This week we continue our journey into the pink, inspired by a recent controversy over the European Union's proposal to allow wine producers to blend red and white wines together and call the result rosé. France objects, and so does at least one reader, who gave the blending concept a big "Yuk!" She suggested a blind tasting of mass-market blends versus rosés made through the traditional practice of maceration, which involves contact between the skins of red grapes and their juice. Problem is, then we'd have to taste those often sickly-sweet wines, so this week were sticking with old-fashioned rosés.
Frey Vineyards Natural Rosé from Mendocino ($9.50) is a nonvintage, organic wine with several things going for it, but its unfortunate pinkish brown color isn't one of them. Don't let that scare you off, because then you'll miss a delightful aroma of citrus and tropical fruit, especially guava; a light, dry taste; and a strong finish. This is pretty bold for a rosé, and would be refreshing on a hot summer's day. Although I'm a fan of wines made from organically grown grapes, I've been resistant to those that earn organic certification thanks to the lack of chemicals added during the winemaking process. Such wines have always tasted a little wimpy to me, and most winemakers I know think the limitations imposed by organic certification requirements are too stringent. But with this wine, in all but color, Frey is somehow making it work.
I expected similar gumption from the rosé bearing France's Fat Bastard label, but that's not what I found. The 2008 Fat Bastard Rosé ($10.99), made from an even split of Shiraz and Grenache grapes grown in the Languedoc region, was at least a true pink, but its bold color struck a discordant tone with its muted bouquet. This underwhelming aroma suggested berry and a little peach, and the dry, acidic mouthfeel was a bit thin. "Pleasant enough" is how I'd sum it up.
One other thing that this week's wines have in common is that they can't run far enough away from the dreaded association with White Zinfandel, that 1970s California creation that tainted rosé's reputation in this country. But there's certainly no mistaking any of these wines for a Sutter Creek blush. In the case of the 2007 Dry Rose of Zinfandel ($9.99) from Sonoma's Pedroncelli Winery, the producer even had enough confidence in its craftsmanship to put the Z word proudly on its label. Pedroncelli has a long history in the Dry Creek Valley and is well respected for its lush and budget-friendly red zins. But this salmon-colored wine was quieter than one might expect from a maker of wines known for their richness. It also was sweeter than expected, especially in the finish. The winery's other value wines are worth a try, however — we've heard good things about the Mother Clone Zinfandel ($11.95).