Rosé Wine

The Ultimate Guide to Rosé Wine

Rosé is a fabulous wine any time of the year. Discover the different styles of rosé and learn how it’s made here.

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Fresh, crisp, and delicious — what’s not to love about rosé wine? Not only is rosé one of the most versatile wines out there but it’s associated with memories of warm summer days. Today, producers craft excellent wines that are complex and nuanced, not just the blank canvas of simple pink wine that many people associate with rosé. These wines are worth searching out and spending the extra money to buy. 

Our comprehensive guide to rosé wine will introduce you to the most popular styles of rosé, explain how rosé is made, and share the best bottles you should buy. Discover everything you need to know about rosé wine here. 

In This Article

The Ultimate Guide to Rosé Wine

Ultimate Guide to Rosé Wine

What Is Rosé Wine?

Rosé is a pink-colored wine made from black grapes, which are traditionally used to make red wine. It’s one of the major types of wine, along with white, red, sparkling, and fortified wines. Countries worldwide produce rosé wine, but it’s most associated with Provence, France. That’s actually why it’s called rosé wine; in French, rosé means pink. Provençal-style rosé, which makes up the majority of premium rosés, is a delicate wine with flavors of red fruits, citrus, and flowers.

How Is Rosé Wine Made? 

There are four main ways to make still and sparkling rosé wines: direct pressing, maceration, saignée, and blending. Some of these techniques are similar to white and red wine production, while others are exclusive to rosé wines. What do they have in common? Rosé wine gets its color from black grape skins. Each technique creates a different style of wine, including color, intensity, and flavors, which explains why there is such a large variety of rosé wine available today. 

Direct Pressing

The most common method for creating delicately colored rosé wines is direct pressing. This is how white wine is made, but winemakers use black instead of white grape varieties to produce rosé wines. Winemakers crush and press grapes, then immediately remove the juice from the grape skins or allow a short period of skin contact in the press. This process releases the juice inside the grapes and extracts some color and tannins from the grape skins. Winemakers are careful not to extract too much tannin or color from the grape skins to keep the pale pink color and delicate flavors that are so coveted. 

Maceration

Another way to make rosé wine is to have a short maceration period. In this method, winemakers crush black grapes, and the juice stays in contact with the skins for a short time — no more than a week — which is called maceration. This creates a deeper color and extracts more tannins from the grape skins. The longer the juice stays in contact with the skin, the darker the color will be. However, some pale Provence rosés use a short maceration period of a few hours. 

Saignée

Saignée rosé is a result of red winemaking. When winemakers want to create a bold red wine, they sometimes release a portion of the juice at the beginning of the maceration process to vinify separately as rosé wine, not red. This leaves less juice in contact with the same amount of grape skins for making red wine. This, in turn, increases the concentration, flavor, color, and tannins of the red wine. The runoff wine is used for a saignée rosé. (Saignée means “to bleed” in French, and this process is called bleeding the wine.) This style of rosé will be fruitier and have a darker pink hue. 

Blending

The final way to make rosé wine is by blending white and red wines. Although this is illegal in many places for still rosé wines, most rosé Champagnes and sparkling wines are, in fact, a blend of white and red wines. Some inexpensive rosé wines are blended, but this guide to rosé wine focuses on premium wines. 

Winemaking

No matter which technique a winemaker first uses, the next steps are similar. First, the juice is fermented to create wine. Next, the wine is clarified through racking or another clarification process. Most rosé wine usually does not have long aging potential, so it does not spend much time aging, and it’s bottled and released the year following harvest. “Rosé wines are typically crafted to be enjoyed young and fresh, often within a year or two of their vintage,” says François Matton, CEO of Minuty, a fourth-generation rosé wine estate in the heart of Provence. 

What Does Rosé Wine Taste Like?

What Does Rosé Wine Taste Like?

Rosé is a very versatile wine. It’s fantastic in warm weather — nothing says summer like a glass of crisp rosé by the pool or beach! It’s light and refreshing with high levels of acidity. Typical flavors of Provence-style rosé include red fruits, such as strawberry, raspberry, and cherry; flowers like rose petals; melon; and bright citrus notes. The finish can include earthy notes. Many rosé wines, especially those from vineyards near the coast, have a beautiful minerality and salinity. 

Rosé wines from other places can have stronger, more intense flavors, but these are the main notes in rosé wine. There are also sweet rosé dessert wines, but this guide to rosé wine focuses on dry styles. 

What Color Should Rosé Wine Be?

What Color Should Rosé Wine Be?

The most popular rosés range from pale pink to salmon. However, the color of rosé wine depends primarily on the production techniques used; it is not an indicator of quality. It’s an unfortunate misconception that deep pink rosé wines are sweet and inexpensive. While many cheap rosés are darker, there are excellent rosés with deep pink and magenta hues. For example, there are some lovely dry Spanish rosados made from Garnacha that have a beautiful magenta color, and Tavel is a high-quality French rosé wine with a dark pink color. 

