Think Pink Port

This hybrid, flexible wine is well-suited for mixing, cooking and sipping.


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Winemaker David Guimaraens knew he was venturing into unknown territory last year when he released his Croft Pink—the world's first rosé Port. (Since Croft's initial launch, Marks & Spencer has also released a variety, targeted specifically toward females.)

Composed of the typical Port blend of grape varieties, the beverage, whose pink color is due to brief skin contact during fermentation, is technically classified as a ruby Port (securing official approval for a new rosé Port category would have taken years) and like a red Port, it's relatively heavy on the palate. The alcohol also clocks in at 19.5% —about 50 % more kick than your average Tavel or Zinfandel pink.

However, like other rosés, the Big Pink can be quite refreshing—especially if you sip it over ice or mix it half and half with tonic or soda water in an ice-filled tumbler (which renders it less alcoholic than a typical rosé).

So how, then, does one drink this hybrid wine, at once lighthearted rosé and hefty Port? And what, if any, kinds of foods pair with it? We sought the advice of some pink Port-friendly chefs who came up with a few interesting matches.

For Chef Phil Pyle, co-owner of the award-winning Fair Hill Inn in Maryland, the flexibility of pink Port allows it to work well as an aperitif, a digestif as well as an ingredient for mixed drinks. Moving onto food, he claims he "would look along the lines of a bleu or 'stinky' cheese to go with it, or perhaps shrimp or lobster skewered with pineapple. Another idea would be a seafood canapé with mango chutney - this type of fruity wine needs sweet fruits to bring balance."

The renowned Chef Michel Richard at Citronelle in Washington, D.C.—winner of the 2007 James Beard Chef of the Year Award—also thinks seafood. The recipe for his recommended dish, a richly textured crab brandade, served as a dip or as a passed hors d'oeuvre on toasted bread is listed below. And for a more Mediterranean flair, Chef Frank Magaña of Picazo 7Seventeen in the Yakima Valley town of Prosser offers up tosta con sardinas encebolladas—an appetizer composed of sardines, fresh tomatoes and red onions, olive oil and shaved Manchego cheese.

And, of course, we shouldn't forget the dessert possibilities. Chef Pyle recommends sweet treats both simple (cherry-flavored chocolate truffles or cherry-filled bonbons) and elaborate (see the recipe for his hard strawberry shortcake with ice cream), with fruit., once again, forming the common denominator. He would serve the Croft Pink either very chilled or as a Kir Croft—a glass of Champagne or sparkling wine with a dollop of Croft Pink.

However you decide to drink your pink Port and whatever you decide to pair with it, one thing is certain—this is no wimpy rosé.

***Recipes***
Crab Brandade
Recipe courtesy Chef Michel Richard, Citronelle

¾ pound (about 3 cups loosely packed) cooked crabmeat, picked over for shells and shredded
Garlic cream 15 large or generous cup (about 1 head) garlic cloves, peeled, 1 cup heavy cream, 1 ½ pounds parsnips, peeled and cut into ½-inch-thick slices, ½ cup olive oil, 1 ½ tablespoons fresh minced tarragon, marjoram, chives or other fresh herb)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Toasted French bread

Prepare two 1½ to 2 pounds live crab or pick over and shred precooked crab. (This can be prepared 1 day ahead and refrigerated until 1 hour before serving.)

For the garlic cream, place the garlic in a heavy medium saucepan. Cover with 3 inches of cold water. Bring to a boil. Drain and rinse with cold water. Repeat this process two more times.

Coarsely chop the garlic. Return it to the same saucepan with the cream. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer gently until reduced by half or to a thick sauce like consistency, stirring occasionally. (This can be prepared ahead and set aside at room temperature for several hours or refrigerated.)

Meanwhile cover the parsnips with cold water in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Simmer until very tender, for about 20 minutes. Drain and mash to a fine puree. Return the parsnips to the pot. (This can be prepared ahead, covered and set aside at room temperature.)

Stir parsnips over medium-high heat to rewarm. Remove from the heat and stir in the olive oil in a slow, thin stream. Reheat the garlic cream, and slowly stir it into the parsnip mixture. Mix in the cooked crab. Mix in the tarragon. Season with salt and pepper. The brandade may be served in a shared bowl, using the toasted French bread to dip. Or, to serve as a passed hors d'oeuvre, top slices of the toasted bread with a spoonful of brandade.

Hard Strawberry Cake with Ice Cream
Recipe courtesy of Chef Phil Pyle, Fair Hill Inn

Make an ordinary sponge cake and let cool.

To make simple syrup, take 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar and let boil. Cool, then add 2 cups Croft Pink.

Completely soak the cooled sponge cake with the syrup mixture. Top individual slices with vanilla ice cream, preferably homemade, and local strawberries. Drizzle a bit more of the syrup and serve with a Kir Croft.

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