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A rosŽ by any other name need not be sweet

Pink wine is not for sissies. Despite what some people think, rosŽ wines have the potential to be far more than simple, overly sweet options that you stock for Grandma's summer visits.

I'm not talking about white zinfandel, blush or any of the sticky-sweet pink wines foisted on us by industrial California wine producers during the 1970s and '80s. Those wines did all they could to convince people that rosŽ was synonymous with sweet, not to mention bad.

Traditionally, rosŽ is a dry wine, with bright fruit elements and high, sometimes bracing acidity. It usually comes from the hotter growing areas such as the Languedoc and Bandol regions of France, as well as the southern Rhone Valley Ñ particularly the Tavel region, which produces only a dry rosŽ that bears its name.

The higher acid levels make rosŽ a good match for summer foods such as crab, shrimp and mild cheeses.

If you still cling to the idea that rosŽ is a wine that can't make up its mind about what it wants to be, here are some bottles you should try. All of these 2002 wines are made completely dry, though they vary in style enough to make them worth comparing.

Starting with something from close to home, the J.K. Carriere Glass ($18) is 100 percent Willamette Valley pinot noir. In the glass, it's a pale peach hue, barely pink at all and easily the lightest in color of all these wines. The nose has gorgeous aromas of strawberry flower and a touch of spice, while on the palate it is light, with hints of citrus and some mineral notes on the finish. This is a complete, complex and satisfying wine that will complement simple summer dishes but tastes superb all alone.

Another fine effort from the Willamette Valley is Cameroni Vino Pinko ($13). In addition to the excellent pinot noir and chardonnay that Cameron Winery makes, winemaker John Paul also produces delicious white blends, as well as this rosŽ, under the Cameroni label. This wine has the telltale strawberry notes of rosŽ on the nose, as well as an intriguing aroma of grilled nectarines. In the mouth it's almost supple, with a lingering, pleasingly acidic finish. This stuff has a way of disappearing, even among people who claim to not like rosŽ.

Moving along to France, the traditional home of rosŽ, the Chateau Routas RouviŽre ($10) has a hue somewhere between peach and pink, with a nose that shows hints of peach jam. It's the lightest bodied of these wines, with slightly candied flavors on the palate and a well-balanced acidity that makes for easy sipping, without being dull. This is not a simple wine, but it is one that is easy to enjoy, and for the price, it goes down almost too easily.

Last and far from least comes the most full-bodied of these wines, the Bergerie de l'Hortus ($12), from Domaine de l'Hortus. This wine is so red in color it's almost inaccurate to call it rosŽ, though it's still more about finesse than power. Along with its lovely color, it has a nose that brims with ripe strawberry and red currant, along with an almost stony quality. Once in the mouth, it's nice and round, with some of those currant flavors coming though again in the acidity. This is a great wine to help win over a rosŽ skeptic.

Contact Otis Rubottom at

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