Despite its unfortunate resemblance to cheap pink boxed wine once it's in the glass, rosé is actually a respectable wine genre – even trendy among serious oenophiles at the moment. Not only that, it's the perfect summer wine: crisp, dry, (usually) inexpensive and perfect with barbecue.
Rosé is made by macerating red wine grapes with their skins for a few days before the skins are strained out – just like reds, but less exposure time with the grapeskin means less color and less tannins. If you like a drier wine, look for French vintners (from Provence, the Rhône Valley or the Loire Valley), which tend toward a minerally/citrus vibe. Spanish rosés are also deeper and drier – try a rioja rosé. Californian rosés are often more fruit-forward.
There are roughly a bajillion rosés out there, and we've got a few recommends for you. But just steer clear of cutesy names and look for French or Spanish vineyards, and you should do fine.
Good: Sofia Rosé, Francis Ford Coppola Winery ($13.99): If you're new to drinking rosé, or if you're not a huge fan of dry wines, Sofia is a good place to start. Unlike a lot of rosé wines, its deep pink color is actually pretty representative of how this wine tastes: light, fruity and crisp, with a lot of strawberry overtones, as well as a little bit of citrus. You won't get anything bold or surprising out of this wine, but it's easy to drink, pleasant and fairly inexpensive – particularly if you buy it at Costco, where it was recently spotted for just $9.99 a bottle.
Better: Domaine des Carteresses Tavel Rosé ($15.99): This French rosé comes from a region of France (Tavel) that only produces rosés, and its wines are known for being full-bodied, complex and dry. This bottle, in particular, was a perfectly balanced dry wine with just enough fruity aroma and flavor to differentiate itself as a rosé, but not so much to thrust it into sweet territory. If you like your wine on the dry side (this is very dry, for a pink wine), get tired of the same old Chardonnays and pinot grigios but don't want the heaviness of a red, you'll find this bottle pleasing. It'll be in heavy rotation for us this summer.
Best: Whispering Angel, Château d'Esclans ($31): You really don't need to spend this much on a rosé. But once you taste the Angel (which describes itself on its Facebook page as "more than a wine ... a life experience"), you'll be willing to spend it on this pale salmon-pink Provençal beauty, with a strawberry aroma, a mineral palate and a surprisingly full body.