The rise of rosé: all about rosé wine

All about Rose wine by Wines With Attitude.jpg


Rosé's growing popularity

Rosé is shaking off its reputation for being too pink, too 'girly' and too sweet. New, improved rosé wines are dry, really crisp and display summer fruit flavours. Find out all about how pink wine is made, the different styles of rosé & which foods to eat with rosé. Rosé wine is no longer just for the summer. 

Rosés have had to fight off a pretty poor, long-standing reputation. Back in the 1970s and 1980s the preferred style was for fruity yet slightly sweet, dark pink-coloured rosé wines from Portugal, France - largely in the form of Rosé d'Anjou - and from the USA where medium-sweet Californian Blush or white Zinfandel still remains popular. Rosé was seen as a bit of a 'girly' drink, a reputation that it is finally beginning to shake off.

Why is rosé wine making a comeback?

Rosés are gaining in popularity year on year mainly because their general quality has been improving over the last couple of decades with generally better wine-making, residual sugar rarely added and a tendency to produce paler wines.

The new, improved rosés are dry, really crisp and display summer fruit flavours. The alcohol level and body of the wine is usually light to medium; the colour varies but a more delicate pink seems to be the preferred shade. Generally they are unoaked though not always.

Of Roses by Wines With Attitude.jpgcourse it's all a matter of personal taste but my view is that good rosé is all about fruit and finesse which is quite a difficult balancing act to achieve. Flavours vary according to the grapes used but summer fruit flavours are the norm - strawberry, raspberry, red cherries, citrus fruit and melon. In premium rosés you might also find floral, herb and mineral notes. The finesse comes from making sure that the acidity (which leaves your mouth watering) balances the sweetness of the fruit to avoid that sweeter, old-style of rosé.

In general it is true that more women than men tend to drink rosé but I'm noticing that men are turning to rosé as a summer alternative to red  and this probably has something to do with the fact that most rosé is now dry in style.

The 'Brangelina factor' may also have something to do with rosé's popularity; Brad & Angelina's ownership of a château in Provence has made frequent headlines. Plus there's the 'Instagram effect' - a chilled glass of rosé can be very photogenic.

And let's not forget that rosés also tend to be very food-friendly wines - see below for food matching tips.


How rosé is made

Black grapes for rose wine by Wines With Attitude.jpgAll rosés are made from black grapes (which have white juice; the colour is all in the skins). In fact, rosé wine was originally produced simply as a by-product of red wine production where the initial juices from the red grapes were drained off so that the red wine would be darker and more concentrated. Those paler juices were used for rosé; this method is known as Saignée, which translates as 'bled'. It is not the most commonly used method now but is popular in the USA's Napa Valley.

Even fewer rosés are made from blending red wine and white wine; some New World wines follow this method, also used for pink champagne.

Most rosés are made by the maceration method - the fermenting juice of the black grapes used for the rosé wine is left in contact with the skins for a varying degree of time, from just few hours to a few days so that the white juices pick up some of the colour, flavours and tannins from the grape skins. After the maceration the wine-making process then continues as if for crisp white wines i.e. fermentation in stainless steel tanks at cool temperatures without further contact with the skins.Chateau La Mascaronne Quat' Saisons Rosé Provence Rose wine

As they are made from black grapes, rosés have tannins although in a good rosé wine these should not be obvious but soft and integrated; the wine should not have been in contact with the skins (and pips) for long because the wines are usually made for drinking in the short term and not for keeping. Usually the grapes will have been de-stemmed before pressing so that tannins from the stalks which would be too harsh are not included.

It is actually considered more difficult to make rosé wine than to make red or white because a delicate balancing act is required to achieve the right amount of colour without losing any of the fruity characteristics and the finesse of the wine.

Where rosé is made

Rosé wines are made all over the world from all sorts of different red wine grapes though the popular ones are Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah and Tempranillo. I recently tasted an English 100% Pinot Noir rosé and a Canadian 100% Cabernet Sauvignon rosé so the possibilities are endless.

Here is a very brief summary of different styles - naturally there are many exceptions to the rule so I generalise...

The Provence region of France is largely considered to be the best source of good quality rosé wines. Provence AOP rosés are estate bottled, i.e. made and bottled by the grower under AOP regulations to guarantee a certain quality. By the way, France is the largest consumer (and producer) of rosé drinking c.20 bottles per head per year; rosé accounts for 31.5% of all wine consumed in France.

The Languedoc-Roussillon region and Spain tend towards fuller-bodied rosé wine, some of which are oak aged and most of which stand up to fairly strong-flavoured food and flavours.

I stock a rosé from Burgundy, Domaine Thibert's Coteaux Bourguignons Rosé which is quite unusual and somewhere in between the style of a Provencal and a Languedoc rosé. More medium-bodied, it is more complex than most Provencal wines and will keep longer having been partly aged in oak.

Domaine Thibert Coteaux Bourgignons Rose

Italy makes 'rosato' from the many indigenous grape varieties so the styles can vary enormously from the pale, lighter Chiaretto from Bardolino through the richer, spicy and almost red Cerasuolo from Abbruzzo to the slightly heavier, deeper-coloured rosé produced from the Aglianico grape.

The USA continues to make an off-dry or medium-dry Blush or white Zinfandel including a sparkling version. Other New World countries like Chile, Argentina and Australia are jumping on the rosé bandwagon though the style tends to be darker, fuller-bodied and full of ripe fruits and spice as Shiraz and Cabernet rosés dominate. Crisper Pinot Noir rosés are also becoming more commonplace.

Matching rose with food

Wines With Attitude Food and Wine MatchingThe Provence wines and other lighter styles match well with summer foods like salad, canapés, seafood, fish, shellfish, chicken, dried meats, feta and goats’ cheese, tomatoes, grilled vegetables and milder herbs but will also be a fantastic accompaniment to duck, pork and lamb as long as the sauces served with them are not too strongly flavoured.

The off-dry and fruitier styles cope well with spicy food such as mild curries and the fuller-bodied wines with stronger flavours like roast and grilled meats, game, garlic, stronger herbs and most barbecue foods - see my lovely lamb barbecue recipe. As a general rule, think about the local cuisine of the region of origin of your rosé. Read my blog on food and wine matching for further detail.

Rosé- bang on trend but just a summer romance?

Rosé wine has traditionally been seen as a wine for the summer but its improving quality, the variety of styles and its step up in status mean that it is increasingly being enjoyed throughout the year and not just when the sun is shining.


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Lindsay Cornelissen DipWSET is passionate about good quality wine and set up Wines With Attitude to share that passion with other wine lovers.

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