Rosé Wines from Unusual Grapes

In order to give the wine a lighter color, the skins are pressed off after only a short time

In order to give the wine a lighter color, the skins are pressed off after only a short time.

It’s been rosé season for, oh, about three months now, and much like the summer season, the public shows no signs of letting it go just yet. You’ll find no argument here. With so many iterations of the category — different regions, different wineries, and, of course, different grapes — there’s a multi-shaded array of pink juice to swim through. So why not step outside of the box and try some rosé made from unusual grapes?

Most rosé starts off just like red wine; red or black grapes are crushed, and the grape skins, which hold the color, are held in contact with the juice. In order to give the wine a lighter color, the skins are pressed off after only a short time, which varies based on grape variety and the desired style of wine. Therefore, rosé can theoretically be made from any red, black, or even gray-skinned grape. Contrary to popular belief, the color of the wine does not immediately translate to its flavor — plenty of light-colored rosés are intensely fruity or slightly sweet, and you’ll find dark rosés that are light, dry, and minerally.

Before the next rosé night, go exploring and find a bottle that’s made with an oddball grape. Any of the four below are sure to take your summer of rosé to the next level while making you seem like the smartest wine lover in the room.

2013 Vera Rosé, Vinho Verde, Portugal ($9.99)

Portugal is overflowing with indigenous grape varieties, many of which are rarely grown outside of the country (not to mention difficult to pronounce). While Vinho Verde is better known for bright, slightly effervescent white wines, they also make a small amount of rosé, including this lively blend of Vinhao and Rabo de Anho. It’s such a wonderful summer rosé, with just a tiny bit of spritz accompanying flavors of strawberries, grapefruit, and lemon. This bottle definitely wants to be your next picnic date.

2013 Kir-Yianni “Akakies” Rosé, Amyndeon, Greece ($14.99)

Xinomavro (zee-noh-mah-vroh) is sometimes referred to as “the Nebbiolo of Greece,” due to the intensely tannic red wines that it produces. However, it can also make deeply colored, fruity rosé wines, like this bottle made from grapes grown in northern part of the country. This vintage is quite a bit more herbaceous than in past years, with lots of green bell pepper and mint accompanying juicy strawberry and cherry flavors. It’s the perfect pairing for late summer grill nights.

2013 Štoka Teran Rosé, Kras, Slovenia ($17.99)

Most people have never tried a single wine from Slovenia, never mind a rosé, so unsurprisingly, it’s not hard to find a Slovenian rosé made from an unusual grape. In this case, the grape is teran, which also grown across the border in Italy, and typically produces deeply-colored, dense reds — though you wouldn’t guess it from tasting this rosé. A pretty pink color, the Štoka rosé springs off the palate, revealing a plethora of new flavors with each sip: strawberry, white pepper, rose, and tons of salty, savory minerality on the finish. There isn’t an occasion where this wine wouldn’t be welcome, though sipping it oceanside would be ideal.

2013 Arnot-Roberts Rosé, Lake County, California ($25.99)


Let’s face it — name any grape in the world, and someone is probably growing it in California. Yes, experimentation abounds on the West Coast, but that doesn’t mean that every grape-growing attempt is successful. Lucky for us, Arnot-Roberts doesn’t shy away from unusual grape varieties, and their rosé is made from two Portuguese grapes, the majority being touriga nacional, the grape most famously used to make port. This example is ripe and enticing on the nose, smelling of wild berries and orange blossom, with a kick of acid on the palate, giving quite a bit of grapefruit, tart orange, and bitter herbal flavors. The flavors burst forth in the best possible way, like fireworks exploding in the night.