Logic suggests matching smoky foods with the smoky flavors of oak-influenced wine.
But during summer's heat, pairing wine with smoked dishes is a difficult proposition.
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Ross' choiceCremant d'Alsace Rosé
• Suggested retail and availability: $18.99 at wine and liquor stores and boutique shops (distributed by Grape News Importing, Chicago)
So sturdy and texturous, I preferred this rosé bubbly poured into a white wineglass to allow flavors to stretch. One hundred percent Pinot Noir, with the palest coral-rose pink, just-ripe plum flavors and accents of uncrushed pink peppercorns. Traditionally served with creamy and smoky Alsace dishes including truite fumee et salade de pommes de terre (smoked trout and potato salad) or flammekueche (Alsace's version of pizza with bacon and crème fraîche), but also delicious with international flavors of smoked turkey wrap with spicy Indian relish and Thousand Island dressing.
As the temperature rises, the thirsty palate wants refreshment and hydration. Oaky wine weights down the palate with wooden flavor, and generally high alcohol saps the body of fluid.
Instead, highlight smoked foods and refresh the palate with the bright fruit flavors of rosé.
Roséis a general category of wine, rather than a specific grape or region.
Rosé may be bubbly (see Ross' Choice) or still. It may be rich and dry, or delicate and cotton candy-sweet. Rosé is called rosado in Spain; rosato in Italy. In France, rosé is also called vin gris (gray wine) or bronze. "Eye of the partridge" is a rarely seen traditional term.
The U.S. contributed white-plus-a-grape, such as white zinfandel; we also use blush and sometimes just plain pink.
Rosé offers more mouth feel than most whites with less heft than red. There's bright acidity to cleanse the palate, ripe fruit to brighten woody flavors and soft texture to smooth the hard edges of smoke and spice.
This column does not cover three prominent rosé styles: White zin, Merlot et al is produced for the easiest enjoyment; let price and label be your guide. France's famed rosé, Tavel, is too powerful for this palate; check with your retailer or sommelier. And we simply ran out of room to Spanish Rosado. (Click here for my August 2011 Ross' Choice).
Otherwise, when enjoying a casual smoked turkey sandwich, an elegant smoked sturgeon appetizer, delicate smoked vegetables or rich, hickory smoked pork tenderloin, one of these rosé's will make your summertime livin' easy.
Chateau Sainte Eulalie "Printemps d'Eulalie" (Minervois, France): A gentle wine, with inviting strawberry aromas and flavors accented with red licorice, and caressing palate. Serve with charcuterie, salads and delicate smoked seafood. A blend of Syrah, Cinsault, Carignage and Grenache. $10.99.
Sainte Eugenie Rose (Corbieres, France): A pretty blush of pink is a coy introduction to this substantial rose of Cinsault, Grenache and Mourvedre grapes. Dry with tart berry acidity and excellent length, this is an entrée-weight wine to complement red and white meats, the richest seafood and vegetables. $10.99.
Isabel Mondavi "Deep" Rose (Napa Valley, Calif.): The daughter of Napa's "Father" -- Robert Mondavi -- brings Napa Cab's excitement to rosé. Ripe and plush with pomegranate, cranberry and strawberry complexity, supple mouth feel and satisfying sweetness. Excellent with smoky/spicy sauces and rubs. $13.99.
Cantele Negroamaro Rosato (Puglia, Italy): A firm, dry palate and berry flavor completed with herbs make this 100 percent Negroamaro rosé a satisfying complement to meats, the richest poultry and vegetables. $12.99.
Robertson "Natural Sweet" Rosé (Breede Valley, South Africa): Sweet as strawberry jam but balanced with delicate acidity. A full meal of it may be cloying, so serve with casual noshes such as smoked cheeses, chicken wings or appetizer-size ribs. $6.99.
Bieler Pere et Fils Rose (Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence, France): Succulent and complex, with expanding flavors of berries, spice, herbes de provence and underlying meatiness, with a firm palate and bracing acidity make this new-to-market rose a complement to red meats and the richest poultry. $12.99.
• Write to Advanced Sommelier and Certified Wine Educator Mary Ross at email@example.com.