Summer’s here — at least in New York it is! — and for me the season is the color of rosé wine. I’m not talking about the horrid Mateus that we all used to drink back in the days of candlewax dripping down fiasco-shaped bottles of cheap Chanti. I mean lighter, drier bottles that suggest a break from the heavy red wines of the rest of the year, but are every bit as refreshing as a Chard or Sauv Blanc – in fact, even more so, because the taste is unexpected. It’s like drinking flower petals, and you don’t have to pay a fortune to do it. The New York Times’s wine columnist, Eric Asimov, even extolled rosé’s virtues recently.
Most people my age turn their noses up at rosé, probably because of that too-sweet Mateus experience (it was so popular in North America that in its heyday, Mateus accounted for more than a third of Portugal’s wine export business). So it was that, during a vacation on the French Riviera (hey, we had a free place to stay!) with our dear friends Doug and Kathie Ross – winelovers supreme – at a sun-drenched but wonderfully temperate lunch outside by the seashore, I surprised them by suggesting we order rosé. It turned out to be perfect, and that lunch remains one of my most treasured memories: I can’t crack open a bottle of rosé now without thinking of Doug and Kathie, who were skeptical at first. “Bottled poetry” is like that: you make lifelong connections, just like you do with a favorite song.
There was a terrace outside our apartment in Monte Carlo. During the days we’d explore (one day we rented a car and Doug negotiated the stick shift around hairpin turns that would have challenged James Bond; of course, we weren’t going 100km/h), but we tried to make it back for mid-afternoon. We sat out on that terrace for hours, watching the sun set, talking about cabbages and kings, and enjoying cold cuts, fruit and cheese, and lots of wine, imbibed over so many hours that I never became intoxicated with anything but the magnificent setting. The others felt the same way. Over food, friends and the grape, we were only pretending to be Europeans. But it was so much fun.