That said, if you’re looking for an inexpensive bottle of rosé and are unfamiliar with the available producers, buy a pale pink one to ensure you’re getting the most popular style of rosé. 

The Different Types of Rosé Wine and Grape Varieties

While Provence put rosé wines on the map, rosé wines are made worldwide in many styles using different grape varieties. 

France

Types of Rosé Wine and Grape Varieties

France is the number one country in the world for producing and consuming rosé wines. There’s Provence, of course, which has four appellations for rosé: Coteaux d’Aix en Provence, Coteaux Varois en Provence, Côtes de Provence, and Bandol. The primary varieties are Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, and Mourvèdre. While Bandol is in Provence, it crafts a different type of rosé wine using Mourvèdre. Bandol rosés are darker, full-bodied wines with spice and meat flavors. 

The Rhône Valley produces rosé wine, including in Tavel, which is the only appellation where rosé is the only wine allowed. Here, winemakers mainly use Grenache and Cinsault but also Mourvèdre, Clairette, Picpoul, and Syrah. Bordeaux is increasing its rosé production, using Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot, as is the Loire Valley with Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. The region is noted for its dry Rosé de Loire and sweet Cabernet d’Anjou and Rosé d’Anjou. Languedoc is the largest wine-producing region in France, but it focuses on mass-produced wines. The three primary varieties in rosé Champagne are Pinot Noir, Meunier, and Chardonnay.

Spain

In Spain, rosé is called rosado, and the primary grape varieties are Garnacha (Grenache) and Tempranillo. Some regions use international varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cinsault, and Syrah. Rosados tend to be darker in hue thanks to the powerful grapes and winemaking techniques. However, in recent years, more winemakers have been crafting premium rosés. 

Italy

Italian rosé is rosato, but there are many different styles. Rosato focuses on local varieties, including Corvina, Montepulciano, Negroamaro, and Nero d’Avola. The styles of rosato change from north to south. In the cooler northern regions, rosato is more delicate and pale, and is known as Chiaro, which means “light” in English. Central Italy produces cherry pink wine, mainly with Montepulciano. On the other hand, the warm Southern regions, including Sicily, produce the most full-bodied and flavorful rosato wines. 

United States

The U.S. produces several different types of rosé wine. The most popular premium wines are Provence-style rosés, but there’s a wide range of styles. You can find rosés made from Grenache and Pinot Noir. One of the most widely produced rosés is White Zinfandel. Despite the name, White Zinfandel is a rosé wine made from the black Zinfandel grape. It’s usually sweet and very inexpensive, although some premium producers are entering this space. 

What Temperature Should Rosé Wine Be? 

Rosé wine is best served chilled between 45°F and 50°F. If served colder than that, the flavors will be muted. However, if the wine is too warm, it isn’t as refreshing. 

Can You Put Ice in Rosé Wine? 

Can You Put Ice in Rosé Wine? 

Yes! Rosé should always be enjoyed chilled. However, since rosé is a great wine to drink during summer, it can warm up quickly in hot weather. Instead of suffering through a room-temperature rosé, add an ice cube or two to cool it down. This is actually how many rosé wine producers recommend drinking rosé wine. “While oenophiles have long considered adding ice to your wine as a faux pas, at Minuty, we disagree,” says François Matton, CEO of Minuty. “It’s better to have a chilled glass that is slightly diluted than a warm glass of rosé.” 

It’s common in the South of France to serve white wine, rosé, and Champagne on ice during the hot summer months. It’s called “La Piscine,” which means swimming pool in French. “Heat does far more damage to the taste and aroma of the wines [than ice,]” Matton says. It makes wines “lose their fresh, crisp qualities and also makes for quite the unpleasant drinking experience.”

Of course, the easiest way to ensure your wine doesn’t get too hot is to pour smaller glasses and keep the bottle in an ice bucket or the refrigerator. 

How Much Does Rosé Wine Cost? 

In general, premium rosé is less expensive than premium red and white wines. This is because rosé wine doesn’t have complex winemaking techniques and does not age for a long time. A premium rosé costs around $30-40, and you can find delicious rosés for $20. There are some superb producers, notably Domaine Ott at $60 and Le Garrus at $125, with higher prices. 

The Best Rosé Wines

Our favorite producers are:

The Best Food Pairings for Rosé

Best Food Pairings for Rosé | Ultimate Guide to Rosé Wine

Rosé is an easy wine to pair. It goes very well with most summer dishes, such as fresh fish and seafood, salads, and chicken. More robust rosés can pair with complex and spicy foods, including barbecue, duck, and pizza. 

Matton says rosé, including Minuty, is “ideal for seafood, with salty oysters as a match made in heaven as well as whelks, clams, and anything on a seafood platter. Fish ceviche and sushi, California rolls, and grilled shrimp work just as well.” Other recommendations include Italian and Asian cuisines. 

Rosé Champagne

If you want to learn more about rosé Champagne and sparkling wine, head to our Champagne encyclopedia to discover how rosé Champagne is made as well as the best rosé Champagne brands. 

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