What Even Is Rosé?

Every year in late spring we get excited about Rosé Season. Yes, it’s partly because it means the sun is on the way (although this year it’s decidedly sporadic in its appearance) but it’s also because it means that we can start opening the pinker bottles without getting looked at funny. Rosé is the simplest of wine pleasures. It’s so simple in fact that the entire type of wine is named for its colour with no need to discuss grape type. You wouldn’t see (nor even contemplate drinking) a bottle labelled “red”, but when it comes to pink, we know exactly what we’re getting – summer fruit flavours of strawberry, raspberry and more, and a refreshing hit in every sip. It’s this dependable simplicity that has made rosé the summer drink of choice in parks and gardens up and down the country.


Not so complicated, eh? Well, no, it’s not. Rosé wine should be drunk quickly between mouthfuls of food and conversation, so you can grab any good quality bottle and do just that. But if you’re interested in digging a little deeper, or you want to answer a question you’ve always had about rosé, read on intrepid adventurer with our guide to uncomplicating rosé.


What is rosé wine?

Rosé is wine that started life as a red wine and quit early on and finished its journey to the bottle like a white wine would. You start out with red-skinned grapes, and then after the crushing, you leave the juice in with the skins for only a few hours. Then the skins are removed, and the wine is made in steel vats. But why?


Well, the fresh summer fruit flavours are hiding in the skins, but only for a little while. So, to make a great rosé you need to just take a little influence from them, and then get rid before the tannins get involved and make everything swirly.


Most rosé is made by mixing grapes before the show really starts. In Europe, the only wine that can be made by blending wines that have been fully made already is Champagne. Outside of Europe, and it’s a bit more open.


What grapes make it pink?

This is where the fun of rosé starts. Everything in the pink world is just called rosé. Very rarely will you see any grapes listed on the label, and if you did, you wouldn’t necessarily recognise them. Rosé is almost always a blend of grapes. Each one gives extra flavours for you to enjoy, but some grapes are more common than others. Grenache is a favourite, and you’ll often find cabernet sauvignon, cinsault, pinot noir, merlot and more in the mix.


How pink should it be?

That is a good question. It’s very much a case of personal preference. Pale pinks have become very popular in recent years, but it’s safe to say this doesn’t indicate quality of the wine at all. It just looks nice, especially against a blue-sky backdrop. The colour change is the result of slightly longer contact with the skins, but don’t read too much into this. Find a style you like and use it as a way to make the difficult choice between one bottle and another, but you should absolutely branch out, because colour means very little.


What is rosé good for?

There’s a great book for foodies called The Wine Dine Dictionary by Victoria Moore in which she says, “Whatever the question, rosé is often the answer.” When it comes to food pairing, rosé is great with anything savoury, but try and stick to the dry-er (less sweet) bottles. If you’re having something spicy, turn to the sweeter rosés with delight.


We have a saying at Vintner too – if you’re taking a bottle of rosé, take two, or if you’re treating yourself, grab a magnum. Its supremely suppable, especially when it’s shared between friends. There isn’t any wine better for a picnic, and when the sun is setting, if you’re just opening your second bottle you’ve got it just right.


I’m aiming to be a connoisseur, isn’t it just a cheap wine?

Rosé is generally less expensive than red and white wines or a similar stature. That’s not because it’s not as good, but because rosé is a drink it now kind of wine. It’s at its best very soon after it’s made (which is why you’ll find all the 2020 varieties on shelves and websites now) so aging isn’t part of the process. This means two things are in your favour. The first is it costs very little to make, and it isn’t stored, so you don’t pay for process. The second is that it needs to be drunk now, so there isn’t any fine wine pricing, or any long shelf-life mark-up to be seen.


As for the connoisseur element – it’s not possible to be a wine-lover while considering rosé to be a poor cousin of the good stuff. Rosé is more popular now than ever before, and that’s because it deserves its place at the table/park/BBQ/sun lounger/poolside. So, ignore the wine snobs when you order a rosé with dinner – they’re the ones missing out.


What are the best types for…?

We’ve brought together some of the best rosé wines you’re likely to find anywhere this summer, and here is what we love them for:

The best all-rounder – La Collection Côtes de Thau

The best for food pairing – Château Bauduc Rosé

The best for classic rosé – Mas de Cadenet

The best for a fruit explosion – La Pierre du Diable

The best for celebrations – Patriarche Crémant de Bourgogne


Written by Matt Mugan