For a long time, most wine drinkers in the US thought all pink wines were sweet and gooey—thanks to the popularity of the sweet pink-hued “white zinfandel.” Dry pink wine often was difficult to find, and there wasn’t much made in this country. One had to look to bottles from France or Spain, and even then, quality was haphazard when you could find one.
But no more. The past three or four years have seen a boom in the US of delicious dry pink wines—also known as rosé wine. Americans finally have discovered what Europeans have known for decades—good-quality rosés are wonderful on their own or paired with food and almost always are a great value. Here’s more on what makes rosé so enjoyable, plus which ones to buy…
Why Rosé Is So Enjoyable
Why rosé has become so popular…
The price. For the most part, $10 or $12 buys a top-notch rosé, though its increasing popularity means that producers are racing to make even higher-quality rosés that cost $20 to $30. But you don’t need to spend that much to buy a quality pink wine. (Savings: $120 on six bottles when you buy a $10 bottle instead of a $30 bottle.)
The style. Rosés are light and refreshing in flavor, and most are light in body, so they’re not nearly as heavy as many red wines and they lack the puckery tannins, too. Plus, they tend to be lower in alcohol, which makes them just the thing for warm weather and porch sipping. And not only should they be served chilled, but you can put an ice cube in the glass without the least pang of guilt.
The flavors. Rosés are made with red-wine grapes, so many of the subtle flavors are the same—strawberry and cherry—but also cranberry, watermelon and even a sort of red citrus.
Food friendly. Rosés pair with almost anything including hamburgers, barbecued chicken, smoked pork shoulder, grilled seafood and salad—which makes them the ideal wine for summer food.
How to Shop for Rosé
Rosé styles vary by the country they come from. Spanish wines are going to be bone dry, with not very much fruit flavor. French rosés are not quite as dry as the Spanish, and they usually don’t have a lot of fruit flavor either. Rosé from the French region of Provence is among the best in the world and often worth a splurge—in this case, all of $17 or $18 for very fine bottles. Italian rosés tend to fall somewhere between French and Spanish in dryness and fruitiness, while some US rosés are so full of strawberry flavor that they may seem sweet. But don’t worry, they’re still dry and enjoyable—that’s just your brain and taste buds playing a trick on you.
Rosés are varying shades of pink. They get their color from the skins of the red grapes they’re made from—the skins are left in the fermenting grape juice just long enough to color the wine. There is a second, much less common method, called bleeding (or saignée), in which wine is siphoned from freshly pressed red wine before it has a chance to darken.
Don’t buy old rosé. Look for vintages that are at most two years old. Rosés are not made to age and should be consumed young for freshness and flavor. The color in older vintages starts to fade, and more important, the flavor and crispness disappear.
Which Rosés to Buy?
The following seven delightful rosés cover most of the styles, and each is available for $15 or less…
The Spanish Muga Rosado ($11) is one of the best rosés in the world, always fresh and delicious, with layers of flavor one doesn’t usually taste in rosé. It’s made with the garnacha grape, which brings tart strawberry fruit flavor but also a touch of richness.Bieler Père et Fils Sabine Rosé ($10) is a traditional Provençal rosé from France at an unbeatable price. Look for tart raspberry fruit, crisp and refreshing. There is a hint of what the French call garrigue—an almost herbal aroma from the flowers and herbs growing around the vineyards.
Angels & Cowboys ($15) is worth every penny. This California pink offers complexity that is not only rare in a rosé but rare in most wines at this price. Look for crispness not often found in New World rosé and cranberry and then cherry fruit in the finish.
Charles & Charles ($10): About 10 years ago, this Washington State rosé was among the first US rosés to go into national distribution, and it has played a key role in the rosé boom. It’s a little softer than the Angels & Cowboys mentioned above but still bursting with tart watermelon fruit. There even is a hint of herbs, perhaps the Washington version of garrigue. Best yet, it’s still among the easiest rosés to find and often sold in grocery stores.
Familia Zuccardi Innovación Rosé ($10): This Argentine rosé is a Whole Foods label, but it is called Santa Julia at other retailers, and it’s almost exactly what New World rosé should taste like—crisp, with lots of tropical and strawberry fruit. Plus, its one-liter size offers one-third more than a standard bottle.Sacha Lichine Single Blend Rosé ($10): This French rosé is made by one of the most famous families in French wine. It’s made with grenache (the French version of the grape used in the Spanish rosé Muga), so it has a bit more watermelon fruit than the Muga and less crispness than the Spanish wine, but it is delightfully refreshing.
El Coto Rioja Rosado ($9): The El Coto is one of my favorite Spanish rosés, and if it’s not quite as well-done as the Muga, it’s still delicious and a tremendous value. Look for strawberry fruit plus a little earthiness and even orange peel from the tempranillo grape that’s in the blend.
Helpful Tips About Rosé Wine
Rosé wines, being neither red nor white, require a different approach to their “care and feeding.” These tips should help you enjoy rosé that much more…
Use a white-wine glass. Wineglasses, for the most part, are designed to account for the way wines smell—bigger bowls for red wines, for example, because they smell more of darker fruits and need a bigger bowl to contain the darker, deeper flavors. There are wineglasses made especially for rosé—the bowl is smaller than a white-wine glass. But you don’t need them. A white-wine glass is perfectly fine because the aromas of rosé wine are similar to those of white wine.
Drink rosé a little cooler than white wine. The fruit flavors and acidity aren’t as subdued as with something such as a chardonnay. Drinking rosé cooler won’t cover up the flavors, and it makes the wine that much more enjoyable. That translates to 40°F or 45°F versus 50°F or 55°F for whites.
Just bought a bottle of rosé and want to chill it quickly? The traditional method is a bucket, half water and half ice, which will take about 20 minutes to get the wine to the best temperature. But I prefer to put the bottle in the freezer, nestled between a few very frozen items, for 15 or 20 minutes. It’s easier and less messy.
The color of the wine—how dark or light the shade of pink—usually doesn’t affect its flavor. Rather, the color has more to do with the grapes that are used to make the wine, with cabernet sauvignon–based and merlot-based rosés darker than those made with pinot noir. Flavor, whether darker or lighter fruit, has more to do with the winemaker and where the wine is from.
Most rosés are dry, but some producers will add a little sweetness without saying so on the label. If the alcohol percentage, always listed on the label, is less than 12%, the wine may be a bit sweet.
Rosés also are called pink and blush wines, and 20 years ago those terms had slightly different meanings. Blush, for instance, usually meant wines that were sweeter, such as white zinfandel. Today, though, the terms are mostly interchangeable, and you will rarely hear blush unless it’s from someone in the wine business.