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Updated Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 03:31 AM

Cozy up to a rosé this winter; moderate alcohol, good with food

By Paul Gregutt
Special to The Seattle Times

MID-WINTER IS not traditionally a time when you reach for a rosé. Such light, fruity wines are usually considered to be warm-weather fare, perfect for chilling and enjoying with little or no fanfare. But wine traditions are made for breaking, and there is no obvious reason to wait for summer when a rosé can answer for so many other occasions.

For example: that festive Sunday brunch or halftime spread. Rosés are among the very few wines that really do pretty well alongside all kinds of egg dishes. They can happily accompany chips, pretzels, dips, hummus, guacamole, even salsa if it's not too spicy. Most rosés are relatively moderate in alcohol levels, and yes, feel free to chill them. It won't hurt.

Perhaps you just don't feel like meeting the challenge of that massive red wine sporting alcohol at 15 or 16 percent. Let's face it, those wines may taste good, but they knock you flat after one good glass. Rosé meets your need for red — OK, reddish — wine without putting your liver through the ringer.

Your neighborhood wine shop may have a smaller selection this time of year, but most will carry some good options. Ask for dry rosé from the 2011 vintage. Any day now you may start seeing some from 2012, but it's still a bit early. However, the 2011s should still be drinking well, and the extra few months of bottle age may help soften them up a bit.

French rosés can often age a little longer. I recently enjoyed a Chateau Timberlay 2010 Bordeaux Clairet (imported by Terlato Wines; $20) that was in absolutely perfect drinking form. It was a very pretty cherry red, a 50/50 blend of merlot and cabernet sauvignon. Now, regular red Bordeaux in that price range can be a bit rough and tumble, but this wine was delightfully fruity yet substantial enough for a dinner of roasted cauliflower and pan-fried trout. Red wine with fish? Why not.

The term Clairet is a bit unusual, but signifies that the wine spent a little extra time on the skins, deepening the color and intensifying the flavors. Just a little extra oomph for a cold night. Some others to look for are made by Chateau de Fontenille and Chateau de Parenchère. This is not the same as claret, a British term for Bordeaux reds, or Clairette, which refers to both a French sparkling-wine appellation and several different obscure French grape varieties.

Beaujolais is another engaging, light red wine, made in a style that falls somewhere between a Clairet and a full-on red. Forget the Beaujolais Nouveaux; those 2012s are not so new anymore, and it was a dreadful vintage to begin with. Look for either 2010 or 2011 vintage wines labeled Beaujolais-Villages or named for one of the single village crus. You will find either the Clairets or the village Beaujolais will provide a welcome change from the blockbuster reds of winter.

Paul Gregutt's blog is www.paulgregutt.com. Email: paulgwine@me.com.

Pick of the week

Syncline 2011 Subduction Red; $20

THIS SIX-GRAPE, Southern Rhône-style blend is especially good in this new vintage. It features a broad array of red and purple fruits, juicy, forward and immediately delicious, along with the structure to age. (Distributed by Cavatappi)


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