A lot of people mistakenly believe that rose wine is sweet, girly, and low-quality. It's this sugary thing you find listed on that laminated table tent next to the Robert Mondavi Woodbridge Wines for $4.00 a glass. And how could it range from the color of cotton candy to candied cherries, and NOT be sweet?? Here's all you need to know---and fall in love with this extraordinary wine that feels like a cold white, but tastes like a red!
1. First, PLEASE do not think that White ("pink") Zinfandel represents ALL roses!!! While this is a sweeter style of wine, which some find wickedly yummy, it is really the anti-christ to all the other global rosés. White Zin, often known as "Blush", is most definitely the mass-produced "fruit bomb" out of a world of other brilliant pink wines that actually have very high merit and distinction ....and are most often very DRY!
2. Rosés are made by crushing red grapes (the pulp and juice inside is white, even inside a red grape) and then removing the skins only after a small amount of red ink has seeped into the juice. Therefore, you can make rosé from ANY red grape.
3. Do not let the color fool you! Even dark red rosé may be totally dry (i.e., not fruity.)
4. But, do not ignore the color! There is a correlation between flavor adjectives and the color: a light salmon pink usually will taste more of raspberry/strawberry/watermelon/lavender wisps, while dark red rosés do tend to have flavor profiles of cherry/cranberry/lingonberry/pomegranate splashes. At the end of the day, though, the biggest thing to remember is that wine can change literally through EACH sip; it can start with a short burst of fruit, then finish totally tart/dry, as it goes from the tip of your tongue to the back of your throat. We call this "fruit forward, but with a dry finish" (a VERY impressive comment to make at your next cocktail party!)
5. Some of the most famous rosés come from the south of France…but there are major differences among the southeast sub-regions:
a. From Bandol: rosés are typically made from Mourvedre grape, and they usually have a pulpy, meaty, rich, weighty, creamy texture that is super-savory with equally strong flavors of herbs, leaves, mulch, & tea along with mixed undertones of dried BLACK/PURPLE berry fruit.
b. From Tavel: rosés are dark, and start off super fruity for a big hot second (big up-front flavors of cherry, watermelon, & maraschino), but then completely changes and finishes tart & dry
c. From Provence: almost always light-pink salmon color, with a plummy, powdery, richer texture of melon nectar (and sometimes a 'pixie dust' feel similar to finely crushed Pez.) Classic tart raspberry & strawberry, lemon, & rose petal flavors derive most often from the Grenache grape, or sometimes another lead grape like Cinsault or Syrah. Most Provence Pinks are blends, and multi-grapes provide a complexity of multi-flavors.
6. Rosés are one of the most food friendly wines in the world; because they have the flavor of red wine, but the acid pucker & chilled temperature of whites, and lighter tannic "grip" or "muscle" (because removing the skins removes the source of the ink and most of the tannins), they can be matched with everything from salads with vinaigrette, to BBQ, salami, sausages, and steak tartare!
7. If you're a Dude, don't be afraid to order a rosé in a restaurant; it is essentially a red wine, after all! (SEE #2)
8. If you DO prefer a fruitier or sweeter rosé, check the alcohol content. If under 11%, it will probably be relatively fruity to lightly sweet because the winemaker stopped fermentation, which would leave grape juice sugar behind (residual sugar) instead of continuing to convert it into alcohol via yeast during the fermentation process.
9. Read the back label! Often a winery will tell you if the wine is unfiltered or not; if unfiltered, that means they leave the yeast in the juice, which will give the wine a smell, flavor, and texture of bread dough or donuts/scones/biscuits (among the fruit, flower, & herb flavors.) If you prefer this "creamier, cloudier" profile, buy this wine!
10. Rosés are meant to drink young; when they are released each Spring into the marketplace, drink 'em! Or, hold them for 6 to 12 months MAX if you want to allow just a wee little bit of aging (basically, let oxygen deteriorate and diminish some of the fruit sugar over time and bring out more earthen/savory tones) and enjoy the rosé the next year. Best bet, drink roses that are no more than 3 years old…after too much time, they can lose too much fruit to the oxygen, and taste flabby or dull at some point after 3 years.
11. Don't miss pairing your rosés with any version of goat cheese, or cheeses that have fruit directly in them or mashed into the rind!
12. The words "rosé", "rosato", "Vin Gris", and "blush" all mean the same thing: pink wines! But, "Vin Gris" is typically the very quick pressing of a red grape where the tiniest bit of ink leakage causes a grey-ish ("gris") light barely-pink color, and the wine is typically super-duper tart & bone dry. Conversely, the word "blush" was developed in California, and may indicate a very fruity (possibly verging to "sweet") style. So there are some hidden messages to the wine words on the label that are there to help give you clues!