Just when you thought the rules of wine tasting were as simple as red and white, life throws you a curveball: rosé wine. Being knowledgeable about types of wine has always been an area of discomfort for some people, but with the proliferation of Food Network and boards full of infographics, being an amateur sommelier was starting to become easier. Then everyone started talking specifics about rosé wine. It’s not that rosé wines haven’t been around for years, in the form of a random zinfandel or blush, but we really didn’t know what we were drinking. To help bring anyone and everyone up to date, here is an easy-to-digest five minute guide to rosé wine, and a few simple ideas for food pairing.
What is Rosé Wine?
Simply put, rosé is a pink wine that possesses some of the qualities and flavors typically associated with red wine, but lighter and fruitier in character. Rosé can be still or sparkling, and range in taste from sweet to dry. Rosé can be made with almost any variety of red wine grape, with the lighter color and flavor being achieved by certain fermentation techniques. Usually identified as pink by the consumer, the actual color can range from pale orange, to magenta, or even a bright purple.
How is Rosé Wine Made?
Kindergarten logic would state that rosé is simply red and white wine mixed together to make pink, but that is incorrect unless you are running the wine shack at the county fair. When a good rosé wine is made, the juice is allowed to stay in contact with the dark red skins for a short period of time, from a few hours to a day or so. The skins are then removed before the juice has the opportunity to take on all of the characteristics of red wine. Thus, a pink, rose-like color is achieved. Alternately, some French rosé is create through the process known as the Saignée method, where a small amount of the juice is separated early during fermentation, and reserved for rosé, while the rest remains in contact with the skins to become red wine.
What is the Difference Between Rosé and Blush Wine?
The term “blush wine” has appeared on labels in the U.S. for decades, and for all intents and purposes, is interchangeable with “rosé.” Sweet wines, such as white merlot, pink moscato, and zinfandel wines carry the blush description most often, but all three would be considered rosé, as well.
Types of Rosé Wine
Dry Rosé Wine
Smarty pants wine people will tell you that good rosé wine is always dry. If you are inclined to agree, start with pinot noir. Other dry rosés include sangiovese, syrah, and the occasional cabernet sauvignon. Some merlot rosé wines can be dry, but if it’s French, it could also be semi-sweet.
Sweet Rosé Wine
This is pretty easy to spot. Basically anything with the word “zinfandel” on the label will be sweet or semi-sweet. This includes old vine zinfandel, which can be sweet, but with more tasting notes than young vines. Other common sweet rosés include white merlot and pink moscato. If you are looking for bulk or inexpensive table wine, anything with the word “blush” on the label will most likely be sweet. Looking to get fancy? Find garnacha rosado.
Sparkling Rosé Wine a/k/a Rosé Champagne
Almost every wine region in the world produces sparkling rosé. Certain real housewives might even purport that all rosé in life should be sparkling. Your best bet is to go with the pink version of whatever white bubbly you prefer. Sparkling pink moscato is pretty common, although a brut rosé cava has much more complex flavor at a moderate price.
Rosé Wine Pairing
There’s no need to worry too much about how to serve rosé wine. Going back all the way through recorded wine history, pink wines are known to be incredibly compatible with all kinds of food. However, we have created a handy guide to rosé wine pairing, indexed by color. Simply match the color of pink in your bottle to the suggested cuisine, and you’ll surely see wine and food pairings through rosé tinted glasses.