It's one of those oddball social events you want to attend if only to spy on who else was brave enough to show up.
Billed as the "world's first ever" men-in-pink luncheon, it will be a celebration, as the whimsical e-mail poster declares, "of rosé and the men who drink it." Sorry, ladies, you're not allowed. And no, you can't go as somebody's date.
To be held this Thursday in the tree-shaded patio of Allen's restaurant in Toronto's Greektown neighbourhood, the event will be hosted by Allen's owner, John Maxwell, and wine writer Billy Munnelly of Billy's Best Bottles book and newsletter fame. Fear not: The patio's in the back, far from the busy pedestrian traffic of Danforth Avenue; no need to dust off your Ray-Bans and fake mustache.
I'm kidding, of course, about the supposed stigma of rosé, and so are the event's organizers. Rosé has been surging in popularity, not just among ladies who lunch, but also among macho North American men. (I know a guy in California, for instance, who swears by pink sparkling wine with spicy chicken wings for football games.) The luncheon is a way to underscore the fact that wine geeks have long been partial to pink, which is just as serious, and usually more fun, as white or red.
To my mind, the event still raises a question, though. Precisely what kind of pink do all these men drink? Rosé itself comes in a variety of styles, from bone-dry (as in the case of southern French Bandols and Tavels) to off-dry rosés d'Anjou from the Loire Valley to syrupy California "white" zinfandels. I have never been one for more than the faintest hint of sugar in my rosé, yet there appear to be more and more off-dry examples chasing mass-market North American palates. While I don't mind full-bore, sweet dessert wines, a bit of sugar in a berry-nuanced pink wine to me conjures up confected flavours of factory-made Kool-Aid for some reason. When it comes to rosé, it's a fine line between Left Bank and trailer park.
So here's my own celebration of pink. There's no need to fear that your six-year-old will get into any of these wines by mistake; they're all dry and very grown-up-tasting.
Planeta is Sicily's most prominent modern producer of premium wine and it has scored big with Planeta Rosé 2008 ($16.95 in Ontario, product No. 111856). Made entirely from syrah, this crisp offering hints at strawberry and herbs, with good concentration despite the light and seductive salmon-like colour. The finish is tangy and lingering.
I said there are varying styles, and it's true not just in terms of sweetness. Grape variety can play a big role in the flavour, though for some reason that's easier to forget with rosés. You can taste the uncanny pinot character in Stoneleigh Marlborough Pinot Noir Rosé 2008 from New Zealand ($16.95, No. 122275). Bright cherry red in colour, it's medium-bodied and brimming with cherry, raspberry and a flinty-mineral quality. Like licking berry jam from a stone.
Cabernet franc is the red-grape specialty of France's Loire Valley and it is used to make the rosés labelled "Chinon," after a district of the valley. I tend to like them better than the sweeter rosés of nearby Anjou. Jean-Maurice Raffault Chinon Rosé 2008 ($18.95, No. 119693) isn't cheap but certainly delivers in terms of distinctiveness. I get hints of red apple and citrus as well as jalapeno and red bell pepper from this medium-bodied, zippy Chinon.
The folks at Stratus in Niagara came up with the playful name Wildass for their "affordable" line of wines, but Wildass Rosé 2007 ($19.95, No. 71712) is more serious and perhaps a little more expensive than the name might suggest. It's one of the most robust rosés you're likely to taste. Very dark in colour, it drinks more like a light red - say, a Beaujolais - than a pink wine. There's a big note of cherry here supported by herbs and, if your imagination runs wild like mine, a charred-beef note. Best enjoyed with hearty food than on its own.
For organic fans, there's Santa Julia Organica Malbec Rosé 2008 from Familia Zuccardi in Argentina, the company that makes the popular Fuzion series ($12.95, No. 120279). Bright red and very fruity, it's what I'd call very New World in style; no earthiness here. Straightforward but certainly worth the money.
And for serious and well-heeled rosé fans, whether men or women, there's the luxury-priced Domaine de la Mordorée La Dame Rousse Rosé Tavel 2007 from southern France ($29, No. 122630, available exclusively in Ontario through www.vintagesshoponline.com ).
Full-bodied and opulent in texture, it unfolds with a big berry flavour, watermelon and crisp acidity. You could age this wine and serve it with pork or fowl. But if you serve it this summer on a hot patio, beware. The 14.5-per-cent alcohol can sneak up on you. Kool-Aid it's not.
Reservations for the men-in-pink lunch can be made by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org . Tickets are $75 and include food as well as a tasting of 12 Ontario rosés.
Santa Margherita, the big Italian pinot grigio brand, is once again teaming up this year with the Scotiabank AIDS Walk for Life to donate 50 cents from every bottle toward housing, food, medication and counselling for Canadians living with HIV/AIDS. Contributions apply to sales during the following periods: In Ontario and Nova Scotia from July 19 to Aug. 15; in Manitoba from July 20 to Aug. 16; in Saskatchewan from Aug. 16 to Sept. 12; in Alberta from Aug. 28 to Sept. 24; and in British Columbia from Sept. 2 to Sept. 28. The brand raised more than $100,000 during the past two years.