The drinker | third way wines

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As I write this it's raining again. And cold. We wine writers like to write about seasonal wines, but how can we when the seasons don't cooperate? The calendar says this should be the time to drink Verdicchio, Muscadet and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. The weatherman says we should stick to Cÿtes-du-Rhÿne, Pinotage, or maybe mulled wine if you want to get really pessimistic.

As I write this it's raining again. And cold. We wine writers like to write about seasonal wines, but how can we when the seasons don't cooperate? The calendar says this should be the time to drink Verdicchio, Muscadet and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. The weatherman says we should stick to Cÿtes-du-Rhÿne, Pinotage, or maybe mulled wine if you want to get really pessimistic.

Well, it's possible to overdo this seasonal stuff (he said resignedly). Certain drinks do conjure up the spirit of a particular season more than others - the idea of lemonade when it's snowing or mulled wine on a sun-soaked patio doesn't make a helluvalot of sense. But no law dictates that only fresh, cold wines may be served when the weather is hot, and I'd like to propose a Third Way in the pursuit of seasonal sipping.

The Third Way accepts that some wines fall midway between the seasonal poles. And rosé is the perfect example. Some New World producers especially are taking pink things very seriously, making wines with far more character and richness of flavour than many of the pleasant but rather one-dimensional rosés of yore. The key to success is the choice of grape, with varietals originating in the Rhÿne and French "regions" often giving better results than Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. Follow that with careful winemaking and you've got something to crow about.

Fetzer Syrah Rosé 1998 (Threshers, Wine Rack, Bottoms Up, £5.99) certainly illustrates that point: this is a pink powerhouse, deeply coloured and with the kind of full flavours that make it barbecue wine rather than a fresh-faced aperitif. Valdivieso Malbec Rosé 1999 (Tesco and elsewhere, £4.49) is a berry-rich slug of juice offering terrific value.

Back at home in France, Clos Petite Bellane 1999, Cÿtes-du-Rhÿne (Oddbins, £5.49) has prickly acidity cutting through mouth-filling red fruit. And even if Bordeaux varieties don't always offer the most interesting glass, there's no denying the reliability of the well-established Domaine de Sours Bordeaux Rosé (Sainsbury's, £4.99), whose 1999 incarnation shows plenty of succulent fruit in a gluggable style.

If you're disinclined to spend your dosh on rosé, there are numerous red options that can fit with reasonable ease within the Third Way philosophy. A Cÿtes du Ventoux, from that never-serious but instantly likeable southern Rhÿne appellation, is perfect summery drinking, and Waitrose's Cÿtes du Ventoux 1998 (£3.69) makes for ultimate picnic-style quaffing. Getting much more serious, Serrano, Rosso Conero 1999 (£4.99, Sainsbury's) is light, tart and juicy, and another BBQ star. While you're there, another Pinot Noir, the New Zealand Shingle Peak 1999 (£6.99) offers decent value for this usually much dearer grape - light, but the full set of Pinot flavours all in place.

And finally, summer's obvious choice: good whites. The Third Way search for oomph leads first to Alsace Gewürztraminer, and specifically to Kuentz-Bas Gewürztraminer 1999 (£9.99, Unwins), a classic specimen with all the required lychee and floral aromas; truly delicious. It leads to Capel Vale Verdelho 1999 (£7.99, Majestic), a dazzlingly fresh, tropical example of Australia's magical reworking of this basic Madeira varietal. And finally, it leads to a bargain-price sweetie: Domaine de Montahuc 1998, Muscat de St Jean de Minervois (£5.99/50cl, Oddbins). A lovely, fragrant mouthful, lightly flowery and deeply peachy. The perfect conclusion to a summer meal, Third-Way style. And to hell with the rain.

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