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7:00am Saturday 16th June 2012 in NewsXtra
Fancy a drink? Our drinks columnist Sam Wylie-Harris heads to the Cote d'Azur and thinks pink for the summer social season.
Pretty bouquets from Provence.
Before the ritual of opening and pouring the wine, there's nothing more seductive and pleasing to the eye than a pretty pink rose.
The rose colour palette can vary from pale petal, coral, strawberry and salmon, to cantaloupe, mango and mandarin, and the challenge for winemakers is to extract the maximum amount of flavour while obtaining the wine's characteristically pale colour.
Fashionable, fun and a wine of the times, rose is the perfect choice for ice buckets and sipping under a shimmering blue sky, especially when your usual white has lost its appeal and a glass of red feels too heavy.
Indeed, even red wine lovers can be enticed by the charms of a delicious rose - hardly surprising considering the colour varies depending on the winemaker's technique, and how long the skin of the red grape remains in contact with the juice.
But what is surprising is how difficult these informal wines are to make, and the art and skill that goes into getting the most out of the fruit to create the delicate, fragrant and refreshing taste that signals summer in a glass.
Provence in the South of France produces some of the best roses in the world, and 80% of the region's wine production is devoted to these celebrated pale beauties which are designed to drink young.
For a good entry level pink and a taste of lifestyles of the rich and famous, try La Coeur de la Presqu'ile de St Tropez Rose 2011, Var IGP (£7.49, www.laithwaites.co.uk). Anything with St Tropez on the label must taste good, and this peachy pink lives up to its name. Fresh and fruity, it's a savoury mouthful of crushed berry fruits with gooseberry-like acidity and a zippy finish.
One of the prettiest labels on the shelves, Mirabeau Provence Rose 2011, Provence (£8.99, Waitrose) is an appealing rosy blush pink. Classy and fragrant with ribbons of strawberry flavours and a rush of raspberry on the dry but fruity finish, it's a delicious aperitif.
A notch up the scale, Chateau de Berne 2011, Grande Recolte, Cotes de Provence (£9.99, Majestic) is an elegant salmon pink that's fresh and soft with tender apricot and peachy fruit. It has a silky texture and fragrant length to pair with classic Provençal dishes such as salad nicoise or rotisserie chicken with lemon and herbs.
For a petal pink with lively minerality, try Chateau Vignelaure Rose 2011, Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence (£11.95, www.thewinesociety.com, available from June 11). With good concentration of fruit, a grapefruit core and refreshing acidity, this classy rose suits sushi, salmon tartar, tuna steak and charcuterie.
If you like to swirl your glass and be rewarded with a scented nose of orange blossom notes, try Chateau St Baillon 2011, Reserve du Chateau Cotes de Provence Rose 2011 (£9.75, www.goedhuis.com). A succulent rose with an abundance of fruit, strawberry and cherry flavours and a lift of lime, this beautifully balanced rose has wide appeal.
Crisp, dry and a little more serious, Le Secret de Leoube Rose 2011, Cap Benat (£19.99, www.corneyandbarrow.com) hails from the olive groves and vineyards of Domaine Leoube, owned by the founders of Daylesford Organic. A well-rounded rose with juicy stone fruits at the peak of ripeness, the bottle's embossed with stylish white script for real impact and the chic presentation imbibes the beauty and glamour of a Riviera lifestyle.
Best buy Shaken, not stirred... The essential ingredient for Jubilee cocktails during summer fetes, Angostura will donate £1 to the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (QEST) for every bottle sold of its Angostura Limited Edition Diamond Jubilee Aromatic Bitters (£7, Waitrose). Add Angostura to champagne and a sugar cube to make the traditional champagne cocktail, or the refreshing Pink Gin - a dash of Angostura and Plymouth Gin.
Liquid news Why not celebrate Portugal Day on June 10 with a couple of garnet reds from the Falua winery in the sun-soaked Tejo region of the country? Famous for its Tagus Creek range, Falua has now introduced the Tagus Ridge line to Morrisons to help promote these gorgeous brambly red wines we Britons just don't drink enough of. Try Tagus Ridge Red Reserve 2009 (7.99, Morrisons) with bags of ripe fruit, soft spice and a finish that's built to last.