What is it with white gazpacho? It must be the hottest high-end menu item since parmesan foam. Chefs are ga-ga for it. My inbox is crammed with foodie newsletters plugging various permutations. Somebody flag down a lifeguard, because I'm drowning in a white gazpacho tide.
An alter ego of Spain's cold tomato soup, white gazpacho is made, it seems, with anything but tomatoes. Bread and almonds are the main ingredients, but – depending who's controlling the Cuisinart – it can contain cucumbers, white grapes, vinegar, dill, yogurt, sour cream, chili flakes or lemon, too.
Served an excellent version as part of a tasting menu in Niagara recently, I got to thinking about rosés. Not because pink wine goes best with white gazpacho (I prefer a dry Sherry or zesty Spanish white such as verdejo) but because of the name. It's essentially Spain's ajo blanco (cold almond soup). So, take tomatoes out of the gazpacho equation and is it, in fact, gazpacho? The terminology clearly is key to its contemporary appeal. Call it "bread soup" and you might as well slop it on prison trays because it's not going to get mouths watering or fetch $12 a bowl in fancy-pants restaurants.
But back to the pink stuff. At a winery tasting room in British Columbia recently, two women next to me recoiled when a server offered to treat them to a rosé. "We only drink white," protested one. Skipping no beat, the server chimed in with a disarming rejoinder, which got me smiling. "It's a white wine with colour." And so it is.
Almost all rosés, though pressed from red grapes, get processed like whites. They're generally separated from the skins quickly and fermented as pure juice, usually at cool temperatures – like whites – to enhance fruitiness. Very few are aged in barrel, so there's no vanilla or astringent character to the wine, and most good ones are dry. The colour is just a stain, owing to very brief contact with the pigment-bearing skins, usually a matter of hours.
Rosés generally are designed to be enjoyed like white wines, too, with lighter foods or on their own as aperitifs. And they taste especially fine on a warm summer's day. Just like cold soup.
Road 13 Honest John's Rosé 2010 (British Columbia)
SCORE: 90 PRICE: $15.99 in B.C. and Alberta
If you detect an appealing hint of Beaujolais here, as I did before checking the grape content, it's for good reason. Made from gamay noir, the red Beaujolais grape, it's bright and cherry-like but with a faint whiff of peppercorn and herbs. Bone-dry and beautifully tinted, it's terrific stuff.
Domaine Corne-Loup Tavel Rosé 2010 (France)
SCORE: 90 PRICE: $16.95
Pinks from the southern Rhône Valley district of Tavel tend to be ample-bodied, suitable for meats such as pork or veal. This one lurks at on the lighter edge of the spectrum, with a core of strawberry and a faintly tannic, satisfyingly bitter finish. This is a rosé for red-wine die-hards.
CedarCreek Rosé Pinot Noir 2010 (B.C.)
SCORE: 89 PRICE: $17.90
Silky, with a whisper of sweetness, this wine is smartly balanced by zippy acidity as well as nuances of spice and herbs. Best of all, it tastes like a pinot noir – a white pinot, that is.
Farnese Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Cerasuolo 2010 (Italy)
SCORE: 88 PRICE: $8.95
What a joy to come across a rosé so fine good at this price. Medium cherry-red, it's totally dry, with a juicy, mouthwatering profile and a basketful of red berries.
Ogio Primitivo Rosé (Italy)
SCORE: 88 PRICE: $8.85
This is another bargain from Italy. Silky under the covers but brimming with tart acidity on the outside, it's dry and concentrated with strawberry flavour.
Calliope Rosé 2010 (B.C.)
SCORE: 88 PRICE: $13.99
The Wyse family that founded the excellent Burrowing Owl Estate Winery in the Okanagan Valley launched the Calliope brand last year. Unlike their main label, which is all estate grown, this one is based on purchased grapes. The Wyses clearly know how to shop. The sauvignon blanc is excellent and this rosé is impressive. Candy-pink in colour, it's dry and silky, with crisp acidity on the finish and pronounced raspberry-strawberry flavours.
Mission Hill Five Vineyards Rosé 2010 (B.C.)
SCORE: 87 PRICE: $15.95
Vaguely sweet, this would appeal to drinkers afraid to wade over to the bone-dry side. The acidity keeps the sugar in check, though, and it shows a pleasant cherry-candy core with orange overtones.
Château Les Bertrands 2010 (France)
SCORE: 86 PRICE: $12.95
The saturated colour suggests light red Beaujolais, and it presages a rich flavour of cherry, carried on a velvety frame. This is robust stuff from Bordeaux, displaying clairet style that spawned the British nickname "claret" for old-school, light-hued Bordeaux reds. It's an anachronistic wine.