Guide to Rosé Wine

Karen Frazier
Rosé wine at beach picnic

Rosé wines, also called blush or pink wines, are neither red nor white wines. Instead, they sit between the two with a lovely light to deep pink color and light, summery flavors. These delicious wines make perfect picnic wines with their light flavors and often surprising complexity. So whether you pick up a rosé wine from Spain, a blush wine from California, or a sparkling Rosé from France's Champagne region, there's a rosé to suit the palate of every wine lover.

How Rosé Wine Is Made

There's more than one method to make a rosé wine, and each affects the flavors and character of the wine differently. Rosé wines are typically made from red wine grapes, or in some cases, from a blend of red and white wine grapes.

Direct Press Method

Light-pink rosé wines are sometimes made via pressing. In this method, the red wine grapes are pressed with the skins on. The result is a light pink juice that is then fermented into wine. The minimal contact with the skin during pressing is what creates the subtle pink tint to these rosé wines, which tend to be lighter in flavor than wines made from maceration or saignée methods.

Maceration Method

The skins of red wine grapes provide the colors for red wines and rosés. In red wine making, the skin is left in contact with the juice for long periods throughout the fermentation process. In a rosé wine, the skins may only be in contact with the juice for a few hours to a few days before the fermentation begins. The longer the skins are in contact with the juice, the darker color the rosé will be, and the more intense the flavoring. After the set period, the juice is removed from the skin and fermented.

Saignée Method

Saignée (pronounced sohn-yay) means "bleeding", and this describes how the wine grapes are processed to make this type of a rosé. With the saignée method, some of the juice of a red wine is removed from the full batch while it is still in contact with the red wine skins in order to make the remaining red wine in the batch more deeply concentrated. The juice that is bled off, usually after just a few hours (about 2 hours to 2 days) of contact with the skin, is then fermented into a separate rosé wine that is much lighter in color than the red will be, while still retaining the character of the red wine. The result is a rich and often bold rosé as well as a highly concentrated and deeply colored red wine. Saignée method rosés tend to be closer in character to their red counterparts than rosé wines produced by other methods.

Blending

Blending is exactly what it sounds like: a little red wine is added to a little white wine until the desired effect is achieved. In France, this is prohibited by law in any of the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) wines except in Champagne, where blending is used as the main method to create rosé Champagnes. In other wine regions and countries, blending is more common. The results of the blending method can vary from light pink to deep pink and from light flavors to deep flavors depending on the proportion of red to white wine used.

Flavors and Characteristics of Rosé Wine

There is no "typical" rosé flavor or characteristic. Rosé wines can be as varied in flavors and qualities as any other red or white wine. General characteristics include the following.

Flavors and Aromas

Lighter rosés may have flavors and aromas of strawberries and melon, while bolder rosés may have characteristics such as cherries or dark red fruits.

Tannins

In general, rosé wines tend to have few tannins because the contact with tannic wine skins and stems is limited. Therefore, even dry rosés will thus taste sweeter than their red counterparts.

Rosé Wine Flavours and Characteristics

When and How to Drink Rosé Wine

Rosé is at its best in the spring, summer, and early autumn when the weather is warm and fare tends to be lighter.

  • Serve a rosé wine lightly chilled at about 48 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit for best enjoyment.
  • Serve lighter rosé wines on the cooler side and heartier rosés a closer to the warmer end of the spectrum.
  • Of course there's no rule that says you can't enjoy a rosé in cooler weather, so if it's the dead of winter and you want a glass of rosé, consider one of the deeper rosés made via the saignée method or try a delicious rosé Champagne or sparkling wine and serve it chilled at between about 48 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Rosé wine in ice bucket

8 Common Rosé Types

Some red wine grapes are more commonly used in rosé wines.

1. Grenache Rosé

In red wines, the Grenache (called Garnacha in Spain) grape is smoky and spicy with nice red fruits. In a rosé wine, Grenache presents the softest version of this.

  • You'll find fruity flavors and aromas of strawberry combined with a hint of smoke, and white pepper.
  • Zippy acidity keeps it refreshing and light.
  • The rosé wine made from Grenache tends to be a deep pink color.
  • Serve a Grenache rosé with a charcuterie platter, Salade Niçoise, sushi, or a dark fleshed fish such as ahi, salmon, shrimp, or trout.

2. Zinfandel Rosé

Zinfandel, called Primitivo in Italy, is a bold, high alcohol, jammy spicy red wine that is commonly used to make both powerful reds and subtler rosés.

  • You'll often find Zinfandel rosé called white Zinfandel.
  • This wine is often fruity and sweeter than other rosés; it may contain as much as 5 grams of residual sugar, making it "off-dry".
  • Some of the red wine's spice makes it into the rosé, and the sweet fruitiness balances heavier spices.
  • It's great with light, spicy fare, such as Szechuan or Tahi food or carbonara pasta.
  • The color tends to be a medium-pink, although it may be darker or lighter depending on time in contact with the skins.

3. Malbec Rosé

The Argentinian powerhouse grape, Malbec, takes its powerful flavor profiles and softens them into beautiful, bold rosé wines.

  • The color is usually a deep pink with a nearly violet tint.
  • You may find blends of Malbec and Torrontés, creating a uniquely aromatic rosé.
  • Style is dry with flavors of berries.
  • Serve with tuna, salads, charcuterie, cheese, and light but spicy Italian fare such as scampi.

