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July 11, 2010

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French pleasure in a glass

THE south of France offers some of the world's most resplendent colors, aromas and tastes. Lush fields of lavender, wild herbs and flowers cover the rolling hills. Perhaps most amazing is that you can also experience many of these sensations in a glass. Just buy a glass or bottle of rose from one of the wine regions in the south of France.

The French style of rose is more subtle than most new world versions. The color is usually lighter and the aromas less overtly fruity and more floral and there's always a pleasingly fresh acidity. These qualities make rose wines from the south of France the perfect foils for the heat of summer.

Some of the best French rose wines I've tasted in Shanghai include those from Costieres di Nimes, in the southern Rhone Valley. They make a trio of good value and deliciously refreshing roses, the Chateau La Tour de Beraud, Fleur d'Eglantine and Galets Roses. Another fine choice from the southern Rhone is the Tavel Rose from a good producer like Guigal or Chapoutier.

The wines of Languedoc and Roussillon represent some of the best value in the south of France. The Skalli Grenache Rose is a perfect example offering enticing red fruit, white flowers and overtones of herbs, all for a very modest price. Skalli also has a rose from Provence, the Cotes de Provence that's also a delicious bargain.

The Chateau Gassier is another good value and deliciously floral rose from Provence. More pricy but well worth trying are the roses from Domain Ott.

Because of their excellent balance between fruit and acidity, southern French rose wines can be enjoyed by themselves but they are also food friendly. The stewed or grilled seafood and white meat with fresh herbs dishes of the south of France are certainly lovely companions to a glass of rose. I would also highly recommend enjoying these rose wines with Chinese fish dishes like Shanghai-style, deep-fried yellow fish or Taiwan-style sauteed red snapper.

In both cases, the fresh acidy in the wine awakens and distinguishes the natural flavors of the fish. Other good parings include white meat dishes like Cantonese-style crispy skin chicken or BBQ pork.

Despite all their wonderful qualities, there is one danger when purchasing rose wines from the south of France: they don't travel or age particularly well. Therefore, I advise consumers to buy only those rose wines from recent vintages. In Shanghai, you should choose rose wines from the 2009 or 2008 vintages. Older wines may well have lost their vibrant fresh fruit flavors and floral essences and taste flat.


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