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Monday, July 17, 2006

The pink stuff

Fifteen or 20 years ago, people in the know wouldn't touch a rose' wine. I remember a saying that ran in a certain circle when describing the evening's vino offerings. Your choices were "red, white, or the pink stuff," and that last word wasn't "stuff" but something much more vulgar. In any event, the contempt for what was then caled "blush" wines was clear.

At that time, at least as I recall, the pink "stuff" was pretty awful. The makers of large-batch wine used to pump out something caled white zinfandel, and it wasn't so hot. If you were stuck with a rose', your best bet might have been to opt for a Portuguese version put out by an outfit called Mateus. No vintage, not even the grape was identified, just "Mateus." I slugged down a fair amount of it one year as an underage drinker down at the Jersey Shore, when even I was smart enough to stay away from Ripple, Bali Hai, Boone's Farm Apple, and the like. Once I could legally consume any beverage of my choosing, however, there was no good reason to call for the pink stuff. Throughout the '80s, when everyone drank either chardonnay or cabernet, I followed suit.

How times have changed. Yesterday we threw a cookout for 10 adults, and we had wine of every color (and other drinks) at our guests' disposal. And what flew off the table? The rose's. They were all imports, and they were all good. A few people also had the red Rioja with their burger plate, but as the hot afternoon became a warm evening the pink stuff was a big hit.

It's been like that at our place the last few summers. Some excellent rose's have graced our dinners. Yesterday it was Marques de Caceres's 2005 Rioja rosado; L'Hortus Rose' de Saignee 2005; and a new one for us, Chateau Mourgues du Gres Fleur d'Eglantine 2005. (That last one got the Zidane conversation rolling.) There are also a number of locally produced pink wines showing up, being made with such grapes as Oregon pinot noir, and we'll have to get out of our newfound rut and try one of these next time.

Wonderful stuff. Great company. Summer is good.

So what's the next taboo? How about box wine? The place where I shop for wine has quite a selection of it out on display. All kinds of wine, with names and labels that would intrigue me enough to make a purchase if the product were in bottles. But in a box? I just keep thinking of being cornered and tongue-kissed by Bob Packwood. (Photo from AliThinks.)

Comments (1)

Reminds me of the old joke Redd Fox (RIP) used to tell - "When asked at a dinner where I got the rose' wine? I told them that I mixed some of that 'red stuff' with some of that 'white stuff'".

Posted by: mmmarvel at July 17, 2006 06:05 AM

Box wine in a plastic cup is my favorite summer drink-a classic. If I ever get upwardly mobile here, maybe I'll start a trend.

Posted by: P&S at July 17, 2006 06:57 AM

Sometimes I really miss Mateus -- it was a fun wine and I can't find it anymore.

Just...don't tell my wine snob friends, K?

Posted by: Shelley at July 17, 2006 07:54 AM

For all the supposed wine snobbery that abounds, I don't think wine has ever been this accessible... there are some really good screw cap/rubber cork/box wines. You can see in the marketing too... the labels, graphics, messages and names have been soccer mom-ified... "Yellow Tail", "Red Bike", "Blue Moon"...

Still, you gotta tread lightly with boxes and jugs evidently. I poured a glass of friggin' Almeden at a gathering two months ago and I still can't get that antifreeze taste out of my mouth...

Posted by: TKrueg at July 17, 2006 10:19 AM

"Sometimes I really miss Mateus"
Didn't it come in a cute little bottle? I only buy wine based on the shape of the bottle, or the graphics on the label.

Posted by: tom at July 17, 2006 10:37 AM

The Marques de Caceres comes in a screw-top bottle.

Posted by: Jack Bog at July 17, 2006 11:07 AM

Almaden? Seriously? Wow. You must have been hard up! LOL

Box and screw-top wines are now quite acceptable and many higher-end vintners are going to the screw-top because, despite the 80's bad image, it preserves the wine better apparently, and without stripping all that cork. And no little chunks of cork in your first pour, either.

My mom's still an Almaden with ice drinker. I used to bring her fine Oregon vintages when I'd go home (SC), and she'd plunk a couple fo ice cubes in the *gasp* pinot noir, and put the bottle back in the fridge.

Needless to say, I've started bringing Moonstruck chocolates or other Oregon delectables that she doesn't defile.

Posted by: Don Smith at July 17, 2006 11:15 AM

'Hard up' is right... my choices were Pepsi, Miller Lite and Almaden.

Posted by: TKrueg at July 17, 2006 11:31 AM

I suspect Mateus was that first step up from the really cheap stuff for many of us. And in those years of excess it never seemed to promote the horrid hangovers that seemed integral to the Annie Green Springs types and Gallo stables. Thankfully Mateus was available at some of the PXs in Vietnam and it was a wonderful alternative to such "notable" beers as Pearl, Schlitz and 33. Even slightly warm it was a good thing. Posted by: Ronald M at July 17, 2006 12:34 PM

Oregon roses are some of the best. It seems like a lot of the local producers are on the forefront of making actual, drinkable pink drinks.

Posted by: Luke at July 17, 2006 12:44 PM

I admit - Rose's are not bad at all. My pref is for the ones from Provence/Languedoc since they have more body.

Posted by: Steve at July 17, 2006 02:51 PM

I've heard a couple of Californians refer to our Pinots as 'glorified pinks'. Huh? They can take their 'f-ing Merlot' and...

Posted by: TKrueg at July 17, 2006 04:38 PM

The last time I rode MAX, there was an older man sitting next to me. He was drinking wine out of a box, had an strange "cat pee" odor, and was talking to himself.

Boxed wine: Reason #128 why people refuse to ride public transit.

Posted by: Anthony at July 17, 2006 04:38 PM

We're developing our palates...

Remember when you used to go to Happy Hour and asked for a "Chablis" or "Burgundy"?

White Zinfandel remains this country's most popular varietal.

But, yes...there are awesome pinks, mostly from the Languedoc and the Loire. And, yes, Oregon is making some great stuff out of Pinot.

Out of the box? I recommend Burl in the box. Earl Burl makes great Cotes de Rhones et al...and you get 5 liters of very nice "vin de table" for thirty plus bucks at Vino in Sellwood. It's nice to have a glass without opening a new bottle.

Mateus, by the way, is still around. It's in a new bottle, though...but twenty plus years ago it was on the wine list at the Canlis --in Portland-- back when I was the wine steward (though not by my choice). My intro to wine was Blue Nun. Can you say Liebfraumilch?

Posted by: Frank Dufay at July 17, 2006 08:21 PM

I have a thing for Spanish rose. And I also drink wine out of the box - when you're the only one in the house who will (can) drink the stuff, it's far more economical that way, since a box of wine will stay good for 30+ days.

Freddy's has a pretty good selection - avoid the almadens and franzia's and go for the Black Box, Hardy's or other more upscale packaging. You can find some pretty drinkable pinot grigios (I'm not one for chardonnay), along with a zinfandel or two (no, not the pink stuff) for the cooler months.

Posted by: Betsy at July 17, 2006 08:30 PM
[Posted as indicated; restored later.]

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