Far from fluffy, hints of black pepper, herbs and dryness show that ros� can be serious

Convention inevitably labels ros�s as summer wines and, certainly, little is more pleasant than sipping something soft and pretty on a warm August evening. But the wines in this column are a whole lot more serious than that and ones which I’d happily drink at any time of year.

These days, the range of shades is astounding, from pinks so deep that they are almost indistinguishable from lighter-style red wines to the others which hardly shade the glass. I’ve got a splendid giant poster which charts Les Couleurs du Vin – 86 in all. But I don’t think the row of 16 ros�s featured on it is anywhere near comprehensive.

But, among those 16, there are some delightful tags, which could add colour in themselves to any writer’s prose – aurora borealis, old rose, rose of Cairo, geranium, Richelieu, Indian summer, to quote just a selection.

Enough of such frippery, on to the bottles. First, I’ve been having a happy time with pineau d’aunis. This is one of the rarest of grape varieties now, even in its Loire Valley homeland, though wines made from it were exported to the UK as early as the 13th century. The number of examples available here can be counted on the fingers of one hand –though in France earlier this year I collected a selection in a remarkably well-furnished supermarket.

But the one easiest to buy here, D�lice des Rois (�8, Laithwaites), remains my favourite. It’s a very, very pale pink but with a good deal more flavour than that might indicate – lots of almost savoury crispness with the grape’s characteristic twist of black pepper. So while you can enjoy it as a grown-up aperitif, it’s a great food wine – just match the menu to its lightness.

Very nearly as pale, and also with a mouth-watering crispness, is Albia from top Chianti producer Barone Ricasoli, founded in 1141 and with a sound claim to be the oldest winery in Italy. This, though, is an entirely modern wine, from its smart packaging to the delicate herbal edge to its clean floral/fruit character (�11, Vintage Marque). We’re back with more familiar grapes – sangiovese and merlot – but handled with extreme delicacy. I found it an excellent match with a selection of mostly vegetarian tapas-style dishes.

To call Guigal Cotes-du-Rhone ros� robust is an exaggeration, though in this company it edges in that direction. A warmer, deeper colour (the bottle I had was 2009 rather than the 2010 of the others – generally, but not always, pinks are best drunk young), it has more immediate fruitiness, hinting at strawberries and raspberries. This gives it roundness but without stickiness so it’s a great aperitif (�8.50-�11.45, Wine Direct).

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Both Majestic and Waitrose made much of ros�s at their summer press tastings. At the former, the line-up of examples from Provence is very tempting indeed, especially Commanderie de Peyrassol (�9) and Chateau Sainte Marguerite Grande Reserve (�10). For great value, go back to the Loire for La Grille pinot noir (�6). Note: these prices are for a minimum of two bottles.

At Waitrose, my favourites include the dry and elegant Provence-style Laurent Miguel Vendanges Nocturnes cinsault-syrah (�8.30) and the appealingly zesty Cotes de Provence Mirabeau (�9), plus a decently restrained and enjoyable new world pink, Torres Las Mulas cabernet sauvignon (�9) from Chile, which has a creamy ripeness matched with freshness and tempts you to pour another glass.

n www.laithwaites.co.uk, www.winedirect.co.uk, www.vintagemarque.com.