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
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 goto knock-back rosé on sunny days. Warm aubergine, pomegranate and onion salad would pair well.
Charles Melton Rose of Virginia 2018 (£22.50, 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.
Pietradolce Rosato 2018 (£17.68, armitwines.co.uk)
Cranberries, orange zest and lip-smacking minerality from the volcanic soils of Mount Etna where it’s made. Fab with Sardinian prawn and chorizo paella.
Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé Champagne (£69.99, 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
Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Bordeaux Rosé 2016 (£7, sainsburys.co.uk)
Clean, clear and very refreshing, this is really good value for a French rosé, made in Bordeaux exclusively for Sainsbury’s. It has more acidity than most rosés from Provence and would be perfect as an aperitif with our verduri fritti.
Contero Brachetto d’Aqui 2016 (£11.50, thesecretcellar.co.uk)
One of an increasing number of sparkling reds coming out of Italy, this slightly sweet, cherry red fizz bursts with raspberry fruit and creamy bubbles. Try it with our Eton mess cheesecake.
Dunleavy Vineyards Rosé 2016 (£11.75, dunleavyvineyards.co.uk)
Made in Somerset from pinot noir grapes, this is a brilliant English rosé. Light as a feather with a whisper of pepper alongside its summer berry fruit, it’s a great match with red coconut bisque with seafood salsa.
Mirabeau Pure 2016 (£12.99, waitrosecellar.com)
Award-winning rosé from the heart of Provence with a beautiful salmon-pink colour and beguiling notes of strawberries and rose petals, this is the south of France in a glass. Delicious with Vietnamese scallops with herby green sauce.