When the great Persian poet Omar Khayyam wrote this love-struck verse in “The Rubaiyat,” he clearly was thinking of rosé wine:
A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread – and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness –
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!
Or if he wasn’t, he should have been.
And, as an enthusiastic foodie, I might also add a chunk of cheese and a bunch of those radishes with butter the French are always eating on picnics.
Rosé, in fact, is the perfect outdoor-on-the-grass wine, and romantic to boot.
For starters, it’s pretty.
Do this: Pour glasses of several rosés and set them beside each other with a light behind them. You’ll find a gorgeous range of colors from light pink to red grapefruit to fuchsia to onion skin to pale orange to vivid wild salmon. Sniff them and you’ll find tart cherries, red raspberries, strawberries, cranberries, lemon zest, guava, watermelon, minerals.
Rosés, being somewhere between white wine and red wine, naturally go well with a wide variety of foods.
You can serve them with bread and cheese, as noted above, or fruit salad, Greek salad, potato salad, all kinds of pasta, sandwiches, grilled shrimp, cold fried chicken.
Oh, and pig. The Hogwash Rosé mentioned below came about when California winemaker Tuck Beckstoffer was asked to create a wine to go with a whole hog at a pig roast.
Rosés are wines to drink for sheer pleasure rather than profound contemplation. To sip and swallow, not slosh and spit.
Some are lightly sweet. The best, in my humble opinion, are crisp, tart, almost steely, with gobs of fruit flavors, especially refreshing when served slightly chilled, almost like white wines.
One question I’m often asked about these wines is this: How can there be rosé wine when there are no rosé grapes? It’s simple, based on the fact that even red grapes have white juice. So red wine is made by crushing red grapes and leaving the white juice soaking on the red skins until you get the deep, red color you want.
And you can make rosé wine by bleeding off some of the juice early, when it has taken on only a bit of red color. This process, called the saignee method, not only produces rosé wine, but also concentrates the remaining red wine by leaving less juice soaking on the full complement of red skins.
Or you can just make white wine and add some red wine to it.
Either way, you have a wine the perfect summer wine.
Highly recommended: 2008 Louis Roederer Brut Rosé Champagne, Champagne (66 percent pinot noir, 34 percent chardonnay): myriad active tiny bubbles, crisp acids, tart raspberry and citrus flavors, hint of minerals; $79.
2013 Lange Twins Sangiovese Rosé, Lodi, Calif.: light, crisp and intense, with pure, unadorned strawberry flavors and a tart finish; $15.
2013 Inman Family Wines “Endless Crush” Rosé of Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma: crisp and dry, with aromas and flavors of strawberries and tropical fruits and a hint of minerals; $25.
Recommended: 2009 Schramsberg Brut Rosé, North Coast (70 percent pinot noir, 30 percent chardonnay): lively bubbles, rich and slightly sweet, with aromas and flavors of peaches, strawberries and tropical fruits; $43.
2013 Hogwash Rosé, by Tuck Beckstoffer, Calif. (grenache): very dry and crisp, with aromas and flavors of tart cherries, citrus and minerals; $16.
Nonvintage Barefoot Refresh “Perfectly Pink” Rosé, Calif. (white grenache, chenin blanc, moscato): soft and sweet and low in alcohol, simple and fruity, with raspberry flavors; $8.
2013 Las Rocas Rosé, Calatayud, Spain (garnacha): dry, full-bodied and rich, with aromas and flavors of red raspberries, tart cherries and spice, $14.
2013 Ponzi Pinot Noir Rosé, Willamette Valley, Oregon: floral aromas, flavors of ripe black cherries and citrus, crisp and lightly sweet; $20.
2013 Charles & Charles Rosé, Columbia Valley, Wash. (86 percent syrah, 6 percent cinsault, 4 percent grenache, 2 percent counoise, 2 percent mourvedre): full-bodied and hearty, with aromas and flavors of red plums and herbs, $13.
2013 Justin Vineyards & Winery Rosé, Paso Robles (cabernet sauvignon): dry and crisp, with aromas and flavors of ripe strawberries backed by tart lemon zest and a hint of herbs; $20.