When the headline beamed out at me, "Rose attracts male following", I was naturally flattered, albeit puzzled, as to who my new friends were.
What a difference an accent makes. The word was of course "rosé" and the story in question confirmed that real men are drinking rosé when once it wouldn't have been sniffed at. Why? According to Master of Wine, Pierpaolo Petrassi, wine buyer for Waitrose, "the cliché of rosé being a female drink" is still prevalent, but less than it was, thanks to the growing popularity of drier styles of rosé and their suitability with food.
Duly upbraided by an indignant reader (male, since you ask) for failing to include any rosé other than fizz in my Christmas Top 50, I'm making amends for past transgressions with a selection of pink-hued favourites for the Great Outdoors. But a word of warning. Demand for rosé is a two-edged sabre. It's great news for the broadening palette of wine styles that producers who take the style seriously have dramatically improved the quality. The downside of the rosé bandwagon is that cashing in on a trend has brought us even more dross than there was before.
We traditionally turn to Provence for some of the best summery dry rosés. Bandol on the Mediterranean is an enclave of wine quality and the Bunan brothers' stylish 2008 Bélouvé, Bandol Rosé, £11.99, Tesco, epitomises the Provence style, with its pale pink hue, ripe berry fruit fragrance and full-bodied fruit quality. At more of a budget level, from the southern Rhône's Laudun-Chusclan Co-op, in what the locals refer to as la Provence intelligente, the cherryish 2009 Réserve de la Saurine Rosé, £4.49, down from £5.99, Marks & Spencer, is just what the doctor ordered for summer sipping.
The Iberian peninsula is another source of both quality and value rosé. For sheer value, it's hard to beat the 2009 Gran Tesoro Garnacha Rosé, £3.62, Tesco, a juicy strawberry-fruity glugging dry pink wine from Campo de Borja. On the quality side, I've fallen for the 2009 Quinta da Falorca Rosé, Quinta Vale des Escandinhas, £11.20, Armit (020-7908 0655; armit.co.uk). Yes, it's a Portuguese rosé at over a tenner, but this deep-hued rosé is a lipsmackingly full-flavoured Dão number made from the touriga nacional grape that flagrantly flaunts its fragrance and body and with such panache that your mouth starts watering as soon as you lift a glassful of its deliciously dry red berry fruitiness to the nose.
Not that Europe has it all its own way with rosé any longer. Chile is starting to produce some seriously impressive examples of the style, such as the 2008 Leyda Pinot Noir Rose Loica Vineyard Leyda Valley, £9.95, Great Western Wine (01225 322 800; greatwesternwine. co.uk). Pretty in pink, this is Chile's answer to sancerre rosé, a deliciously full-fruited dry pink pinot noir with crunchy summer pudding cranberry and raspberry flavours, and an elegantly dry, refreshing aftertaste.
And let's not forget Australia, whose 2008 Turkey Flat Rosé, around £9.99, Selfridges, Corks Out (01625 582 777; corksout.com), Noel Young Wines (01223 566744; nywines.co.uk), Harrods, Four Walls Wine (01243 535353 ; fourwallswine.com), is a New World chip off the Tavel block, full-bodied and at the same time elegantly dry. A rosé for real men – oh, and women too.