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August 31, 2012

Grazing: The Waning Summer of Rosé

RoseIt’s less than 12 hours until August turns a corner. For me, it signals a sad close to a season that begins in early June and wends its way through three glorious, salmon-colored months: the season of sipping rosé, almost to the exclusion of other colors.

When I went to pick up another bottle of the pink stuff this week, the usually teeming display of rosé had disappeared; the remaining bottles had been relegated to a mid-shelf rosé ghetto. With heavy heart, I grabbed a bottle of pale Blaufrankisch and resolved not to let the moment die. So that you might consider joining the crusade, here are some wines you can (and should) keep drinking until the rain starts lashing your window — or until they become stranded behind an autumn display of Syrah or Cabernet Franc.

What makes rosé so ridiculously perfect, besides being the anathema to sticky, hot days, is that it pairs like a glove with almost any kind of food. It's cheap, too, or at least can be found for a song. Sparkling rosé can help you wash down anything from fries to oysters to acorns and seeds (why not indoctrinate squirrels, too?). 'Still' rosé loves on BBQ pork, salads, tarts, burgers, or even any iteration of tomatoes you’ve dreamt up in the last few, red-stained weeks. The wisps of acid in a dry rosé deftly meet those in food, punch for punch; their inevitable fruitiness makes for satisfying patio pounding.

Yet do not — repeat, DO NOT! cross over to the dark side: sweet rosés. These run counter to nature. They often have sugar added to their juice, and they are not your friend. 

Granted, many Vermont wineries have to make sweet wines to sate the average sugar-loving palate, and rosé is no exception. Fresh Tracks Farm in Berlin makes two rosés: the off-dry Little Piggy Pink, a pressing of Frontenac grapes; and the drier Vermont Rosé, a quenching press of St. Croix grapes.

The latter is where it’s at. With an autumnal tinge to its pink hue, it throws off aromas of raspberries, melon and a hint of menthol, and has heady flavors of cranberry, blackberry and a touch of quince. It’s palate cleansing, luscious and superb for these parts.

I first had Boyden Valley’s Rose La Ju Ju at the Stowe Farmers Market last year, when it was first released; it was striking in that, unlike many dry Vermont rosés up to that point, it lacked the puckery acids that can mar some of our cold-climate wines. Made from Frontenac and Cayuga White grapes, each sip has hints of pomegranate, watermelon and pebbles.

Truth be told, though, most of the rosé I’ve quaffed this summer has been from other shores. As with an acceptance speech, there are too many to mention — floral Masciarelli rosato from Abruzzo; the poised, crisp Château Thivin Beaujolais Rosé; the easy-sipping Cline Mouvedre rosé from California, a real bargain; even the fruity, slightly herbaceous Sofia (Coppola) Rosé that seemed everywhere this summer (even gas stations). But the real lesson of the summer has been that rosé made from Grenache is round, spicy and utterly captivating. The Capcanes Montsant Mas Donis Rosato, for instance, is an extroverted, berry-hued, almost chewable meld of cherries, pepper and plum.

Yet if there was a frog-prince of my summer, it was Austrian rosé. The salmon-hued 2011 Erwin Tinhof Blaufrankisch Rosé, made in Austria’s Burgenland region with native yeasts, exhales citrus and a wisp of candied apple when poured; lime, red fruit and a touch of butter dwell within. On the finish, the wine gives you a tiny kick to the top of the mouth, then settles into a long ‘om’ of tart strawberries.

Here's to Indian summer.

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