At a time when French wine is regrouping in the wake of Australia's retail success, it must have come as yet another blow to find that it has just been elbowed out of pole retail position by the United States. This is due largely to the performance of monster Californian brands like Gallo, Echo Falls and Blossom Hill. American rosé is very popular with British consumers, for whom life seems just that little bit sweeter when a dollop of sugar helps the medicine slip down. Not that rosé's success is confined to California. When I popped into Reh Kendermann of Black Tower "fame" in Germany this month, they were ecstatic about the performance of their new Black Tower Rosé, the less said about which the better.
Where once rosé was the province of, er, Provence, the future now seems to belong to the New World wineproducing countries, while producers in France, Italy, Germany, Portugal and Spain are doing their best to play catch-up. Even champagne is converting white bubbles into pink ones, and the premium that rosé champagne commands is making life rosy indeed for the champenois.
It's worth mentioning that the 1996 Dom Perignon Rosé will set you back £299 a bottle. In comparison, you won't have to pay à travers le nez for the sumptuous strawberry mousse and cream confection of the new Bollinger Rosé, £55 from Berry Bros (0870 900 4300), Roberson (020-7371 2121), Harrods, Fortnums, Harvey Nichols. If the Bolly is still too much of an extravagance for you, the stylish, mouthwatering Piper Heidsieck Rosé Sauvage Champagne, £29.99, Waitrose, is considerably less budget-busting, while for an (almost) everyday drinker, Australia's refreshing and raspberryish 2004 Vintage Green Point Brut Rosé, £15.99, Waitrose, is just the ticket.
As rosé transcends the old naff image thanks to a genuine improvement in quality, it has become the fastest-growing category in wine and is propped up by the retail sector to the extent that even pukka independent wine merchants like London's Lea & Sandeman and Wiltshire's Yapp Bros now boast substantial sections of serious rosé. These are on the whole the drier styles of rosé and in my book that's where the quality and drinkability in rosé lies. Not only has there been a sea-change in the quality of rosé since it became an item with the drinking public, but good-quality dry rosé is so much more summery, refreshing and food-friendly than its sugar-coated cousin.
Provence is still a benchmark for good dry rosé drunk on a summer's day with salads and picnics. If you're looking for this dry kind of elegance, try the pale salmon blush, fresh berry-fruit fragrance and raspberry and redcurrant kick of the 2007 Château Pigoudet la Chapelle Rosé, Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence, £7.99, buy 2 = £6.99, Majestic. More quintessentially food-friendly, the 2007 Château d'Aquéria Rosé, Tavel, £9.99, or buy 2 = £9.49, Majestic, £9.95, BBR (0870 900 4300) is ripe and full-flavoured with red berry fruit balanced by crisp acidity.
From Italy, the pale salmon colour and fresh berry fragrance of the 2007 Prendina Estate Rosé, Azienda Agricola Cavalchina, £7.99, M&S, makes for a refreshing mouthful while Portugal offers excellent value with its aromatic, redcurranty 2007 Vinha da Urze Rosé, £5.99, or 4 bottles for the price of 3 from Monday = £4.49, M&S. The well-made, bargain basement Gran Tesoro Garnacha Rosé, Campo de Borja, £2.99, Tesco, is both cheap and cheerful; if you still want more sweetness, the 2007 Champteloup Selection Rosé d'Anjou, £4.99, Waitrose, is not the mawkish Rosé d'Anjou of yesteryear but a juicy strawberry and bubblegum off-dry style with enough nip to keep the palate lively and fresh.