The wine world is not always red and white. In between the two is the land of rosé wine. But rosé doesn’t get nearly as much credit as it should. The reasons are that it’s subject to some confusion, misunderstandings, and false rumors. Let’s clear up with these rumors.

Rosé wine has a salmon-colored to pinkish appearance from a limited maceration time. Most styles are dry, light- to medium-bodied, high in acidity, and full of fruity aromas. You can find bold, sweet, or sparkling variations as well, though.

Winemakers use various varietals and production techniques to make rosé wines. In this article, we will discuss these techniques as well as the best pink wines.

What Is Rosé Wine Made From?

Winemakers use a wide variety of grapes to make rosé wines. The majority of them are red. Although you can find single-varietal wines, most styles are blends of two or more grapes. The most common varieties used by vintners are these:

Depending on their home country, winemakers might have other preferences. We will discuss these preferences in more detail later in this article.

How Rosé Wine Is Made

In general, rosé production follows the same steps as red or white winemaking. After harvesting and pressing the grapes, the wine undergoes fermentation, filtration, and finally makes its way into the bottle. Most pink wines don’t age in barrels, although there are exceptions.

Rumors say that rosé is just a mix of red and white wine with the purpose of combining their characteristics. And actually, some winemakers follow this approach. However, it isn’t the ideal way. High-quality pink wines are the result of other special winemaking techniques.

In total, there are four main ways of producing rosé. Each one has its pros and cons, and naturally, its fans and critics.

Limited Skin Maceration

Wine color is the outcome of a process called “maceration”, which takes place immediately after the grape pressing. The wine must sits in a container together with the grape solids (stems, seeds, and skins). These solid components contain tannins and anthocyanins that impart color to the wine. And the longer the wine stays in contact with the grape solids, the darker its color becomes.

When making rosé, vintners strictly limit the maceration. Red wines often macerate for months, but their pink cousins stay in contact with grape solids for only 6 to 48 hours.

Close Up of Crushed Red Grapes in Fermentation Container

Maceration of Red Wine Grapes

Depending on the exact maceration time, wines made with this technique can be very versatile. They range from light, salmon-colored to richly flavored, pink wines.

Direct Pressing

Direct pressing is an even more rigid technique to limit the contact of the wine must with the grape solids. Instead of allowing them to sit together for a couple of hours, the vintner separates them immediately. Only tiny fragments of the grape solids make it into the wine must and impart a tiny bit of color on it.

Wines that undergo this method are the lightest-colored in the rosé family. Typically, they are also very light-bodied, fresh, and have fruity aromas of citrus fruits, red berries, or rose blooms.

Saignée Method

The third way to produce rosé wine is the Saignée Method. The French term “saignée” means “bloodletting”, thus this technique also is called “bleeding”. In winemaking, the original purpose of this method was the concentration of red wine. During the maceration process, the vintner removes some of the wine from the container. As the ratio of wine must to solids is lower afterward, the remaining wine will become darker in color and more concentrated in flavor.

Instead of dumping the removed must, many vintners allow it to ferment into a rosé wine. This method is an effective way of making larger batches of wine. And as it lets the winemaker make two kinds of wine at once, it’s also economically conscious.

On the other hand, the Saignée Method is somewhat controversial in the wine community. Critics argue that the resulting Rosé is of lower quality because it’s just a byproduct that vintners don’t put much effort into. François Millo, president of the French Provence Wine Council (CIVP), even stated that Saignée Rosé is not true rosé.

Despite this critique, Saignée wines can be outstanding. Usually, they are on the richer side of the flavor spectrum and not as refreshing as other styles.

Blending

The blending method is the fourth way to make rosé. Blending is exactly what it sounds like: Winemakers take red wine and white wine, and simply mix them.

In many wine countries, especially in the Old World of winemaking, blending is a prohibited method. It’s considered a cheap way to make low-quality wines that violates the essential traditions of winemaking.

There is one exception, though: In the French Champagne region, blending is actually the favorite method to produce sparkling rosé wines. And Rosé Champagne is one of the best pink sparklers you can find in the world.

In the New World, wine laws are less strict, and blending is a common way to produce pink wines. Especially small wineries, that lack the means to use one of the other techniques, use this method. The resulting wines vary in quality and taste. They can range from very light to rather bold.

Where Does Rosé Come From?

Pink wines have been around for millennia. There’s evidence that they were among the very first wines recorded. Some historians think that the wine that the Ancient Greek and Romans drank was rosé. They made it by crushing and fermenting red and white grapes together. The result was a very tannic, almost undrinkable pink wine that was very different from modern-day wines.

