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Rose Wines to Add to Your Reception Menu

Martha Stewart Weddings, Spring 2010

It's quite a giddy sight, viewing your wedding through rose-colored glasses. From blushing flutes filled with rosy-hued sparklers to goblets graced with salmon-colored sippers, think of rose as the ultimate gracious party guest -- one who can hang with both your great-aunt Iris and your urban-cool cousin Chris. See our favorite rose wine picks.

That's because while all roses get their color from cursory contact with the skins of red grapes (which are removed from the fermentation process after anywhere from a few hours to a few days), not all roses are made alike. Some use a combination of several types of red grapes; others are pressed from a single red varietal; still others -- namely, rose Champagne -- feature a white varietal such as Chardonnay in the mix. Some are crisp, light, and bright, making them perfect companions for raw-bar fare, while others muddle around with those skins a little longer, giving them bold fruit, a more tannic grip, and the muscle to go with meatier main dishes like spicy chicken or pork.

Long viewed as lesser stepsiblings of reds and whites, roses have gained popularity and respect in the past few years, though the average person still knows relatively little about them. Here are a few tips when it comes to choosing the right blusher for you.

First, when looking for a main-course quaff, pay attention to the alcohol level. The lower the better; higher-alcohol wines tend to be bigger in body and thus need to be paired with foods that can rise to the occasion. (Also, because your guests are likely to refill their glasses more than once, lower-alcohol wines will get them through the meal without making them yearn for a nap!)

Second, let the deepness of the color tell you about the wine's lightness -- or lack thereof. The lighter the hue, the lighter the taste. Third, when it comes to finding a good rose to go with your dessert, here's what you need to know: Keep the playing field level. Contrasting dry wine with sugary dessert doesn't do anything for either -- instead, match them evenly, although try to keep what's in your glass a little bit sweeter than what's on the plate.

Finally, know a little bit about regional rose styles (more on that later), and get a few trustworthy recommendations (that's where we come in) to set you on your way. To paraphrase Gertrude Stein: A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose; "it continues with blooming and it fastens clearly upon excellent examples."


Blushing Bubbly
Start your reception with a pop. Sparkling wine isn't just for toast making -- it's also incredibly food-friendly.

And while pink Champagne tends to be pricey, there are many great blushing sparklers on the gentler side of splurge. Here, we've found the perfect wines to match our appetizers.

Spicy and Sweet Chorizo and Apricot Bites need a rose that isn't shy. Argyle's 2007 Dundee Hills Brut Rose ($45) is a creamy combo of Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir; it has lots of sour cherry, a mild spiciness, and a slightly herby nature that enhances the flavors of this winning starter.

To bring out the best flavors of Rose-Poached Shrimp with Cucumber, serve it with a light, breezy blusher like Pommery's Springtime Brut Rose NV ($50), which boasts a yeasty nose, creamy texture, and influences of vanilla, raspberries, and orange zest.

Nutty and rich, our mini Brioche Grilled Cheese with Dijon mustard needs a wine with great acidity to balance its extreme decadence. Enter this mildly earthy, berry-scented, yeasty pink bubbly: Sparkling Pointe 2005 Topaz Imperial ($33), made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes.

Here's a sparkler that will bring out all the high points of our Beet Risotto Cakes. With aromas of rose petals, ruby red grapefruit, and melon, the Domaine Carneros Cuvee de la Pompadour ($36) nicely complements the savoriness of the dish. 

Similar Champagne glasses: "Mitos" flutes, $220 for 4, by Arik Levy for Kvetna Crystal, from Unica Home.


Rose Wines
Go with a blushing wine for your main course, and you won't just have a pretty table for your guests to ooh and ahh over -- you'll also be making a sommelier-savvy decision. Taking a cue from a wine's region can help you zero in on a good pink pick (with France, think light and gently fruity; with Spain, darker and fruitier), but there are ever greater numbers of dry, entree-worthy roses on the market, especially from American producers. For a fun touch, stock the table with rose, seltzer, and strawberries, then let your guests concoct their own pink spritzers.

Our Arctic Char, served with a reduced-rose shallot sauce and a side of buttery peas, is a meaty fish and needs a wine that can handle its girth. Oregon's Adelsheim 2008 Rose ($19) is more than up to the task. Known for its great Pinot Noirs, the producer makes this wine 100 percent from that grape, with complementary notes of thyme and earth running beneath a nose of fresh flowers, strawberries, and honeydew.

Match this herby Goat Cheese Chicken Roulade, served with green beans almondine, with Joseph Bastianich's 2008 Rosato ($14), and you can't go wrong. We are madly in love with this rose, which is made from a spicy northern Italian varietal called refosco and smells intoxicatingly of strawberries, red plums, orange-flower water, vanilla beans, and sweet basil.

Goblets: Etched (#1128849), $85, ABC Carpet & Home, 212-473-3000. Lobmeyr "Patrician VE," $146, from Kneen & Co. Decanters, from left: "Edward," $56; Classic, $65; Williams-Sonoma. Lobmeyr "Ambassador," $559, from Kneen & Co. L'Atelier Du Vin open crystal, $135, from The Conran Shop. "Athena" carafe, $79, Juliska. "Ellipse" flatware, $60 per set, Calvin Klein Home.


Pink Punch
If you're intent on mixing it up for a delectable punch, go for a bigger rose from Spain or South America, like Bodega Inurrieta's Mediodia Rosado ($9) from Navarra, Spain. Made from 100 percent garnacha grape, this wine has bold, ripe flavors of strawberries and raspberries, as well as heady aromas of rose petals, and makes for a wonderful base for practically any mixed drink, including our Rose Punch, concocted from sparkling lemonade, Chambord, raspberries, pineapple, and, of course, rose wine. 

Glass punch bowl, $24, The Conran Shop. "Marta" double old-fashioned glasses, $1.95 each, CB2.


Port Side
The light meringues and concentrated flavors of our Floating Islands in Rose Syrup require a wine with ample acidity yet enough sweetness to hold its own. 

Croft's Pink Port ($19), the venerable producer's first ever, fits the bill and then some. The dessert sipper has tickly sweet notes of raspberries, sour cherries, and oranges; a great, balancing acidity; and subtle notes of baking spices that accentuate the nutmeg sprinkled on the meringues. 

The port also, happily, harmonizes with our refreshing Rose Wine Sorbets.

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