The rosé revolution shows every indication that it’s here to stay. Americans are happily drinking more rosé than any other country (except France, whose own rosé obsession has displaced regional white wine sales). As the wine world’s enticing chameleon, rosé comes in a dizzying array of styles and colors, from light-bodied and pale pink to rich, robust, and deeply pigmented, from still to sparkling, and from bone-dry to stereotypically sweet. Fortunately, the sweet drink stereotype that has had consumers side-stepping the rosé category for decades is finally being overcome by the production of superior dry rosé, particularly from Provence. Whether it's rosé (France), rosato (Italy), rosado (Spain), or Tavel (Rhône Valley), each of these region-specific wine terms points unashamedly to pink wine.
Color and character
Rosé wines are essentially made from red wine grapes in summer suits. Most rosés are made solely from red grape varieties in a white wine style, with limited exposure to the grape’s skin to keep the pink-hued color present in the final wine. As maceration (the actual contact between the fermenting juice and the grape skins) time increases, so does the wine’s overall color profile. Keep in mind that a wine’s color pigments are derived from the grape’s skin. Much as red, green, or black table grapes are all a juicy greenish color sans skins, so a wine is considerably lighter in color pigments if the contact with the grape skin is limited or nonexistent (as in white wine making). However, some rosé producers blend red and white wine together to find their perfect pink. During a brief encounter with grape skins, the must (juice) takes on more subtle color variations; however, the longer the contact time, the more vibrant the pink color becomes. Shades of pink are also significantly influenced by the types of grapes used for the specific rosé wine. Typically, the thicker the grapes’ skin, the more vibrant color pigments they can offer a vat of must.
Grapes that reign pink
The grapes you are most likely to find in a bottle of rosé are syrah, grenache, cinsault, mourvèdre, merlot, malbec, zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, tempranillo, and sangiovese. These key grape varieties may be found solo or in a synergistic blend, with many regional rosés built on the most popular red grape varieties for a given growing zone. For example, many of Italy’s rosatos are derived from the popular Tuscan grape sangiovese. Likewise, Spain’s rosados find firm footing with the high-profile tempranillo or garnacha grapes coming out of the Rioja region.
Rosé wine flavors and more
Most rosé ranges from light to medium-bodied with medium to high acid profiles and low levels of tannin (as skins, seeds, and stems don’t linger long in the fermenting must). Not surprisingly, the fruit flavors lean heavily into strawberry, cherry, and raspberry along with significant citrus and tropical fruit vibes showing up on a regular basis. Ranging from bone dry to off-dry in style, the vast majority of today’s rosé bottles present a decidedly dry, crisp style.
While often enjoyed as an engaging aperitif, rosés possess an uncanny ability to partner with an impressive range of flavors and fare. From performing dutifully as the perfect “picnic wine” to sharing the spotlight with seasonal salads, burgers, brats, barbecue or charcuterie, seafood, pork, poultry, and vegetables, rosé is easily paired with many foods.
Drink pink: A dozen regional rosé recommendations
Keep in mind that rosé is not meant to age, so scout for the most recent vintages on your merchant shelves. Fresh, friendly, and flavorful, rosé also shows best when well chilled. Bottles are ordered according to price.
Skouras “Zoe” Rosé 2017 ($13). This is one of those wines that is like a vacation in a bottle. Never been to Greece? No problem! The ripe cherry and floral notes bring you face to face with two top Peloponnese wine growing zones: Corinthia and Mantinia (an appellation in southern Greece) and two mission-critical grapes: agiorgitiko (the most widely planted red grape in Greece) and moscofilero (an intensely aromatic white wine grape that sports some pretty pink skins). The sum total is an easygoing, wallet-friendly summer sensation that partners well with a variety of seasonal fare.
Charles & Charles Rosé 2017 ($14). Always approachable, engaging and fun, the Charles & Charles rosé sources fruit from high-altitude vineyards in Washington’s Columbia Valley, which helps to maintain resilient acidity and the intense purity of the fruit. This syrah-leaning blend highlights forward fruit, a touch of floral and a notable spice component, with a rounder mid-palate and a lively finish.
