We're buying more rosé than ever before. Maybe that's why wine-makers are no longer treating it as a cheap afterthought

It's a standard occurrence at this time of year: in wine columns and in fridges round the Northern Hemisphere, everyone's thoughts turn to pink wine. Rosé goes with warm weather, with lunching al fresco, and summer holidays in sunny Mediterranean climates. All the more reason for me to shed my long-time indifference to the breed. I've long regarded rosé as the Muzak of the wine world: bland, anodyne, and inoffensive - except when they're sickeningly sweet and pallid of flavour.

It's a standard occurrence at this time of year: in wine columns and in fridges round the Northern Hemisphere, everyone's thoughts turn to pink wine. Rosé goes with warm weather, with lunching al fresco, and summer holidays in sunny Mediterranean climates. All the more reason for me to shed my long-time indifference to the breed. I've long regarded rosé as the Muzak of the wine world: bland, anodyne, and inoffensive - except when they're sickeningly sweet and pallid of flavour.

I'm not proud of feeling that way. Saying you don't like rosé is a little bit like saying you don't like Christmas, or kittens, or The Sound of Music.

But two recent developments have forced me to rethink my indifference, and the most important is that pink wines are much better than they used to be. No longer do winemakers regard them as just a convenient way of dealing with sub-standard black grapes, or as a way of making money from the juice they discard to get more concentration in their reds. More effort is going into the pink stuff at wineries all over the globe, even when the wines are modestly priced.

The second development: consumers have picked up on the upturn in quality. Rosé is enjoying unprecedented popularity. Pink is the fastest-growing colour in the wine world, with sales growing by 30 per cent a year worldwide and now accounting for 5 per cent of wine sales.

The quality upturn is evident in a recent tasting reported in Which? magazine, which awarded high marks to wines costing £2.86 (Asda's Rosé d'Anjou) and highest marks to Valley of the Roses Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé 2004 (£3.99, Co-op). If the tasting panel found so much pleasure for so little money, it indicates a fundamental verity: rosé was not meant to be serious wine. It is a source of mindless pleasure, again like kittens and The Sound of Music. And that quality can be obtained at very low prices, though it should also be noted that the second highest scores went to a pricier bottle: M&S's La Prendina Pinot Grigio (£5.99). On the whole, however, you rarely need to go over £6 to get rosé pleasure.

And the round of spring tastings at the supermarkets have shown me just how much depth and variety there is in rosé nowadays, and often at low prices - though not usually as low as those highlighted by the Which? tasting. Three of my favourites are highlighted below. Among the others that have crossed my palate recently, I've especially admired those using unusual grape varieties. Cape Grace Pinotage Rosé 2005, Western Cape (£4.49, Sainsbury's) has a nice touch of earthiness. Stormhoek Select Rosé 2004, Western Cape (£5.85) is a hefty blend of Pinotage and Shiraz that can be taken as red in planning a meal. Bardolino Chiaretto Azienda Agricola Cavalchina 2004 (£5.49, Booths), from Corvina and Rondinella, has a rich texture and a nice touch of herbal essences on the palate.

If you're planning to join the rush to rosé this spring then a word on serving temperatures is in order. Everyone knows that the pink stuff needs a bit of chilling for its simple loveableness to shine through, but some mistake a chill for a cold - and take it straight from a long spell in the fridge to the dining table. Wrong. Cold accentuates the tannins in wine, and rosé does have tannin from its brief contact with the grape skins. If your fridge is at the correct temperature (under 5C), just leave rosé in there for an hour or so; or take it out a good 30 minutes before serving so that it can reach the ideal range of around 10-12C. Chilled, but not cold, the wine will fill your heart with the sound of music. And not of Muzak, whatever grumps like me may sometimes think. *

Top Corks: Three rosé delights

Domaine de Pellehaut Rosé 2004, Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne (£4.49 Booths, £4.99 Waitrose) Merlot gives juicy roundness and Tannat adds a twist of herbal complexity.

Château Guiot Rosé 2004, Costières de Nîmes (£5.29, Majestic) From an excellent producer, a refreshing, complex blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault. Perfect for barbecues.

Domaine Massamier La Mignarde Cuvée des Olivier Rosé 2004, Côteaux de Peyriac (£5.95, Berry Bros, 0870 900 4300) Very pale, very fresh acidity, touched with sweetness.

Comments