As the French pop singer Claude François sang in 1978, "Bordeaux rosé, take us away and make the room begin to sway...". Well, the room has been swaying to rosé in the UK ever since the long hot summer of 2003 had us reaching for the nearest bottle of chilled rosé to quench our thirst. Once, just an also-ran squeezed between red and white wine and considered suitable only for ladies who lunch, pink wine has been transformed over the past eight years into a serious drink that even the most macho of males can enjoy.
With rosé outperforming red and white wine until last year, something had to give. Sure enough, while nearly 13 million cases of rosé meant more than one in every 10 bottles of wine sold last year in the UK, last year's peak of 12.6 million cases tailed off by more than a quarter of a million cases. It's not easy to pinpoint quite why there's been a drop, but the most likely reason is boredom combined with a torrent of confected rosé and an average price rise of 5 per cent thanks to unfavourable exchange rates. Despite the slow-down, however, rosé is here to stay.
Trawling recent tastings for some bright pink spots on the horizon, Sainsbury's came up with pure tempranillo from la Mancha in the 2010 Rio de la Vida Tempranillo, £5.99, whose ripe strawberry-jam-like character displayed an ashamedly off-dry whack of residual sugar to keep its customers sweet, all the while retaining a breezy summer freshness. Still in Spain but more sophisticated and more elegantly dry, there was much to commend in the ultra-modern 2010 Rioja Rosado 2010, Muga, £9.99 buy 2 = £7.99, Majestic, pale yet surprisingly full-flavoured with a juicy, cranberry and cherryish edge to the fruit.
Asda's 2010 Extra Special Languedoc Rosé, £6.97, a blend of syrah, cabernet sauvignon and grenache, from Jean Claude Mas, hit the sweet spot for its ripe, candied, raspberryish-fruit quality, but it was overshadowed by the 2010 Mayu Carmenère Syrah, £7.68, a sumptuously juicy strawberry-cup-fruity yet dry blend from Chile's Elqui Valley.
Chile is clearly getting the hang of rosé, as Marks & Spencer showed with its 2010 Viña Leyda Secano Estate Pinot Noir Rosé, £7.99, a winning pink wine with a Pacific Ocean-cooled, juicily crisp redcurranty snap to it.
All rosé roads lead to Provence which is hard to beat when it delivers wine of the quality of the salmon-pink 2010 Château Ste Marguerite Grande Réserve Cru Classé, Côtes de Provence Rosé, £11.99, buy 2 = £9.99, Majestic. This is a midsummer night's dream of an elegantly styled dry pink with crisp summer-pudding fruitiness. Lovely, too, is the 2010 Mas de Cadenet Rosé Sainte Victoire, Côtes de Provence, £11.50/ £11.95, Halifax Wines (01422 256333), Hanging Ditch (01618 328222), Last Drop Wines (02073512973), a pretty pale rosé with aromatic, bodied berry fruit.
If you want to make a bigger splash into rosé this summer, there's a spectacular magnum worth getting your hands around. The 2010 AIX Rosé 2010, Coteaux d'Aix en Provence, £19.99, Majestic, is your ticket to the Mediterranean. A pale pink with the single word AIX emblazoned in large characters across the label, this is a classic Provençal rosé, full of the snappy joys of raspberry fruit with a deceptive amount of flavour and richness considering that it finishes so elegantly dry... I can feel the room beginning to sway.