Anthony Rose: Since the long hot summer of 2003, rosé wines have taken off and never looked back

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Indy Lifestyle Online

I knew that rosé had finally arrived during the long, hot summer of 2003, as my overheated car and I limped wearily into Bordeaux.

On every table of every bar and café I saw stood a bottle of Bordeaux rosé in an ice bucket. In an instant the world's biggest red wine region seemed to be quenching its thirst with pink as if there were no other colour. Since that torrid summer, rosé wines have taken off like a rocket and never looked back. There are good reasons why pink is the new black.

Since the New World came knocking on our door 20-odd years ago, we've learnt to enjoy wine as just another drink with none of the old snobbery once attached to it. At heart, rosé is an excellent drink and often pretty good value compared to red or white. It's the perfect al fresco wine, the faintest shaft of sunlight being enough to get us lighting the barbie and spilling out on to the streets to lap up sun and pink wine.

Because it's best drunk chilled, rosé also goes brilliantly with spicy Asian food that is too hot for reds to handle. Finally, rosé has shed its naff image and become fun.

While traditionally rosé was the preserve of Provence, Spain and Italy, the New World has profited most from the latest craze. California alone contributes 49 in every 100 bottles of rosé we drink, much of it, from the likes of Blossom Hill, Gallo and Echo Falls, off-dry. Brands, which account for more than half of rosé sales, include South Africa's First Cape and Namaqua, Chile's Isla Negra, an Australia's Jacobs Creek.

While brands have their place, however, there's a lot more individuality in today's rosé. As winemakers take on board the benefits of taking it seriously, rosés are being made not just as an afterthought, but as serious wines in their own right.

Provence can be hit-and-miss, but for a fine example of the elegant dry style, the 2008 Château Sainte Marguerite Cru Classé rosé, Côtes de Provence, £9.99, Majestic, is an ideal aromatic, full-bodied accompaniment to salade niçoise. Similarly, the fine 2008 Château Fontvert, Les Restanques, £7.99, Oddbins, is a lovely fresh strawberryish blend of grenache and syrah whose intensity belies its pale salmon-pink hue. Pinot noir makes excellent dry rosé, classically from the Loire, whose 2007 Sancerre rosé Fournier, £8.99, Tesco, is typically elegant, while the lively berryish quality of the 2008 Petit Duc rouse, £9.99, Oddbins, contains delicious summer-pudding fruit and the tangy, 2008 La Grille Pinot Noir rosé, £5.99, buy 2 = £5.49, Majestic, shows its value side.

Speaking of value, Spain delivers with the juicy strawberry-like 2008 Las Falleras 2007 rosé, £3.99, Marks & Spencer, and the juicy Gran Tesoro Garnacha, £3.49, Tesco, both ideal summer-sipping party rosés. France can do value too, especially from the south, with delicious pinks like Chateau Cazal Viel's elegantly raspberryish, crisp dry 2008 Vieilles Vignes rosé, £6.99, Majestic, buy 2 = £5.99. Pink bubbles? Try the dry Langlois Crémant de Loire rosé, £12.99, or £10.99 until tomorrow, Oddbins, or spoil yourself with Ruinart rouse NV, £60, buy 2 = £39.99, Majestic, super-elegant, liquid strawberries and cream champagne. With so much good rosé around, and the anticipation of more sunshine to come, it could be a promising summer.