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Think pink! Try rosé for your spring wine list

Restaurateur/winemaker Joe Bastianich shares some insight on the making of rosé wines along with some of his favorite selections.

You may be tickled pink to know that rosé wine is gaining popularity around the country. It's a perfect way to celebrate  spring — fresh and crisp, and very reasonably priced. Restaurateur/winemaker Joe Bastianich was invited to appear on “Today” to share some pink ideas for a "rites of spring" party. Here’s more from Joe on the secrets of rosé and some of his wine recommendations:

What is rosé?
After the grapes are picked and crushed, the juice or pulp sits in contact with the skins for an extended period of time. That's called "maceration." By limiting the amount of skin contact, the color of the wine is lighter. Rosé is a wine usually made from red grapes without allowing the full skin contact which gives red wine its color.

How is rosé made?
One could say rosé is a "byproduct" of the red wine-making process. When wineries make their important red wines they put the grapes in a giant vat and crush them. Some of the juice is immediately taken out to increase the ratio of skin to pulp, because this gives the red wines more body. The slightly pink juice taken out from an important red wine is great wine juice.  Wineries keep the pink juice, it's fermented, bottled and sold.  So when you drink a rosé, you're drinking wine made from the juice of wines that can cost hundreds of dollars a bottle. It's really top quality wine that just doesn't go through the same process of a premier red wine.

Rosé is a value wine because when it's made by the great wine makers, you get a quality product at a much lower price. Rosés generally sell for $10 to $15 a bottle, except for the pink Champagnes. They're in more demand, chic, pretty, sexy and delicious. A Dom Perignon Vintage Rose can be $400 a bottle, but you can get sparkling rosés from Italy for $10 to $15 a bottle that do the trick too.

Why is rosé looked down upon?
Historically rosés have been commercially made to appeal to a dumbed-down wine drinker, the bottom of the wrung in the wine hierarchy. Because of today's technology, rosés are much better products, not so mass produced, more artisanal, and made to fit the flavor profile that people want to drink.

Keep in mind there are still many industrially produced roses. What you want to look for are rosés from the top vintners — great wine at a fraction of the price. The European wines are like this.  (The exception is pink Champagne which has its own process.)

Why is rosé more popular now?
Rosé is a different product now. It is popular mainly in the bigger markets, but catching up in the middle of the country. Rosés are seasonal. Summer is the season for them. Recent vintage (2005) is best. If you go into a wine store now you should find 20 rosés. 

What taste can you expect?
Rosé has the body of a red wine, but the lightness and fruitiness of white wine. Rosés all have a slight fruitiness to them. Although they are dry, they can range from violets and rose petally, to raspberry and strawberry — more florals and fruits.  It depends on what your taste is.  If you're looking for a fruitier wine, rose is the way to go. 

Drink rosé during the summer when the wine is fruity and crisp.  Even though people won't drink red wine cold, rosé tastes better cold.

Joe's rosé selections:
Look for Italian, Spanish and French rosés that come from important wine regions. These wines should be fresh, recent (2005). They all retail from $10 to $15 a bottle. These are European wines made for an easy drinking style. 

Castello di Ama Tuscan Rosato Cataldi Madonna "Cerasuolo" Montepulciano D'Abruzzo Carpene Malvolti Sparklling Rosé

Muga Rosado Rioja Avinyo Cava Rosado Penedes (shabby chic at $20)

Dom Perignon Vintage Rosé — $400 sparkling rose champagneNicholas Feuillatte Rosé Guigal Cote du Rhone Rosé

Long Island:
Wolffer Estate Rosé Big House Pink

Botasea Rosato di Palmina (proceeds go to breast cancer)

Hors d'Oeuvres to pair with rosé for a "rites of spring" party:
Pair the rosés with the first green food that breaks from the earth in the spring: Peas, asparagus and spring onions.  If you want to have a little get-together to celebrate spring, have a great bottle of sparkling rosé and pass Hors d'Oeuvres made from these green foods. A fantastic "rites of spring" party. The recipes are a simple combination of ingredients.

- blanched peas with pecorino cheese and mint- grilled ramps with bufala mozzarella- blanched asparagus with vinaigrette and chopped egg- basket of toasted Tuscan bread