What are they? Rosés are usually made by siphoning off the juice of red grapes after a brief contact with the color-bearing grape skins. (Longer contact would turn the wine red.) Some rosés are produced by tincturing white wine with a little red wine, but the people who use this technique don't usually brag about it.

Where are they from? Most of the rosés I look for come from southern France--Provence, Tavel, Bandol, Languedoc, Roussillon. But Italy and Spain make some sensational dry rosés. So does California, though there it's a labor of love. Consumer confusion with treacly, sweet "blush" wines has discouraged many American producers.

What do you serve them with? Since dry rosés are as refreshing as chilled white wines, with the body and the spirited fruit character of light reds, they bridge a lot of gaps. In particular, young rosés are wonderful with smoky, salty, peppery flavors. They bring out the best in a dish of charcoal-grilled chicken, garlicky shrimp or peppery sausage, and there's no other wine you'd want with your ham sandwich.

What should you look for? Although they come in a range of colors and flavors, European-style dry rosés will typically have a kick of fruitiness, with a dry edge in the finish, and a lift of acidity to keep it lively. If a pink wine tastes like melted bubblegum, you've got a "white" Zinfandel, not a rosé.

2001 La Palma ($6) A bright, spicy, vivid crimson blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from Chile. Ripe and fruit-driven, with a crisp, grapefruity edge.

2000 Vega Sindoa ($7) Firm-bodied, juicy and easy to drink. A great buy, made by one of Spain's few women winemakers, from the foothills of the Pyrenees.

2000 Wolffer ($11) A New York State wine, pale salmon in color, with a delicate aromas of citrus and candied cherry. Packs more punch than its 11.5 percent alcohol level suggests.

1999 Mas de Gourgonnier ($13) A soft, juicy, Grenache-dominated blend with a big nose of ripe raspberry. Made from grapes organically grown near St.-Rémy-de-Provence.

2000 Domaine Saint Andre de Figuiere Grande Cuvee Vieilles Vignes ($15) The top rosé of three from this producer. A blend of Mourvèdre and Cinsaut from 35-year-old vines, perfumed with notes of black cherry, sappy apple and spicy black pepper.

2000 Iron Horse Rosato di Sangiovese ($15) A Rubenesque, red-wine-size rosé. Very dry, with a classic Sangiovese sweet-sour cherry character and notes of citrus.

1999 Chateau D'Aqueria Tavel ($15) From a Rhône town that traditionally turns out some of the fullest-bodied pink wines. This one is rich, velvety and a brilliant scarlet.

2000 Castello di Ama Rosato ($15) The broad, silky texture, the scarlet-highlighted salmon hue and the intriguing aromas of rose petal and crushed cherry add up to a straightforward wine that's surprisingly sophisticated.

2000 Domaine Tempier ($28) A rosé standard from the Mediterranean seashore, intensely flavored and muscular, with an avid following both here and there.

1999 Sanford Pinot Noir Vin Gris ($15) A remarkably buoyant, crisp wine. Displays the grape's crushed-red-cherry character, with a blossomy, spicy nose.