Our wine expert Kate Hawkings gives us advice on the best rosé wines to drink this summer, from pale Provence rosé to Sicilian, Spanish and Australian varieties.
A long lunch of freshly grilled langoustines with a punchy mayonnaise, good bread and a bottle of rosé wine is one of my desert island meals, preferably overlooking the glittering Mediterranean with a sun bed to hand for afternoon snoozing. An impossible dream, this year at least, but rosé can still give us an instant, sunny lift wherever we find ourselves this summer.
Rosé has a chequered past. Wines such as 1970s favourite Mateus Rosé (bright pink, sweet and slightly fizzy) made the serious wine community shudder and rosé lolled in the doldrums of naffness for decades. Then, about 15 years ago, winemakers began to up their quality game and a younger generation of drinkers embraced its easy-drinking, thirst quenching charms. Each summer since has seen rosé’s sales soar (partly, I’m sure, because of its Instagram-friendly colour) and, after its long-held association with women drinkers, millennial menfolk are now getting in on the act – what the marketeers term ‘brosé’. Although rosé is made pretty much all over the wine-producing world, Provence is its spiritual home. Here, the rolling lavender-strewn hillsides lend characteristic herbal notes to its bone-dry wines with their barely there, coppery-pink colour.
The colour of rosé comes from the skins of the grapes. Most are made from red-skinned grapes, crushed and left long enough for the skins to impart some colour to the juice. The skins are then discarded and the juice fermented in the same way as white wine. Some rosés are a byproduct of wine-making when concentrated colour, flavour and tannins are required in red wines. Called the saignée method, some of the pink juice is removed shortly after crushing, leaving the red wine in the vat to ferment with the skins.
The palest rosés are the most popular, and winemakers go to great lengths to keep the colour as pale as possible, although this is not necessarily an indicator of quality. Look to the New World for more intense and muscular rosés – the darker the colour, the longer the contact with the skins, so the more pronounced the flavours and tannins will be.
Rosés are surprisingly versatile with food, the paler ones especially suited to the lighter dishes of summer, while more robust wines sit well with meaty things and anything with Middle Eastern spicing.
Few will be living it up on the French Riviera this year, but there’s nothing to stop the rest of us cracking open a bottle of rosé, closing our eyes and pretending we’re there.
Best rosé wines to try
Mirabeau Pure (£15.49, ocado.com)
Pure by name and pure by nature, this is classic Provençal drinking. Delicate without being insipid, try it with Portuguese seafood rice.
Ramón Bilbao El Viaje Rosado 2019 (£8, Co-op)
Great value from this reliable Rioja producer, this is my go-to knock-back rosé on sunny days. Warm aubergine, pomegranate and onion salad would pair well.
Charles Melton Rose of Virginia 2018 (£23, vinoteca.co.uk)
My favourite Australian rosé. Robust berries with hints of rose petals, it stands up really well to spices and is a killer match with cumin, orange and paprika chicken.
Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé Champagne (£70.99, amazon.co.uk)
Wildly expensive for most budgets but cheaper than a trip to St Tropez. A fabulous special-occasion treat with herby greens and pecorino risotto.
More rosés to try
Johann Wolf Pinot Noir Rosé 2020 (£9.99, Waitrose)
Full of juicy berry fruits with a little gentle spritz. Great for summer drinking in the sun with light dishes.
Tesco Finest Sancerre Rosé (£12, Tesco)
Prettily pale but with plenty of vibrant raspberry and redcurrant fruits, a great example of Sancerre rośe that comes with the region’s trademark crisp minerality. Try it with our spiced fish cakes with carrot and cucumber salad.
Morrisons The Best Touraine Rosé (£7.75, Morrisons)
Cabernet franc and gamay are blended in this bargain rosé. Full of summery berries and sunshine, it’s a top match for honey masala chicken with tangy corn and mango.
M&S La Dame en Rosé (£6.50, M&S)
Lively and well balanced, think strawberries and cream with a pleasing herbaceous astringency.
Tesco Low-Alcohol Garnacha Rosé (£2.75, Tesco)
Gorgeous scents of strawberries and mountain herbs in this pretty 0.5%-ABV wine that’ll transport you back to summer.
Balfour Hush Heath Pink Fizz (£60 for 12, Hush Heath Estate)
Strawberries and rose petals come together in this gorgeous English sparkler – a great aperitif or as a partner to the strawberry and elderflower eton mess.