In the 6th century, French winemakers started blending red and white wines. The result was a pinkish wine that became popular very quickly. It made its way across the Mediterranean, and later the whole world, so France was soon well known for its pink wines.

Pink Wines in the United States

While rosé has gained a significant fanbase in Europe, it didn’t play a big role in the United States until the 1970s. At this time, a new market segment was created. The reason was a technical problem: A Californian winemaker named Bob Trinchero wanted to make red Zinfandel wine. But the fermentation stuck. The yeast became dormant and stopped transforming grape sugar into alcohol. Unable to restart the fermentation process and unwilling to dump the unfinished wine, Trinchero instead started to market it aggressively.

The marketing strategy was successful. The new style, labeled as “White Zinfandel”, quickly became a hit. Sales numbered skyrocketed from 25,000 bottles in 1980 to more than 1.5 million in 1986.

Inspired by this success, many American vintners started producing “blush” wine, a light and slightly sweet pink wine. These wines were very popular among U.S. wine drinkers until the late 20th century. Since then, their market shares have slowly decreased.

Nevertheless, rosé wines still play an important role in the American wine market. Wineries in California, Oregon, Long Island, and other parts of the country have turned to more sophisticated methods of producing them. Nowadays, they offer a wide variety of styles.

Different Types of Rosé

As mentioned before, rosé wines come in different styles and with various taste profiles. They’re determined by their home regions, the varietals, and the production methods. In the following paragraphs, we will discuss the most popular styles from around the world and their taste.

Italian Rosato Wines

While Italy primarily is famous for its red wines, it also produces some excellent pink wines. Depending on the region, you can find different styles, typically labeled as Rosato. These are the most noteworthy:

Valle d’Aosta Premetta comes from Aosta Valley in northwestern Italy. It’s made from Premetta grapes that naturally are very light-pigmented and have thin skins. Even with extended maceration, they can only produce pale pink wines, but not reds. These wines have aromas of red fruits and subtle notes of cinnamon and other spices.

Sangiovese wines from the Tuscany region are rather bold but still refreshing. They have a rather high level of tannins, making them a good match even for some more sumptuous dishes. Sangiovese Rosatos are very fruit-forward and often have spicy aromas as well.

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Rosato comes from the Abruzzo region just east of Italy’s capital Rome. This wine tends to be in the darker part of the color spectrum. It’s also perceptively bolder than most other pink wines. On the other hand, it’s less tannic than Sangiovese Rosato and offers intense fruit aromas.

Negroamaro Rosé is a product of the Puglia region in the South of the country. Wines from this area are usually fuller-bodied with aromas of red berries, ripe citrus fruits, and roses.

The following Rosato wines are worth trying:

La Spinetta Il Rose di Casanova 2020

  • type: rosé, still, Vintage
  • origin: Italy, Tuscany
  • varietal: Prugnolo Gentile, Sangiovese
  • alcohol: 12.5%

Fantini Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo Rosato 2020

  • type: rosé, still, Vintage
  • origin: Italy, Abruzzo
  • varietal: Montepulciano
  • alcohol: 13.5%

Tormaresca Calafuria Rosato 2020

  • type: rosé, still, Vintage
  • origin: Italy, Puglia
  • varietal: Negroamaro
  • alcohol: 12.0%

French Rosé Wines

Being the home country of pink wines, France still produces some of the best styles. Especially three regions are well-known for making them:

The Tavel AOC in the Rhône Valley region is famous for its dry styles. The grapes to make these wines are primarily Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre. Tavel wines are deep in color, relatively strong in alcohol, and offer complex bouquets. These are a few recommended bottles of Rhône Valley wines:

Chateau D'Aqueria Tavel Rose 2019

  • type: rosé, still, Vintage
  • origin: France, Rhône Valley
  • varietal: Clairette, Cinsault, Grenache
  • alcohol: 14.5%

Prieure de Montezargues Tavel Rose 2018

  • type: rosé, still, Vintage
  • origin: France, Rhône Valley
  • varietal: Bourboulenc, Cinsault, Clairette, Grenache, Grenache Blanc, Mourvèdre, Syrah
  • alcohol: 13.0%

Domaine de la Mordoree Tavel La Dame Rousse Rose 2020

  • type: rosé, still, Vintage
  • origin: France, Rhône Valley
  • varietal: Bourboulenc, Cinsault, Clairette, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah,
  • alcohol: 14.5%

