Chow Town

White Zinfandel gives Zinfandel, Rose wines a bad name

I think all of us know someone, maybe lot of people, who think any wine with a pinkish hue is sweet and therefore, unworthy of consideration, let alone consumption.

Of course, as Americans, we have only ourselves to blame. More precisely, White Zinfandel is to blame.

The wine, commonly referred to as White Zin, was created by accident by Sutter Home in the 1970’s.

The resulting wine proved to be popular. Today, White Zin accounts for about 10 percent of all the wine sold by volume, making it the third most popular grape varietal in the U.S.

Shame on us. Leave it to Americans to screw up, not one, but two entire wine categories — Zinfandel and Rose.

Now, I’m not a big fan of Zinfandel as a grape varietal, and by that I mean Red Zinfandel. Zinfandel, which is believed to have its roots in Croatia, but is often thought of as a truly American grape, produces a full-bodied, high alcohol, briary kind of wine that many people around here seem to think goes well with barbecue.

While I would argue the point about Zin being a good match with barbecue, the alcohol and tannin levels of Red Zins often fight the smoke and spice of barbecue, I certainly can’t argue the fact that Red Zinfandel creates a unique wine expression that, like it or not, should be preserved.

Ironically, although I despise the cloying sweetness and sugary finish of White Zins, their creation actually helped save many a Red Zinfandel vine and wine. Because demand for White Zin was so high early on, some Old Vine Red Zinfandel vineyards that were being torn up and replanted, mainly with Merlot, were saved by the Kool-Aid of wines.

It seems almost unthinkable, but when White Zins first came on the scene, grapes from these Old Vine Zinfandel vineyards, some dating back more than 100 years, were used to make White Zin. Today, Zin fanatics will pay upwards of $50 for an Old Vine Red Zin. Without the creation of their saccharine cousins, they may not have had the chance to buy them at all.

The damage inflicted on other wines, specifically dry roses, is more disturbing to me. Unlike Red Zinfandel, I’m actually a huge fan of a bone-dry pink wine from appellations like Tavel, Bandol, or Costieres de Nimes. In fact, while those regions are considered the Cadillacs or Teslas of rose producers, I’ll quaff a pink wine from just about anywhere — Italy, Spain, South Africa, or heck, even the good ole’ U.S.A. if it’s not a White Zin.

Dry roses offer the best of both worlds, in my opinion. They have great flavors and aromas in a lighter, lower-alcohol style. They are terrific on their own, especially in the heat of summer. Imagine drinking a 16.5% alcohol Red Zinfandel on one our 105 degrees days in July. I sweat just thinking about it.

Now imagine a glass of chilled, dry rose with nuances of strawberries and cherries, hints of earth, and a lovely, crisp finish. What sounds better to you?

Roses, real roses, are also wonderful with a vast array of food. Grilled spicy shrimp? You bet. Salmon? Absolutely perfect. Pork or chicken? You bet. Dry roses can handle just about anything you throw at them food-wise, including Kansas City barbecue. So, keep your White and Red Zins and pass the rose, please. It’s what’s for dinner? And lunch. And breakfast.

Want to try some roses without having to break open the Piggy Bank? Seek out the Domaine M. Chapoutier Belleruche from the Cotes du Rhone, about $13, The Chateau du Campuget from Costieres de Nimes also about $13, or the Mulderbosch from South Africa, around $10. I could list more, but I’ve got a bottle of pink wine in my fridge calling my name.

Dave Eckert is the producer and host of “Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert,” which aired on PBS-TV and Wealth TV for 12 seasons, or nearly 300 half-hour episodes produced on six continents. Eckert is also an avid wine collector and aficionado, having amassed a personal wine cellar of some 2,000 bottles.