4. Tempranillo/Rioja Rosado

Rosado, the Spanish term for a rosé (rosado means pink), is often made from one of Spain's premier wines, Rioja, which is made from the Tempranillo grape.

  • The wine is usually pale to medium pink.
  • Flavors include hints of spice and herbs with melons and berries.
  • The style tends to be dry and slightly floral.
  • Pair with a chilled spicy soup such as a gazpacho, Caprese salad, grilled prawns, salmon, or tapas.

5. Rosé of Bordeaux Varietals

Red grapes used in Bordeaux varietals include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Carménère.

  • Rosés made with these grapes may contain one, a few, or a blend of all of the various grapes to create a complex and delicious rosé.
  • The style tends to be dry but well-rounded and balanced.
  • Citrus and berry flavors are primary in this wine.
  • The color tends to be a lovely medium rose.
  • Pair with tapenade, goat cheese, frittata, or grilled chicken.

6. Pinot Noir Rosé

Pinot Noir makes lovely rosé wines with soft berry flavors.

  • Mineral and berry flavors rise to the fore in Pinot Noir rosés, and the wines also have nice acidity.
  • These wines are dry and slightly fruity.
  • The color is a medium blush.
  • Salmon pairs incredibly well with Pinot Noir rosé because the acidity in the wine balances the fattiness of the salmon. It's also good with pasta with a mushroom cream sauce or trout.

7. Tavel/Rhône

Tavel is a French appellation in the Rhône known for its rosé wines.

  • Grapes used include Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvedre, and Syrah.
  • The style is dry, rich, and surprisingly hearty for a rosé.
  • Color is a red-tinted pink.
  • Serve with grilled red meats, duck, and dark meat chicken.

8. Rosé From Provence

Provence produces France's best known rosé wines.

  • Grapes include Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvedre, Syrah, and Rolle.
  • The wines are fruity but dry.
  • Color is a light pink.
  • Flavors of berries, citrus, and herbs predominate.
  • Serve with bouillabaisse, mussels, steamer clams, or a panzanella.
Rosé wine in lavender field in Provence

9. Sparkling Rosé/Rosé Champagne

If you like your Champagne on the pink side, then you'll love Rosé Champagnes and sparkling wines. These are blends of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and the result is a crisp, complex Champagne that many people prefer to the white versions of bubbly.

10 Tasty Rosés to Try

There are many great rosé wines from around the world, but these are among the best in different categories.

1. Best Budget Rosé - Baron De Ley Rioja Rosado

Baron De Ley Rioja Rosado only costs around $11 per bottle, but it's a bright and lively Spanish rosado.

2. Best Celebrity Rosé - Miraval Rosé

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie jointly own the estate where the Miraval Rosé is produced, and it's a Provençal combination of Cinsault, Grenache, Rolle, and Syrah. Wine Enthusiast liked the 2017 Miraval rosé, awarding it 91 points for its strawberry, caramel, and spice. Cost is about $25 per bottle.

3. Best Obscure Grape Rosé - Graci Etna Rosato

For about $20 a bottle, you can enjoy the Graci Etna Rosato (rosato is Italian for rosé), made from the Nerello Mascalese red wine grape grown in Etna. It's a well-balanced fruity dry wine with nice acidity.

4. Best California Rosé - Arnot Roberts Rosé

The nearly orange-colored Arnot Roberts Rosé from Lake County on California's North Coast is a fruity and rich rose with flavors of tart strawberries and nice acidity on the finish. It's about $30.

5. Best Dry Rosé - Chateau Simone Palette Rosé

Another rosé from Provence, the Chateau Simone Palette Rosé is a dry, crisp blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Syrah, Castet Manosquin, Carignan, and Muscat. It costs around $50 per bottle.

6. Best Rosé Under $30 - Chateau La Rame Rosé

Thirty dollars can get you a lot in a rosé, and the Chateau La Rame rosé from Bordeaux, France is a crisp, dry rosé made from Bordeaux varietal grapes that costs around $20.

7. Best Rosé Splurge - Krug Brut Rosé NV

Krug Brut Rosé non-vintage Champagne isn't cheap, but dang is it good. The prestige Champagne negociant from France is known for their quality, delicious Champagnes that don't taste like any other you've tried. The brut rosé will set you back around $300 per bottle, so it's not a party Champagne, but it may be perfect for a special occasion.

8. Best Reasonable Rosé Bubbly - Diebolt-Vallois Brut Rosé NV

If $50 seems more in your wheelhouse for a bottle of Champagne, then the Diebolt-Vallois NV Brut Rosé is an excellent choice. Wine Spectator likes it, awarding it 93 points, making this a great value for a sparkling rosé.

9. Best Critic's Choice Rosé - Solminer Linus Rosé

Wine Enthusiast really likes this rosé, placing the 2018 vintage among the top rated rosés and awarding it 91 points. The Santa Ynez Valley Solminer Linus rosé is a single-vineyard rosé of Grenache with a little Syrah (8 percent) blended in. It's about $30 per bottle.

10. Best Rosé in a Can - AVA Grace Vineyards Rosé

Canned wine is growing in market share, and you can find some decent ones. Vinepair lists the AVA Grace Vineyards Rosé as its top rosé. It's a delicate fruity and floral rose that will set you back about $22 for four cans (the equivalent of a 750 mL bottle). Find a retailer near you.

Rewarding Rosé

Rosé wine is light, delicious, and often quite affordable. With the sheer variety available, you're sure to find one of the world's rosés to please your palate.

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Guide to Rosé Wine