Thanks to the cornucopia of rosés on sale in the shops these days, there's no need to blend a red and a white together any more to obtain the desired pink colour. On the other hand, the very proliferation of rosés makes it less clear exactly what you're getting. Yes, it's pink all right, that much we know, but its very pinkness is a cunning disguise. Behind the simple word pink lurks not just a palette of hues of which Dulux would be proud, but a mind-numbing variety of wine styles, not to mention of varying quality.
Do you expect your rosé to be a fun drink or a wine to be drunk with food? On the sweet side or dry? Still or sparkling? A pale blush or strawberry pink? The answer is that rosé is all those things and more, because there's no more a wine called rosé than one called red or white. Each differs according to its raw materials, its origin, the way it's made and its price.
One thing is for sure, though: the first duty of a rosé should be to refresh, and since there are far too many past-their-sell-by-date rosés lurking on the high-street shelves, I would give 2006s and most 2007s a wide berth.
Provence is the name with which most of us associate French rosé, and with wines like the 2007 Domaine de Bélouvé Bandol Rosé, Bunan, £11.99, Tesco Fine Wine (moving on to the 2008 imminently), the claim is justified. In an odd recent scenario, the French got their knickers in a serious twist at an EU proposal that they should be allowed to blend white with red wine (which is against French law outside Champagne) to compete with the New World.
But was the resulting brouhaha out of genuine concern that the best method of producing rosé – in other words, the direct pressing of the grapes – might be lost? It's hard to tell, but now the plan's been scrapped, they can at least get on with mandating screwcaps for all bottles if they really want to show their concern for quality and freshness.
Outside Provence, there are some attractive rosés coming out of France, such as the new, much improved redcurrant-crisp, dry 2008 Château de Sours Rosé, £8.99-£9.25, Majestic, Private Cellar (01353 721 999), Bon Coeur Fine Wines (020-7622 5244), Goedhuis (020-7793 7900).
Spain is a growing force with wines of the consistent quality of the strawberryish 2008 Torres Viña Sol Rosé, £6.49, Tesco, and the stylish, summer pudding-like 2008 Ottoe Bestué Somontano Rosado, around £9.50, Great Western Wine, Bath (01225 322800), Edinburgh Wine (0131 343 2347).
Italy, too, boasts fine examples, such as the Alpine-fresh, juicily concentrated 2008 Alois Lageder Lagrein Rosé, around £11.99, Bacchanalia, Cambridge (01223 315304), Nysa Wine Boutique, Westfield (020-8222 6882).
There's still far too much cheap and confected rosé coming from the New World, particularly from California. Even here though, quality rosé is beginning to break through, with pinot noir one of the best candidates for the style; such as the full-flavoured, berry-scented 2008 Eradus Pinot Noir Rosé, Marlborough, £11.49, Corney & Barrow (020-7265 2400), and from Chile, the excellent cherry-raspberryish 2008 Vina Leyda Loica Vineyard Pinot Noir Rosé, around £9.50, Great Western Wine, L'Art du Vin, Edinburgh (0131 555 6009), a star at a recent Decanter magazine rosé tasting.Reuse content