In the Loire Valley, you can find numerous good pink styles, for instance, Anjou and Touraine wines. They’re very crisp and light, with flavors of raspberries and red currant. You might also sense some herbal notes in them. While Touraine Rosés are made from Gamay grapes, a wide variety of varietals is used to produce Anjou Rosé, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec. Here are some recommendations:

Charles Joguet Chinon Rose 2020

  • type: rosé, still, Vintage
  • origin: France, Loire Valley
  • varietal: Cabernet Franc
  • alcohol: 13.5%

Gerard Boulay Sancerre Rose Chavignol Tradition 2018

  • type: rosé, still, Vintage
  • origin: France, Loire Valley
  • varietal: Pinot Noir
  • alcohol: 13.5%

Domaine des Nouelles Rose d'Anjou 2020

  • type: rosé, still, Vintage
  • origin: France, Loire Valley
  • varietal: Cabernet Franc, Grolleau
  • alcohol: 10.5%

Provence wines are considered the best of all French rosé wines. Winemakers in the Southeastern region of France have a long tradition of making them. They blend Grenache, Syrah, and Cinsault grapes to produce almost colorless wines. However, they are incredibly fresh and fruity, with crisp acidity. Bandol wines are exceptional. The primary varietal to make them is Mourvèdre grapes. And the result is bolder wine with significant tannin levels. Try these wines to get an idea of the famous Provence flavor:

La Bernarde Cotes de Provence Rose Les Hauts de Luc 2020

  • type: rosé, still, Vintage
  • origin: France, Provence
  • varietal: Cinsault, Grenache, Mourvedre, Rolle, Syrah
  • alcohol: 12.5%

Fleur de Mer Rose 2020

  • type: rosé, still, Vintage
  • origin: France, Provence
  • varietal: Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache
  • alcohol: 13.0%

Mirabeau Cotes de Provence Rose 2020

  • type: rosé, still, Vintage
  • origin: France, Provence
  • varietal: Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah
  • alcohol: 13.0%

Spanish Rosado Wines

Spanish vintners have dedicated themselves to their own style of rosé for many years. The increasing popularity of pink wines has brought a thirst for new kinds, and the Spanish have delivered. So let’s discuss the most popular styles of Spanish Rosado wine.

The region of Navarra at the French border is known for its high-end Rosado wines. The most noteworthy varietals for this type of wine are Tempranillo, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Navarra vintners often follow the Saignée Method, but nevertheless, they produce high-quality wines.

Txakoli Rosé is one of the most notable products coming out of the Basque country in Northern Spain. This dry sparkling wine is made from the domestic grape Hondarrabi Beltza. The pale pink wine offers fruity aromas as well as mineral notes.

Rioja Rosado is another high-quality style from Spain. The Rioja region is one of just two Spanish wine regions that have the highest quality classification DOCG. Just like its bold reds, its pink wines from Tempranillo and Grenache grapes are extremely good. And they are special because some of them age in oak. Commonly, this aging period lasts between six months and two years.

Here is a collection of Spanish Rosado wines worth trying:

Itxas Harri Roxa 2020

  • type: rosé, still, Vintage
  • origin: Spain, Navarra
  • varietal: Garnacha
  • alcohol: 12.5%

Txomin Etxaniz Rose 2020

  • type: rosé, still, Vintage
  • origin: Spain, Txakolina
  • varietal: Hondarrabi Beltza
  • alcohol: 11.5%

Bodegas Muga Flor de Muga Rose 2020

  • type: rosé, still, Vintage
  • origin: Spain, Rioja
  • varietal: Garnacha
  • alcohol: 13.5%

American Rosé Wines

As already mentioned, American vintners are engaged in making rosé wine too. Even though they are fairly new to the scene, it’s becoming a rapidly growing industry.

Wines from California are typical summer wines, just right for a hot day under the Californian sun. They are light, fresh, and also typically not too expensive.

In Washington State, you can find some great Grenache and Cabernet Franc wines. In addition to the typical fruity bouquet, they offer crisp acidity and subtle herbal and mineral notes. Here are two examples:

Oregon Rosé wines, especially those from Willamette Valley, are made from Pinot Noir grapes. They are rich and creamy, with refreshing acidity and citrus aromas.

Here are some recommendations:

Joel Gott Rose 2020

  • type: rosé, still, Vintage
  • origin: United States, California
  • varietal: Cinsault, Counoise, Grenache, Mourvèdre
  • alcohol: 13.5%

Chateau Ste. Michelle Rose 2020

  • type: rosé, still, Vintage
  • origin: United States, Washington State
  • varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah 
  • alcohol: 13.0%

WillaKenzie Estate Rose 2019

  • type: rosé, still, Vintage
  • origin: United States, Oregon
  • varietal: Pinot Blanc, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir
  • alcohol: 13.0%

Sparkling Rosé Wines

Finally, you can find various pink sparkling wines from all of the big wine countries. They vary in style, just like the still wines.

