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The top pink wines of summer 2012 (that cost less than $15)

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There are almost too many reasons to love (and drink) pink during summer. When the living is easy, wine should be, too; nothing fussy or elaborate needs to be uncorked (or more often these days, unscrewed) when it's too damned hot to do anything but lounge. And the very best part of rosé season? Finding so many fantastic bottles that cost less than a parking space in a LoDo garage -- and deliver a helluva lot more pleasure. After nearly three months of dedicated rosé consumption -- um, research -- we present our top five picks for the most wallet-friendly pinks of summer 2012.

Mas Carlot Rosé 2011 ($11): Succulent and slammable. Yep, that's pretty much the way we'd describe this gorgeous little pink, which features the blend of grenache and syrah you can expect to find in so many of the outstanding (and value-priced) rosés from the south of France. This version proffers an incredible array of summery fruit action: ripe watermelon, fresh strawberry and cherry all show up in the bouquet and on the palate. Hailing from the Languedoc, a region that knows a few things about making wines that taste like a vacation, this might be the perfect pink to drink even if you're stuck at home.

Tasca D'Almerita Regaleali Rosé NV ($11): Sicilian rosé wines in U.S. are still a bit of a rarity, which is all the more reason we felt a tingle of excitement at discovering such a lovely one. Along with nero d'avola, this sexy, succulent wine includes another grape indigenous to Sicily called nerello mascalese. Those two fleshy red varieties combine to particularly delicious result -- you'll notice an intriguing mash-up of earthy terroir and delicate floral aromatics, followed by especially refreshing citrus and berry-fueled flavors in the glass. Drink with spicy pasta all'amatriciana, cured black olives or a sopressata panino.

Herdade do Esporao Rosé "Defesa" ($10): Portuguese wines are white-hot right now. Finally it seems that folks are getting hip to the fact that this small-but-mighty country regularly turns out all kinds of delicious wine -- and we're not just talking about viñho verde. This coppery-fuchsia pink hails from the Alentejo region of eastern Portugal and is a delicate send-up of syrah and aragonês, which is a variety you'd likely recognize if it were called by its other name, tempranillo. Alluring orchard aromas of Rainier cherries and wild strawberry set the stage for juicy mouthfuls of the same, with some bright raspberry flavors, too. At $10 measly clams for a bottle, we'll take a case.

Valentin Bianchi New Age Rosé 2011 ($12): There have been a few -- okay, way more than a few -- days this summer when it was so blistering outside that we found ourselves cursing that all-but-sanctified wine tenet that scoffs at the mere suggestion of dropping a few ice cubes in a glass of wine. Then we remembered this particularly delightful rosé that was designed specifically to serve on the rocks. This medium-bodied Argentinean offering is a fifty-fifty blend of malbec and merlot that's kissed with a strawberry Jolly Rancher-like sweetness, made all the more quaffable by a burst of charmingly effervescent bubbles that'll tickle your palate as you sip. Pour the wine into a tumbler and garnish with a generous squeeze of lemon and you'll have yourself a tinto (pronounced "teen-choe") -- one of the most refreshing summertime bevvies ever invented. But be forewarned: A glass or two of these will never do; best plan on consuming these by the pitcher.

Loca Linda Malbec Rosé 2011 ($15): We spied this pink in the middle of a jam-packed wine event last weekend that was so hot, we thought for a second we had conjured up the bottle's image the way someone lost in the desert might see a mirage. That's because as long-time fans of the Loca Linda (Spanish for "crazy beautiful) torrontes and malbec -- which are not only crazy good, but come in crazy cheap liter-sized bottles for maximum porch pounding pleasure -- we suspected that their brand-spankin' new rosé offering would be just as pleasing. We were right. Full-throttled and bold, its dark berry fruit-forward style is practically begging to be paired with anything grilled or barbecued. Quaffable pink wine plus simple fare equals what summertime is all about.

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