Of the many styles of wine found on store shelves, one commonly misunderstood varietal is Rosé. Every summer, newspapers, magazines and blog posts tout the arrival of another vintage, but how much do you know about this pink wine?
One unique characteristic about Rosé is that it often appeals to both red and white wine drinkers. A bottle of Rosé is the perfect choice to bring to your next summer dinner party, especially if you don’t know if your host prefers red or white.
But if your host has never tried Rosé before, be prepared to answer a few questions. Share your knowledge about this summery, crisp wine, and they’ll be sure to pop the bottle sooner rather than later (and hopefully share with guests).
Read on to learn a few of the myths about this wine:
1. Myth: All Rosé wines are sweet
Rosé is crafted in numerous regions, many of which stipulate that the wines have a maximum level of residual sugar (RS in wine lingo.) In Provence, for example, it is a low 0.3-0.4 percent (3-4 grams per litre).
In Sonoma and Napa regions, rosé wines on offer are often quite dry.
Yes, you can find sweeter styles, such as Portugal’s Mateus. In general, Rosés from the New World will be sweeter than Old World versions.
2. Myth: Rosé first became popular in the ‘70s when California created blush wines
The Greeks were making pale wines from red grapes over 2,000 years ago. They didn’t have the modern equipment winemakers have today. Archaeologists conclude the grapes were crushed immediately after harvest, and the maceration time was probably very short.
Rosés from Southern France were highly prized and exported throughout the Ancient World.
The Romans loved pink wine, too. They considered darker wines to be for the peasants and soldiers who needed the extra nutrients in the grape skins!
3. Myth: You can only enjoy Rosé in the summer
Rosé is perfect for warm summer days and nights. The soft aromas of ripe juicy berries, soft stone fruits and a touch of tropical fruit or citrus are just the ticket for picnic or poolside.
But these very same qualities, along with the refreshing acidity you find in many Rosés, mean you can enjoy them all year round. Your Thanksgiving table, laden with a dizzying array of tastes and textures, is terrific partner for a dry Rosé. And this varietal makes for the perfect aperitif wine all year long.
4. Myth: Rosé is a cheap wine
As with other styles of wine, there is a vast price range to choose from for Rosé. For imported wines and quality small case production estate offerings, you are looking at $25-30 for a special bottle that shows its terroir.
5. Myth: Rosé doesn’t pair well with food
If you’ve been to the South of France, you know that Rose is the wine of choice at many bistro tables.
Drier style Rosé has a vibrant freshness and thirst quenching acidity, making it the perfect selection for a wide range of foods. From seafood, shellfish or salads all the way to pork, duck, red sauce pastas and barbecue, Rosé pairs well with many dishes.
6 Myth: Rosé cannot be aged
Every summer, a new vintage of Rosé hits the shelves and most of those will be at their peak over the next 12 months.
There are a few exceptions: Sparkling rosé will age just as well as its white counterparts. Wines from certain grape varietals, such as Mourvedre (from Bandol in Provence), Tempranillo (Rioja, Spain) or blends of Grenache, Cinsault and Carignan (Rhone Valley, Tavel and Languedoc in France) may develop softer fruit characters if properly cellared for a short period.
7. Myth: Good Rosé is hard to find
Rosé is gaining in popularity every year, so finding one (or many!) that suit your palate should not be a problem.
As with other wines, you may want to strike up a friendship with that nice person at your local wine shop or purchase through many of the online retailers, especially if you’re looking for something from the Old World.
Tasting rooms are usually open to pouring a rosé when you first arrive. Ask if they have one available to try, because they are not always part of the official tasting flight.
8. Myth: Rosé is just watered-down red wine
Rosés are produced using red grape varieties. Remember, the juice inside the grape berries is clear — the skins are the part of the grape that impart the color. The juice and skins macerate (mingle together) for a very short period — up to three or four hours is common — just long enough to extract some of the color and character of the skins. The juice is then separated from the skins and seeds, then fermented into wine. This process is known as “direct press.”
Rosé may also be made as a by-product of red wines. This process is called saignée (French for bleed). The grapes are crushed and during the maceration process, the winemaker will take away or bleed off some of the liquid. This paler juice will then be made into a Rosé and the remainder into a red.
It’s often thought that Rosé is created by mixing white and red wine. In most countries this is strictly forbidden under law, except for Champagne. This is the only appellation that allows such blending and proves the theory that the only sure thing about French wine rules is there is always an exception!
9. Myth: Pink wine is too feminine
When I worked in a tasting room in Washington State several years ago, we had a wonderful, award-winning Rosé of Sangiovese.
One afternoon, a group of men, in full Harley Davidson biker gear, approached the tasting bar. Guess what they wanted to try?
They left with two cases of Rosé strapped to the back of their bikes.
About the author: Hilarie Larson is a Certified Specialist of Wine, French Wine Scholar and Wine Educator who loves to write and teach about wine in all its many facets. She received the “2013 Emerging Writer Scholarship Award” from the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association. Visit Northwinds Wine Consulting to learn more about bringing the enjoyment of wine to your private or corporate event.