As Memorial Day approaches and the temperature starts to rise, many Americans reach for an ice-cold beer. Or perhaps, the wine lovers reach for a chilled chardonnay. While I enjoy both, when the weather turns to summer and white shoes emerge from the closet, I turn to one cold beverage-Rosé.
I am not talking about the sticky-sweet fermented juice that gives pink wine a bad name. The kind my great-grandmother liked to drink, and kept in a gallon-sized jug inside her fridge.
No, I mean a dry, crisp rosé from the South of France. Where, when you open the bottle, you can almost hear the drone of cicadas in the plane trees, the hum of sleepy bees in the lavender, old men playing pétanque in the town square. To me, it tastes like liquid summer in a bottle.
It surprises me how resistant people can be to trying a crisp, Provencal rosé. If they are unfamiliar with what pink wine can be, they often have bad flashbacks-to fruit punch with a kick of alcohol, to sticky jugs in the back of their great-grandmother's refrigerator.
At parties, too many of my friends give me a suspicious glance when I offer them a glass of chilled rosé. I can see in their eyes what they are too polite to say out loud, "Pink wine? Really, Sara? I thought better of you."
My response of, "It's from France!" does not usually seem to help.
"They eat snails in France," my friends' eyes tell me, "Please don't make me drink pink wine and eat snails. I thought you liked me."
But because I have always been a little bossy, and believe that in this case I do know what's best, I do not back down. Instead I pour a little into their wine glass, and over any protest, insist they give it a shot.
Those who are brave (or susceptible to peer pressure) enough to try the rosé are usually converted. Especially in the summer, a nice rosé is so much more than simply pink. As light and refreshing as any white, it is so much broader in flavor, that it can stand in the place of many reds that are too heavy in the heat. Its clean taste is invigorating as an aperitif, while it can also hold its own against the summer favorites of barbecued meat.
This makes sense, considering that the usual way to produce a rosé is halfway between that of red and white. After the grapes are crushed, the dark skins are allowed to remain in contact with the juice for a few days, no more than three, and then are discarded before the rest of the fermentation process takes place. In this way, the skins impart some tannins and some color, in order to create that signature pink.
So this Memorial Day, while others twist off bottle caps, I will crack open my first rosé of the summer. A glass of shimmering pink in my hand, I will toast the warm weather and wearing of white, in the way I like best.
Sara Joyce Robinson is a native of Southern California, where she was raised, educated, and still lives. She received her MFA in Fiction from the University of California, Irvine, and you can see what she is up to at SaraJoyceRobinson.com.