Charles and Charles Rosé ($10) Washington

Welcome to the ninth annual Advocate rosé column, where our motto is: If it’s summer and you have $10, you can buy a pretty good rosé — and sometimes even get change back.

Surprisingly, despite the weak dollar and the passage of all that time, that price point hasn’t changed in the last decade. There are still dozens of terrific rosés that cost $10 or less from all over the world. The one thing that has changed? The quality of rosé keeps getting better, and it’s unusual to find a poorly made rosé (something that wasn’t necessarily true 10 years ago).

What you need to know about rosé:

• Rosé isn’t white zinfandel (or white merlot or whatever); rosés are pink wines made with red grapes, and they aren’t sweet. Why are they pink? Because the red grape skins are left in the fermenting grape juice just long enough to color the wine.

• Rosé’s fruit flavors are mostly red berries (think strawberry or cranberry) or watermelon. They should be served chilled, and they pair pretty much with any food, including beef and barbecue. Rosé was made for Sunday afternoon, sitting on the back porch, rosé in hand and burgers on the grill.

• Don’t buy old rosé. Look for 2010, and be wary of anything dated before 2009. Rosés are not made to age, and should be fresh and flavorful. The color in older vintages starts to fade, like paper that yellows.

Rosé styles vary by country. Spanish wines are going to be bone dry with less fruit flavor. French rosés are not quite as dry as the Spanish, but they usually don’t have a lot of fruit flavor (and rosé from Provence is among the best in the world). Some U.S. wines are so full of strawberry flavor that they seem sweet, but that’s your taste buds playing a trick on you.

The best way to learn about rosé is to taste. My list of recommended rosés is in the dozens, and includes wines from Texas (McPherson), South Africa (Mulderbosch), California (Pedroncelli), France (Cep d’Or), Spain (Cortijo) or Washington state (Charles & Charles).


With Your Wine

Sort-of salad nicoise

Americans seem hung up on salads. They’ll eat all sorts of fancy ones at restaurants, but at home are less willing to try anything other than some lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes and bottled dressing tossed together. In fact, those fancy restaurant salads are quite easy to make at home, much less expensive, and they are rosé-friendly. The ingredients, by the way, are just suggestions. This is a terrific way to clean out the refrigerator — use leftover grilled chicken, hard-boiled eggs, potato salad, green beans and bits of grated cheese.

Serves four, takes about 25 minutes

4 to 6 c mixed lettuce, torn
2 to 3 c chopped, raw vegetables such as cucumbers, carrots, mushrooms, red onion and celery
2 c canned beans such as chickpeas or navy beans
2 cans best-quality tuna
1/2 to 1 c black olives
1/2 to 1 c best-quality vinaigrette

1. Arrange the lettuce in a layer on a serving platter. Dress lightly with vinaigrette. Arrange the rest of the ingredients on top of the lettuce, making a design that strikes your fancy. Presentation is part of the fun of this dish.

2. Dress the salad lightly, and pass the vinaigrette at the table.


Ask the Wine Guy

What’s the difference between rosé and white zinfandel?

Rosé is made to be dry; that is, all the sugar in the grapes is converted into alcohol. White zinfandel (or white merlot) is made to be sweet. Either sugar is added during the winemaking process, or some of the sugar in the grapes isn’t converted into alcohol. Those wines will have a lower alcohol content.