Beer seems to be the traditional beverage of summer, and I am certainly not going to argue with that. It's cold, refreshing, and goes well with all summer fare, from burgers to barbecue to spice-encrusted crabs. But there is another option that does all these things, a category of wine that mates with summer food and summer fun, and can also be enjoyed year-round.
It's the official summer beverage at my house, and it's rosé. We probably go through more rosé at my place than we do bottled water. Already, we've sent several bottles to their destiny out on the deck, or grill-side, or with the lighter food we've begun cooking. As the weather heats up, we'll really get serious about our rosé consumption.
I was only too happy to sample the first arrivals of the season. Here are three delicious examples you might want to consider sipping this summer.
Las Rocas Rosado 2007 (Henry Wine Group, $12) is a slightly off-dry, fruity example that will please experienced wine drinkers, but also lure the white zinfandel crowd into the world of real wine. It presents a cheerful glass full of watermelon and citrus notes, and the faint sweetness is just the ticket for tangy barbecue sauces, fruit-based salsas, or those items on the Thai food carryout menu with the little chili peppers next to them.
If drier and racier is your style, then a bottle of Jean Reverdy Sancerre Rosé 2007 (Kysela Pere et Fils, $23) should do nicely. This wine's flavor profile is more about light strawberry and cherry, owing to the fact that it is made from pinot noir. The limestone soils of France's Loire Valley convey a thrilling minerality and electric acidity, resulting in a wine of real finesse for richer seafood dishes, lobster, or summertime vinaigrettes.
Fattier food like Maryland fried chicken needs a wine with a richer texture, and I found it in Robert Sinskey Vin Gris of Pinot Noir 2007 (Country Vintner, $30). Like the Sancerre Rosé, this is also made from pinot noir, but it undergoes malolactic fermentation. This process converts the nervy malic acid, which one most commonly associates with green apples, to lactic acid, which we associate with cream and butter. This rosé is round, rich, and soft, a quirky take on the category that would remind the rosé fanatic of wine from France's Bandol region. The wine works fantastically with rich food, seafood stews, and even grilled steak, but its opulence makes it a great choice for simply sitting and watching the sun go down.