouquette 2013 Cuvée Rosée D’Aurore ($15), superbly clean, with zippy acidity, bright berry palate. 

Check labels: Importer Kermit Lynch’s name on a bottle almost guarantees high quality. Eric Chevalier Pinot Noir Rosé 2012 Val de Loire ($16) delivers silky balance, essence of cherries.

Rosés emerge from nearly every wine region: Italy, Spain, France (of course), all across the U.S. People who love wine drink rosés in the summer because they’re so versatile, so flavorful, so adaptable to summer foods. And they come in various shades and forms, from bubblies to still wines, from pale to deeply colored, almost light-bodied reds. Some of our favorites:

Capitello Brut Rosé, Olivia’s Cuvée ($42) is simply superb, all pinot noir grapes, bursting with flavor, self-described as “scrumptious.”

J. Albin Brut Rosé ($30) is also lovely, a bubbly for summer sipping.

There are so many excellent rosés on wine-shop shelves now — Sundance Wine Cellars, our state’s largest wine store, stocks 100-plus — that producers must fuss about packaging. One of the most intriguing labels comes from Washington (Benton City) but looks as complex as any label from France: The House of Independent Producers 2013 Sagemoor Vineyard Rosé of Syrah ($16) is delicious, pinkish but generous in flavors — cherries and cranberries, some citrus — with a sprinkle of  pepper. 

 Locally, look for rosés from Territorial, J. Scott, King Estate’s Acrobat, many others. Sarver 2012 Pinot Noir Rosé ($21) is deep pink, worth every penny for its red-berry flavors and velvety texture. 

Bring on the heat. Bring the luscious produce. We have rosés and corkscrews. We are not afraid.

Best wishes for your August: May your summer eves come up rosés.