April 2012 – Rose

A rosé (From French: rosé, also known as rosado in Spanish-speaking countries or rosato in Italy) is a type of wine that has some of the color typical of a red wine, but only enough to turn it pink. The pink color can range from a pale orange to a vivid near-purple, depending on the grapes and wine making techniques. The name Rosé first arose in the 1980s around 1983, although it was commonly drunk before this date.

How Does a Rosé get its Color?

The majority of rosé wines are made from a red grape varietal. The varietals most often used in making a rosé wine include: Pinot Noir, Syrah, Grenache, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Sangiovese and Zinfandel. These varietals may be either used solo or in a blend. Rosé varietals are often country dependent, so a rosado from Spain will often be largely derived from the Tempranillo and Garnacha grapes, while Italy may utilize more Sangiovese for their rosatos and the U.S. would tend to lean towards Cab, Merlot and Zinfandel. Traditionally, the skins of a red grape are allowed to have brief contact with the grape juice. The shorter the contact time with the skins, the lighter the wine’s color will be. Extended time with juice and skins yields some amazing, eye catching color variations from vibrant orangey-pink to nothing less than a vivid hot pink. Sparkling rosés are traditionally made with a blend of red and white grapes, while this practice is usually limited to the sparkling category, it has popped up in production practices for some still rosé wines.

There are three major ways to produce rosé wine: skin contact, saignée and blending.

Skin contact

When rosé wine is the primary product, it is produced with the skin contact method. Black-skinned grapes are crushed and the skins are allowed to remain in contact with the juice for a short period, typically one to three days. The must is then pressed, and the skins are discarded rather than left in contact throughout fermentation (as with red wine making). The skins contain much of the astringent tannin and other compounds, thereby leaving the structure more similar to a white wine. The longer that the skins are left in contact with the juice, the more intense the color of the final wine.


Rosé wine can be produced as a by-product of red wine fermentation using a technique known as Saignée (from French bleeding). When a winemaker desires to impart more tannin and color to a red wine, some of the pink juice from the must can be removed at an early stage. The red wine remaining in the vats is intensified as a result of the bleeding, because the volume of juice in the must is reduced, and the must involved in the maceration is concentrated. The pink juice that is removed can be fermented separately to produce rosé.[3]


In other parts of the world, blending, the simple mixing of red wine to a white to impart color, is uncommon. This method is discouraged in most wine growing regions, especially in France, where it is forbidden by law, except for Champagne. Even in Champagne, several high-end producers do not use this method but rather the saignée method.

Styles of wine made from red-skinned grapes

After the Second World War, there was a fashion for medium-sweet rosés for mass-market consumption, the classic examples being the Portuguese Mateus Rosé and the American “blush” wines of the 1970s (see below). The pendulum now seems to be swinging back towards a drier, ‘bigger’ style.

These wines are made from Rhone grapes like Syrah, Grenache and Carignan in hotter regions such as Provence, the Languedoc and Australia.

American market

In the early 1970s, demand for white wine exceeded the availability of white wine grapes, so many California producers made “white” wine from red grapes, in a form of saignée production with minimal skin contact, the “whiter” the better. In 1975, Sutter Home’s “White Zinfandel” wine experienced a stuck fermentation, a problem in which the yeast dies off before all the sugar is turned to alcohol. Winemaker Bob Trinchero put it aside for two weeks, then upon tasting it he decided to sell this pinker, sweeter wine.

In 1976, wine writer Jerry D. Mead visited Mill Creek Vineyards in Sonoma County, California. Charlie Kreck had been one of the first to plant Cabernet Sauvignon vines in California, and offered Mead a wine made from Cabernet that was a pale pink and as yet unnamed. Kreck would not call it “White Cabernet” as it was much darker in colour than red grape “white” wines of the time, yet it was not as dark as the rosés he had known. Mead jokingly suggested the name “Cabernet Blush”, then that evening phoned Kreck to say that he no longer thought the name a joke. In 1978 Kreck trademarked the word “Blush”. The name caught on as a marketing name for the semi-sweet wines from producers such as Sutter Home and Beringer. In 2010 Mill Creek produced a rosé wine for the first time in years.

The term “blush” is generally restricted to wines sold in North America, although it is sometimes used in Australia and by Italian Primitivo wines hoping to cash in on the recently discovered genetic links between Primitivo and Zinfandel. Although “blush” originally referred to a colour (pale pink), it now tends to indicate a relatively sweet pink wine, typically with 2.5% residual sugar;[11] in North America dry pink wines are usually marketed as rosé but sometimes as blush. In Europe, almost all pink wines are referred to as rosé regardless of sugar levels, even semi-sweet ones from California.

Whether it’s rosé, rosado (Spain), rosato (Italy) or “blush” – these terms all refer to pink wine. This pink shade can range from a soft, subtle hue to a vibrant, hot pink, depending on the grape used and how long the grape skins were in contact with the juice. Rosés can be made in a sweet, off-dry or bone dry style, with most European rosés being decidedly dry.

Flavor Profile of Rosé Wine

The flavors of rosé wines tends to be more subtle versions of their red wine varietal counterparts. The fruit expectations lean towards strawberry, cherry, and raspberry with some citrus and watermelon presenting on a regular basis.

When to Drink Pink?

Rosés are perfect for spring and summer, as they are served chilled and can be a refreshing accompaniment to a variety of warm weather fare. Rosé wines also top the charts for food-friendly versatility. So, if you are opting for “surf ‘n turf” rest assured that a rosé can handle both the seafood and the steak in one fell sip. It’s also a great picnic wine, as it tends to have both a lighter body and more delicate flavors on the palate, presenting a great wine partner for a ham, chicken or roast beef sandwich, along with a fruit, potato or egg salad and can even handle a variety of chips and dips. Rosés are also the perfect guest for a backyard barbecue, tackling hamburgers, hot dogs and even French fries and ketchup with ease.

While rosé wines may have experienced the shaft for a decade or so when the wine market was flooded with “White Zin” look alikes, many consumers are helping to break rosés out of the sweet, “wine cooler” mold and are embracing the broad stylistic offerings that are on the rosé market from all over the world. Wine lovers and wine makers are both the better for it! Rose wine sales are on the rise as savvy wine lovers have discovered that many of these pink wines are not the sugary sweet wines of old, but rather sophisticated summer sisters of many red wine varietals. To offer even more incentive to “drink pink” the vast majority of rosé wines offer good value for the money.

The group tasted 9 rose wines; several were blends, Sangiovese, Pinot Noir, Mouvedre, and Pinot Gris.

The number 1 score : Domaine Sorin- Cote de Provence 18 out of 20 points, $13

The number 2 score: MaryHill Rose of Sangiovese 18 out of 20 points, $10

The number 3 score: Claude LaFond Reuilly Loire – Pinot Gris 17 out of 20 points, $19

The number 4 score: Dusted Valley – Ramblin Rose, Walla Walla 17 out of  20, $40