Rosé Is Not Red Wine Mixed With White Wine (Except When It Is)

Okay people, let’s talk Rosé.

First things first: you pronounce it ROSE – AY.

Second of all, just because it’s pink doesn’t mean it’s not awesome!

Pink wine has gotten a bad rap, and not undeservedly so. I grew up around those wines called “blush” that were basically gross white zinfandel. So, I get it. You’re a little put off. Totally understandable.

But now is the time to grow up and face your fears. The pink wine is delicious.

Let’s talk about what rosé is, and what it’s not.

Rosé is based on RED wine. That’s right. It’s not white wine mixed with red (except for one exception, but we’ll talk about that later.) It’s RED wine that’s been given light contact with the red grape skins. Because, after all, that’s what makes red wine, red, right? Skin contact! (The fancy word for it is maceration.) Red wine is pressed and then aged with its must – a technical way of saying skins and stems. The must is what gives red wine not only its color, but also its body, tannins, structure, and certain flavor profiles.

Rosé is just red wine that’s had very little contact with the grape skin. In some cases, the grapes and skins are only left in contact for a couple of hours before the pink juice is strained out (“bled off” – a wine phrase I find somewhat repellent) and fermented on its own.

There are lots of red grapes that go into making rosé. Grenache, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc … you name it. Some rosés are made from blends of red grapes. Cinsault and Carignan are common “blending” grapes that you see in rosé as well. Each of these grape varietals makes a subtly different tasting (and different color) rosé. The bigger, bolder grapes – your cab savs and your cab francs – are going to give you a bit of a bigger bodied and darker rosé. Your Pinot Noir based rosés will likewise be a little bit lighter in color and body. Rosés from these grapes can be dry, or sweet, depending on when the grapes are picked and how the wine is aged. It simply depends on your taste to dictate which one to drink. If you’re not sure how to figure out which rosé producers makes sweet wines and which makes dry, find a good wine store and ask. They’ll be able to lead you to the bottle perfect for your taste.

Rosé can be made just about every place that red wine can be made. So, it’s basically made everywhere. It’s classical home is France (of course). The region of Provence, in France, is the world’s largest wine region specializing in dry rosé. If you ever hear someone referencing a “Provence-style rosé,” this is the region they’re talking about. Provence is in the east of France, with the Italian border on one side and the Rhône River Valley on the west. Typically, the “Provence style” is to make light bodied, fresh, fruit and herb forward wines with a little dusky minerality that makes them perfect to pair with cheese or even a barbeque. Provence rosés are great, but I’ve also had some stunners out of Spain, Oregon and even New York. Don’t be afraid to try the unusual. You’ll be glad you did (most of the time, anyway)!

Just like rosé can basically be made anywhere, you can also drink it anytime. Summertime is perfect for rosé, but so is a winter evening if you need an aperitif. Sparkling rosé, just like sparkling wines or Champagne, is drinkable anytime, any place! Don’t let the pink color slow you down – rosé wine is approachable and appropriate for almost every occasion you can think of.

That said, these generally aren’t age-worthy wines. Rosés are made fresh and bottled young to keep them that way. You’ll want to drink a still rosé within a few months. They won’t lay down forever, which makes them great instant gratification wines. There is nothing better than having it now!

Serve rosé slightly chilled, like you would a white wine. Pair it with whatever sounds good to you. My personal preferences are to pair a dry rosé firm cheeses, prosciutto, salads, Asian food, sushi and lighter seafood dishes. Even a turkey sandwich and a glass of rosé sounds good!

So, to recap:

  1.     Rosé is not red wine mixed with white – it’s red wine that’s been pressed and given only a little contact with the red grape skin.
  2.     The French made it famous.
  3.     Pink wine is delicious, be it dry or sweet.
  4.     Don’t age it. Chill it and drink it.

That one and only time that rosé IS red wine blended with white wine? When it’s rosé champagne. (And even then, not all the time.) A lot of producers of the pink bubbles will simply add some red wine to their “assemblage,” or wine blend, before they ferment it into the sparkling wine we all know and love.

But that’s it. That’s the only time that rosé is actually white wine blended with red wine.

Now go forth and drink the pink!