Vidal Fleury Côtes du Rhône Rosé 2017 ($15). Showcasing a blend of the Rhône’s most celebrated red wine grapes with 50 percent cinsault, 30 percent syrah and 20 percent grenache, Vidal Fleury comes from the Rhône’s oldest continuously operating producer, which was established in 1781. Searching for a rosé to celebrate any patriotic holiday? Meet your match. Thomas Jefferson visited the winery in 1787 and proclaimed the wines “justly celebrated.” We couldn’t agree more!
Bodegas Muga Rosado 2017 ($16). This Spanish rosado is made with a traditional blend of 60 percent garnacha, 30 percent viura and 10 percent tempranillo that has undergone a 12-hour maceration to infuse coppery color tones and increase phenolics. The tasty result is a synergy that spotlights intense strawberry and stone fruit character alongside a fun, fresh acidity.
Isabel Mondavi Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($18). Leave it to California to shake up the rosé world with cabernet sauvignon-based rosé! Given the grape(s), there’s also a decent dose of barbera in the blend, and you can expect a bit more intensity of expression in the glass. A thoughtful fusion of cranberry meets apple and earth, with a fuller body and gorgeous color, Isabel rosé promises some serious sunshine-in-a-glass.
Minuty M Rosé 2017 ($20). Classic Côtes de Provence, this hand-picked, grenache-based rosé comes packed with a heady mix of citrus and peach on the nose, and lively acidity that delivers a crisp, clean finish. Look for the limited-edition bottles with American artist Ashley Mary’s spirited reflections of St. Tropez mapping the traditionally shaped Provençal bottle.
Julia’s Dazzle Rosé 2017 ($20). From Washington’s Horse Heaven Hills, Julia’s Dazzle is made with well-ripened pinot gris grapes to reveal a rosé that is both rare and distinguished. Completely dry, while showing forward fruit and understated elegance, this single-vineyard wine spotlights zesty acidity and a crisp, clean finish.
Chateau d’Aqueria Tavel Rosé 2017 ($22). A sun-kissed ambassador from the southern Rhône, this classic fuller-bodied Tavel leans heavily into a deliciously dry, grenache-based blend. Expect a touch of spice to pursue red berry flavors in a rich, round texture (thanks to six months on lees) and persistent finish. Outstanding with chèvre, cassoulet, and bouillabaisse.
Château de Berne “Inspiration” Côtes de Provence 2017 ($22). This wine is quintessential Provence. It is made with grapes grown on sunny hillsides overlooking fields of lavender by day and generous diurnal temperature changes by night, promising to keep acidity levels lively. This elegant bottle of rosé is the perfect wine to fill your glass as summer sizzles on. Pale pink and driven by juicy red fruit character, ‘Inspiration’ highlights grenache, cinsault, and syrah as key contributors and welcomes a flinty minerality on the finish.
Pascal Jolivet Sancerre Rosé 2017 ($23). Situated just two hours south of Paris by car, Sancerre clings to the banks of the Loire River and embraces the tiny temperate microclimates that fuel a variety of vineyards. Built on 100 percent pinot noir via a mix of direct press and saignée while utilizing native yeast, expect this pale salmon-colored rosé to bring some serious strawberry and ripe peach to the glass. Mineral-driven, with vibrant food-friendly acidity — this is a rosé that welcomes both summer and seafood.
Murrieta’s Well Livermore Valley Rosé 2017 ($24). A delicious New World-style rosé with robust citrus flavors and full-throttle color components, Murrieta’s Well shows remarkable style, balance and integrity of fruit and finish.
Laurent-Perrier Brut Rosé ($80). If you are going for rosé and bubbles in an elegant Champagne format, then Laurent-Perrier’s 100 percent pinot noir (with fruit sourced from 10 unique villages and made utilizing the traditional saignée method) is a no-brainer. With maceration times extending from 48 to 72 hours, expect vibrant hues, rich textures, and ripe raspberry, dried cherry, and orange zest to spring from the flute. This bottle of bubbly is well integrated with classic toasty notes, zippy acidity, and an enduring elegance on the dry, engaging finish. As if you needed an excuse to fill your flute with rosé, here are 20 reasons why you should drink a glass of wine every day.