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A rose by any other name

It's light on the alcohol and reminds American drinkers of the south of France: two factors that explain the rise of rose

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , NEW YORK

But now, among a certain group of global style setters, ordering rose is a sign of being in the know. Dropping the name of a Provencal rose like Domaine Tempier can be code for having recently frolicked in St.-Tropez or Cap d'Antibes, where rose accompanies leisurely seaside lunches. Even Pamela Anderson, in the days before she wed Kid Rock in St.-Tropez, was snapped by paparazzi on a yacht, a glass of rose in hand.

"The South of France holds a place in people's hearts and psyche as this cool jet-set place," said Jennifer Rubell, the author of Real Life Entertaining. "Ordering a bottle of rose back in the US is a subtle sign of belonging to that world."

Devotees praise its light, refreshing flavor, one that complements food and tastes best very cold, even iced. Recent converts say you can sip it all night without getting too drunk or suffering a bad hangover.

"A lot of my friends don't want to get wasted on vodka and be sick the next day," said Greg Krelenstein of the MisShapes, a group of three influential Manhattan party promoters and DJs, who tasted rose for the first time this summer. "And everybody's off the speed drinks like Spark. I've bought rose for people, and they've been excited to drink something that's not going to make them crazy like tequila."

On a Tuesday night late last month, rose was flowing at restaurants across downtown Manhattan, including Freemans, Lil' Frankie's, Uovo, Grape and Grain and Little Giant.

At the Spotted Pig the most requested label, Friedman said, is Domaines Ott, which has become the trendsetter's rose of choice since it was bought by Champagne Louis Roederer, the maker of Cristal Champagne, two years ago.

Distribution of rose expanded from six states to 50, and sales have increased 150 percent this year in the US, said Xavier Barlier, the vice president for marketing and communication at Maisons Marques & Domaines, the US importer and marketer of Domaines Ott.

And at least according to those who buy and serve it, it is the most recognizable brand of rose, the top seller at both Sherry-Lehmann on Manhattan's Upper East Side and Union Square Wine, which was sold out by late last month.

"Domaines Ott is the 501 jeans of rose," said MacPherson, the hotelier, who discovered rose 20 years ago while vacationing on the Riviera.

"It's like a groundswell buzz name," said Friedman, who draws a comparison to the way Tommy Hilfiger clothing became popular in the rap world.

At twice the price of most roses, it is far from a bargain, said Lettie Teague, the executive wine editor at Food & Wine.

"An expensive rose is oxymoronic," she said. "Domaines Ott is good but not so significantly better than wines that are US$10 cheaper or half the price."

She suggested that Domaines Ott is "a good wine for those psychologically unprepared to drink rose, because it's so beautifully packaged and expensive."

She recommends Castello di Ama from Tuscany, which sells for about US$15, and Muga from Spain, which is about US$11.

Perhaps the best thing about rose is that no matter how trendy it gets, it will never overstay its welcome. When the weather cools, it gracefully disappears.

"The rule is it's pretty much rose exclusively all summer until the end of the season, around late September," MacPherson said. "By then we're all so rose-logged that we're happy to dry out for a while."

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