Here is a small selection of pink sparklers:

Many Glasses Filled With Sparkling Rosé Wine

Sparkling Rosé Wine

How to Serve Rosé Wine

Rosé is great with food, but sometimes even better on its own. Especially the light styles are great refreshments for a garden party and also make a fantastic aperitif before dinner. The right glassware and serving temperature are crucial for the best drinking experience.

What Is The Right Glass for Rosé?

Rosé glasses look a little bit like champagne flutes with a slightly wider bowl. They allow some evaporation of alcohol but hold the fruity aromas inside the glass. The rim shape leads the wine to the tip of the tongue, where the drinker can sense its sweet notes best.

If you don’t have these special glasses at hand, a small white wine glass does the job too. Sparkling wine flutes are fine as well, but you should stay away from Vintage Coupe glasses.

What Is the Right Serving Temperature for Rosé Wine?

The right serving temperature for pink wine is between 50 and 57°F (10-14°C) when you pair it with food. If you sip it on its own, a slightly lower temperature will be better, especially on a hot summer day. Aim for 46-50°F (8-10°C).

To bring the wine to the right temperature, chill it in your fridge for about 90 minutes. Make sure to take it out about half an hour before opening the bottle.

Should You Decant Rosé?

Decanting pink wines isn’t necessary in most cases. As their freshness is their crucial characteristic, decanting can actually hurt them. Better pour the wine into glasses and serve it right away.

Aged styles, for instance from Spain, might be an exception. Decanting them for 15 to 30 minutes helps them release all of their aromas. Don’t do it much longer, though, or they will get too warm.

How to Store Rosé Wine

When storing rosé wines, follow the same rules that apply for reds and whites: A cool, dark place free of temperature changes, strong smells, or constant vibrations is perfect. If the bottle has a cork, store it lying on its side. If it has a screw top, it’s okay to keep it standing upright.

Can Rosé Be Aged?

The vast majority of rosé wines have no aging potential. They are supposed to be consumed when young and fresh. So don’t store them too long.

There is one exception though: wines from the Provence, especially from the commune Bandol. These wines from Mourvèdre grapes tend to be bold and powerful with firm tannins. Aging will soften their tannins, create a more-balanced drinking experience, and make the wine much better.

Some Tavel wines might also qualify as ageworthy.

Can Rosé Go Bad?

Like most wines, pink wine can go bad if you store it too long. As a general benchmark, don’t keep it longer than two years. Particularly for young, fresh wines, that’s often the deadline. However, you shouldn’t risk ruining a bottle and better drink it soon after buying it.

Exceptions are the formerly mentioned bold styles. Some of them will keep for much longer than two years.

How Long Does Rosé Last When Open?

Typically, an open bottle lasts for three to five days. After that, it will rapidly lose its distinctive freshness. Make sure to reseal the bottle and put it into the fridge.

Which Food Goes With Rosé Wine?

Rosé is an allrounder when it comes to food pairing. It can pair with almost every dish. Of course, the specific style determines the nuances between a good and a great match.

  • Dry wines are delicious with light dishes, including seafood, pasta, grilled vegetables, and white meats like chicken. If you serve it as a refreshment, you can pair it with cured meat and cheese. Make sure to combine wines and snacks from the same region.
  • Bold styles with a delicate balance of crisp acidity and tannins can cut through richer meals as well. You can even try them with pizza or burgers.
  • Sweet wines are awesome for dessert. They complement the sweet flavors in fruity and creamy dishes or work as counterparts for sharp and salty blue cheeses.
  • Sparkling rosé is a great companion for spicy dishes, for instance, from the Asian cuisine. The combination of crisp acidity and fizzy bubbles cleanse your palate after every bite to soften their heat.

Rosé Wine Shopping Tips

Due to the wide variety of styles, finding the right pink wine for your taste can be difficult. You can get decent wines for as low as 15 USD. The best styles cost more than 100 USD per bottle.

For recommendations, scroll back up to the sections about the most noteworthy wine regions.

Final Words

Many people misunderstand rosé wine and confuse it with cheap blends of white and red wine. But it’s much more than that. With the details in this article, you know it better. Now it’s time to discover the small nuances between the different styles and find your favorite pink wine.