Culinary Arts

Learn About Rosé: The Essential Guide to Rosé Wine

Written by MasterClass

Apr 29, 2019 • 6 min read

Thanks to its trendy millennial pink hue and recent rebrand as a day drinking staple, rosé has seen a surge in popularity in recent years. Although this pink wine has become the go-to summertime drink for social media influencers, it’s actually one of the oldest types of wines ever made.

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What Is Rosé?

Rosé is a type of wine made from red wine grapes, produced in a similar manner to red wine, but with reduced time fermenting with grape skins. This reduced skin contact gives rosé a pink hue and lighter flavor than that of red wine. Rosé is produced around the world, as it can be made from any red wine grape cultivated in any wine-growing region.

Rosé is typically a blended wine, made from a variety of different wine grapes. Rosé can also be a single varietal wine, made from one type of grape. For example, California is known for rosé wines made from 100% pinot noir grapes.

Which Grapes Make Rose?

In blended rosé wine, most of the blend comes from Grenache grapes. Other grape varietals found in rosé blends are:

How Is Rosé Wine Produced?

Rosé gets its distinct pink color through a production process known as maceration, the most common way to make pink wine. Red grapes are juiced and left to soak (macerate) with their skins for a day or two until the juice turns a subtle pink color. The grape skins are then removed and the juice continues to ferment. The wine will get darker the longer the rosé is left to macerate with the skins. This is why rosé wines can range in color from pale blush to bright pink. Rosé is not the same as a blush wine, which is a combination of red and white wine.

Where Is Rosé Made?

The epicenter of rosé production is Provence, France, where the majority of world’s rosé is produced. Provençal rosé is known for its dry and delicate taste and light orange-tinted pink color. Rosé made in Provence is typically made from Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvedre, and Syrah grapes. Procençal rosé is perceived to be a premium rosé and commands a higher price.

To be sure your wine was made in Provence, look for one of these appellations (a wine’s place of origin) printed on the bottle's neck:

  • Côtes de Provence
  • Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence
  • Bandol
  • Cassis
  • Coteaux Varois

Rosé production is not limited to Provence and can be made all over the world, from California to Italy to Spain. French, Spanish, and Italian rosés, along with other wines made in Europe, are called Old World, while rosé made in California, Australia, Argentina, or anywhere outside of Europe are called New World.

What Does Rosé Taste Like?

Rosé resembles the flavor profile of a light red wine, but with brighter and crisper tasting notes.

Frequent descriptors of rosé wine flavor include:

  • Red fruits (strawberry, cherry, raspberry)
  • Flowers
  • Citrus
  • Melon
  • Celery

What’s the Difference Between Sweet Rosé and Dry Rosé?

Rosé wines can be either sweet or dry, but tend to err on the dry side overall. Rosé produced in the Old World are typically bone dry. Rosé produced in the New World are often sweeter and have a more pronounced fruit flavor, which is due to variations in climate and production methods. Of course, there are exceptions where some New World wine makers mimic the style and methods of Old World producers.

  • Sweet rosé come from New World producers. Sweet rosé pairs well with savory foods. The most common sweet rosé wines are:
    • White Zinfandel
    • White Merlot
    • Pink Moscato
  • Dry rosé wines have a low sugar content but are high in tannins, the element that contributes to the dryness, astringency, and bitterness of a wine. Dry rosé wines are usually comprised of the following grape varietals:
    • Grenache
    • Sangiovese
    • Syrah
    • Mourvèdre
    • Carignan
    • Cinsault
    • Pinot Noir

10 Popular Styles of Rose

Rosé wine blends are made from a combination of different grape varietals. Some rosé wines lean more heavily on specific grapes, which create subdivisions, or different “types” or “styles,” of rosé. Each type of rosé wine has a slightly different flavor profile depending on the grapes used.

  • Sangiovese rosé is generally an Italian wine, and is fruity but dry. Notes of fresh strawberries, green melon, and roses hit the palate with an acidic finish.
  • Tempranillo rosé is often a Spanish variety and is savory, dry, and has a fruity, yet meaty flavor profile.
  • Syrah rosé is a bold, dry wine with notes of olive and cherry. It does not need to be served as cold as most rosé wines.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon rosé is savory, dry, and tastes much more like red wine than most other rosé wines. It is more acidic than regular cabernet sauvignon with notes of bell pepper, black currant, and spice.
  • White Zinfandel is a type of sweet rosé with moderately high acidity levels. Flavor notes of white zinfandel are lemon, melon, and strawberry.
  • Tavel rosé is robust, savory, rich, and very dry. Tavel has distinct fruit notes, but with an earthier and nuttier twist.
  • Provence rosé is the most versatile and classic of rosé wines. This fruity and light wine pairs well with any cuisine and has notes of strawberry and rose petal.
  • Mourvèdre rosé is a full-bodied rosé with initial floral notes that transform on the palate into a rich cherry, smoky, and meaty flavor.
  • Pinot Noir rosé is a delicate and crisp rosé with notes of apple, strawberry, and melon. Learn about the pinot noir grape and wine here.
  • Rosé Champagne, or sparkling rosé, is Champagne blended with red wine. Rosé Champagne is stronger and more powerful in flavor than traditional Champagne. Champagne is the only region where it is legal to blend white and red wines together to create rosé. Learn more about Champagne wines here.

What Is the Right Temperature to Serve Rosé Wine?

Rosé should always be chilled and served at approximately 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Place rosé directly into the refrigerator after purchasing it, and chill for at least several hours before serving (30 minutes in the freezer will work in a pinch). Most sommeliers discourage the addition of ice cubes to any wine, since ice cubes will dilute and change the flavor of the wine as they melt.

What Glassware Is Rosé Served In?

The two most common wine glasses for serving rosé are a stemmed glass with a short bowl and slight taper or a stemmed glass with a short bowl and a slightly flared lip. If you have neither, a white wine glass will do.

Do You Need to Decant Rosé Wine?

You don’t need to decant rosé, but it doesn’t hurt either. Decanting is the process of pouring the contents of the wine bottle into another vessel (usually a decanter, but it can be anything you have on hand, i.e. a vase) which allows the wine to get exposed to oxygen and brings out more complex flavors in the wine.

Does Rosé Age Well?

Aging a wine means to store it in the bottle for a number of years to allow the wine to improve over time. It’s not necessarily to age rosé wine, as rosé is produced specifically for its fresh and fruity taste. A notable exception is rosé made in the Bandol region of Provence, which uses the Mourvèdre grape and is known for its ageability. Rosé wines made from Mourvèdre are high quality and can age for up to 10 years.

The Best Food Pairings for Rosé

Rosé is known for being incredibly food-friendly, because it pairs well with almost anything. The fruit flavors in rosé make it especially great for drinking with spicy foods. Rosé’s lightness pairs well it with sushi and salads. Since rosé is served cold, it has become popular with al fresco dining, including picnics and barbecues.

Sweet rosé pairs well with:

  • Barbecue meats
  • Roasts
  • Rich sauces

Dry rosé pairs well with:

  • Grilled chicken or fish
  • Vegetables
  • Salads

Learn about food and wine pairings from James Suckling here.