Wine drinkers (and even some wine experts) dismiss pink wines as sweet, frivolous…not real wine. They’re under-appreciated because they’re misunderstood.
Blush, Rosé, White Zinfandel… What’s the difference? How are pink wines made? And if they’re not “serious,” why are they consistently among the best-selling wines in the U.S.?
What’s In A Name
Pink wines are called Rosé in France, Rosato in Italy and Rosado in Spain.
The two main categories of pink wine are:
Sweet and Fruity
Wines like Blush and White Zinfandel are fresh, easy to drink and often inexpensive. Many novice wine drinkers begin with these sweeter, less sophisticated wines. Because of the dominant fruitiness, they pair less easily with food but make great cocktails.
Like Champagne, dry rosés pair with almost anything, from fried chicken to crown roast of pork. They can also be enjoyed as a cocktail or with light fare, including snacks, appetizers, hors d’oeuvres, cold cuts and salads. They should be consumed young and well chilled.
Lighter rosés share more white wine characteristics. The darker rosés can be substituted for light red wines, such as Beaujolais or Pinot Noir.
The “King” of dry rosés is Tavel from the Côtes du Rhône region in France. Generous and deep in color with hints of tannin, Tavel rosés are predominantly made from the Grenache grape.
In the Côtes de Provence, rosés are made from grape varieties including Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Carignan. These wines pair well with Mediterranean dishes such as bouillabaisse, aioli and grilled vegetables.
In the Languedoc-Roussillon region along the French Mediterranean coast, vineyards can produce pale, salmon colored wines called Vin des Sables or Vin Gris.
Other dry rosés can be found in Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Portugal.
The classic way to make rosé is by simply removing the juice from the must (a combination of the skins, crushed grapes, stem, and seeds) early in the maceration process. The fermentation is finished without the must, stabilized for a period of time and possibly blended with other batches to get the exact right color and flavor profile.
There are two other less common methods of making rose, the Saignée method and the blending method. Saignée occurs when during the making of a batch of red wine, a small amount of the liquid is “bled” off into a different vat. The skins of the crushed red grapes are allowed contact with the juice just long enough to shade the wine pink. The blending method is literally adding a small amount of red wine into a white, generally at a ratio of 95% white to 5% red.
Because pink wines have little grape skin contact, they contain low levels of tannin. They should be consumed young and fresh, within three years of bottling.
When to Drink Pink
Most wine lovers think of blush or rosé in warm weather. But don’t forget to "drink pink" in the spring. A fruity, slightly tannic Tavel or Côte du Rhône rosé will pair well with lamb tenderloin or honey glazed ham at Easter. And anytime is the perfect time to sip rose as a cocktail
Pink wines are popular because they’re versatile, easy to drink and inexpensive. You don’t have to be a connoisseur to enjoy them as you might a tannic blockbuster red.
So, the next time you’re in the mood for fun, don’t check Wine Spectator to see what you’re supposed to like. Think pink…and enjoy wines that can be dry or sweet, sophisticated or simple.
There’s a whole world of rosés out there waiting to be explored. So what the heck are you waiting for?
Christine Carroll is a Certified Specialist of Wine. She is also a columnist for Wines and Vines Magazine in San Rafael, California, and one of the principals of Crossing Vineyards and Winery. You can contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org