Eat & Drink

The Wine Press: Pink wine need not be feminine, sweet or cheap

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Not long ago I was asked to recommend a cocktail to a friend. Without thinking about it much, I spotted a Clover Club — a mingling of gin, lemon juice, raspberry syrup and egg white — on the cocktail list. When the pinkish red cocktail was handed to him, I received a look like I had just besmirched his manhood.

What is it about pink that says feminine? And why is the color emblematic of Valentine’s?

As with most Christianized holidays, a pagan ritual lies at the day’s foundation. Though we aren’t certain which St. Valentine owns the day (there are several beatified Valentines) the celebration was sufficient to draw a curtain over the fertility rites associated with Rome’s earlier Lupercalia. It seems that Chaucer exposed the ardor once more when he wrote that birds pick mid-February to mate, so why not people?

“I prik you with pleasance,” said Chaucer’s Nature.

Pleasing mating rituals followed.

What gives that pleasance is individual, of course. But pink is in order. Pink wine needn’t be sweet; bottles as diverse as La Vieille Ferme Rosé ($10) from France’s Rhone Valley, and Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare ($13) from California have plenty of fruity exuberance, along with some tanginess, to end things happily.

Sparkling wine is so often the amorous choice of hopeful lovers. Why not add a glimpse of pink to your bubbles?

Poema Cava Rosado ($12) or Naveran Cava Rosado ($18), both from Spain, Bouvet Brut Rose ($15) from France and Charles Smith’s Secco Italian Bubbles Pinot Noir ($15) from Italy all glow with that sweet, fleshy color.

If you prefer a bit more sugar to your froth, then Elio Perrone Bigaro ($18) from Italy is a blend of Moscato and the red Brachetto grape.

Should pink seem too gaudy for sparkling wine, Jacquesson Cuvee 738 ($65) or Taittinger La Francaise ($50) from Champagne are pale, round and succulent as well. And France’s Loire Valley offers many sparklers beyond the well-known Bouvet mentioned above: Clos de la Briderie Cremant de Loire ($24) is a gentle, creamy delight.

Sweet gifts, fragrant flowers, chocolates and romantic evenings are demanded; those may be our modern fertility rites. Yet wine’s transformative abilities serve a purpose too: Grgich Hills Chardonnay ($38) from Napa, Scarpetta Pinot Grigio ($16) from Italy, or Zilliken Butterfly Riesling ($22) from Germany have each graced my table of late.

I’ve collected a few reds that may get popped soon: Duckhorn Merlot ($50) from Napa, Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2012 ($70, for those who equate money and sex) from the Rhone Valley, Tommasi Rompicollo 2012 ($17, a dandy red from Tuscany) or Bedrock Shebang Cuvée IX ($14) from California.

But I’ll admit to a preference for a softer, gentler side of red wine, especially Pinot Noir.

Siduri’s Willamette Pinot Noir 2013 ($23) from Oregon or Calera’s Central Coast Pinot Noir 2013 ($28) from California might be more likely to please my wife. We shall see.

These wines aren’t pink but they’re pale in color; still, I don’t mind something pink in my glass. Like that Clover Club cocktail, which was delicious. Since my friend set it down and walked away, I greedily finished it for him. I like pink.

Wine columnist Doug Frost is a Kansas City-based master sommelier and master of wine. Email him at winedog@att.net.

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