GRAPEVINE with Liz Sagues: Going pink to impress

Valentine s Day came early for me this year, but the packages which arrived had no red ribbons or rosebuds. Instead, boring brown cardboard and white polystyrene protected bottles of pink wine. In the interests of all romantics who feel the day should be

Valentine's Day came early for me this year, but the packages which arrived had no red ribbons or rosebuds. Instead, boring brown cardboard and white polystyrene protected bottles of pink wine.

In the interests of all romantics who feel the day should be celebrated with something appropriately coloured, I was sampling just a tiny selection from the huge choice available to the ever-increasing number of rose enthusiasts.

The bottles were opened on a cold, dark evening - I only hope that next Thursday (or the weekend, if you prefer to celebrate then) offers a balmy hint of spring, for roses shine as sunshine wines. But don't let that influence you too much - just sip and smile.

We'll go for a fizzing start, and one of the most interesting pink champagnes I've drunk for a long time is Piper-Heidsieck Rose Sauvage, deep coloured and very dry, enjoyable all through a meal (£23 until February 19, Waitrose, two-plus £25 Majestic, Tesco £24 until February 14). Much more classic, light and gentle, is Taittinger Prestige Rose, a wine for fruit-based puddings or sipping on its own (around £35, widely available - watch out for offers).


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It may sound mean to suggest something other than champagne for a romantic occasion, but there are excellent alternatives. A favourite with the friends who joined in my tasting session was Green Point Rose Brut NV (£11 Sainsbury's, two-plus £10 Majestic) - "knicker pink" colour, they said, "smelling of tea roses", dry but with a touch of sweetness softening the finish. Codorniu Pinot Noir Rosado (£9 Sainsbury's, Majestic, Wine Rack) is another prettily appealing choice, Sainsbury's Taste the Difference English Sparkling Rose has delicate clean fruitiness (£18), and Tigress Sparkling Rose (Sainsbury's £14) is dry and long.

Star of the still wines was Guigal Cotes du Rhone 2006 (£8, Tesco), deep coral pink, smooth yet tangy with ripe red fruit flavours lingering elegantly - summer in a glass and a fine example from a region where the cherry-scented grenache grape is a major component of a lot of lovely pink wines.

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Its main challenger was a perfumed, juicy, ripe-fruited, long-flavoured pinot noir from Chile's cool Leyda Valley - Secano 2006 (£5.60 to March 2, Marks & Spencer, where all roses are reduced by 20 per cent this month). Chile's red pinots are increasingly good, and this shows that pink is also highly promising. It's delicious now, and will be a wonderful warm summer evening aperitif.

But just about all of the others were pleasantly drinkable. Here are some we enjoyed - but do make your own choices, too.

Tesco Finest* Cotes de Provence 2006 (£6 to February 17) has weight and character, is crisp and dry with a hint of honey on the finish, a good food wine.

The cherry-flavoured Chateau de Panery La Madone Cotes du Rhone 2006, (two-plus £4 Majestic) may be overshadowed alongside the Guigal but is a clean, easy-drinking bargain. Domaine Grand Milord 2006, vin du pays de Gard (£4.80 to March 2 M&S) is something different - organic and mostly from caladoc, a crossing of grenache and malbec, a new grape with plenty of potential. It has spicy, peppery fruit and a long finish.

Laurent Miquel Nord Sud syrah, grenache 2006 (£5 to February 17 Tesco) has savoury hints and fruit that lingers on and on, while TorroNero garnacha, shiraz, monistrel 2006, Somontano is a Spanish take on a somewhat similar blend, red-fruited, modern and balanced (£7 Tesco).

Two more good Chileans hail from Waitrose: Carmen syrah/cabernet sauvignon (£6) and Torres San Medin cabernet sauvignon (£6). But to end more traditionally, Sancerre Rose par Emmanuelle Mellot 2006 (£12 Sainsbury's) is restrained, discreet yet full of long-lasting character - how better to flatter your Valentine.

Liz Sagues

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