Rosé has been unstoppable in its recent success. Thanks to its incredible popularity, you can find an array of pink wines on bottle shop shelves, and the many hues of rosé make it a particularly photogenic wine in the glass. It’s also synonymous with great weather and good times – there’s nothing like a glass of rosé to complement get-togethers in the sunshine. But with its rising quality and increasingly versatile styles, rosé offers more than an aesthetic and a cheery summer wine. Winemakers are now creating serious wines in a wide spectrum of styles, from pale and crisp to complex, character-filled, textural examples to enjoy across seasons.
Rosé wine characteristics
Rosé wine varieties
How rosé wine is made
Go to: Rosé wine characteristics | Rosé wine varieties | How rosé wine is made | Rosé wine in Australia | International rosé regions | Rosé food pairing
Rosé wines range from pale salmon to copper-gold, strawberry pink and raspberry red shades. Its styles span crisp and bone-dry to sweeter, fruitier types, so there really is a rosé for all comers. Red fruit, citrus and spice are common characteristics. It can also have pretty floral notes, such as rose petal, violet and hibiscus, and herbaceous, savoury characters, like celery, green capsicum and olive. Richer phenolic content from seed and skin contact makes it more textural than most whites. Rosé alcohol levels are moderate, typically between 11 and 13 per cent.
The base grape chosen for rosé will have a significant influence over its style. Popular varieties are grenache, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, sangiovese and nebbiolo, with winemakers experimenting with many more. Read more about the importance of grape varieties to rosé wine.
Is it red? Is it white? Well, actually, it’s neither. No matter whether a grape is red or white, the juice from its flesh will be clear. So, what gives a wine its colour? It’s in the skin (along with structure-building tannins and complex flavours). The longer the skins are in contact with the juice, the more colour the final wine will have. Ahead, we breakdown the three main ways rosé wine is made.
Got some nerdy wine friends? You might have heard them use the word “saignée” (pronounced son-yay). French for “bleed”, this method involves siphoning off juice from a fermenting red must, which contains the skins, seeds and stems of the fruit, and then placing the pure extract into a separate vessel to make rosé. The result can be a red wine with an intense flavour profile or a pink. As reds remain a top priority for Australian producers, this is a popular technique.
If you’re a bit of a whizz in the kitchen, you’ll be familiar with maceration – this is also a method for producing rosé. Destemmed red wine grapes are briefly steeped in juice before the entire batch becomes rosé. Popular in regions of France where rosé is a celebrated wine style, this approach shows rosé the ultimate respect, as it’s purpose-made rather than a run-off of red wine production.
The final way to make rosé is by blending red and white wine, usually with a small percentage of red added to a white wine ferment.
Rosé wine in Australia
In Australia, rosé wine was once sniffed at for its sickly sweet, candy coloured characteristics. Today, Australian winemakers are producing exciting styles using a range of varieties. This rise in quality is reflected by high ratings, with a growing number of producers achieving 95-plus points for their pink wines, proving it can be more than just a fun quaffer.
International rosé regions
Countries such as France, Spain and Italy are champions of rosé. Why? Because of their approach to consuming wine, which is at mealtimes with family and friends. Rosé is a fantastic food wine that can be paired with a range of ingredients and cuisines, so unsurprisingly, the dining-centric wine culture of the Continent upholds this versatile drink.
Perhaps the most popular rosé style comes from Provence in southern France, where pale, ultra-dry rosés are ideal for the Mediterranean climate and lifestyle. Spain’s rosado and Italy’s rosato tend to have a deeper colour and a bright, fruit-driven profile. The USA is another major producer of rosé, with its pink wines often a little sweeter in style.
Pairing rosé wine with food
The range of varieties used to make rosé, and its sugar levels running the gamut from dry to off-dry and sweet, make it an all-rounder at the dining table. The texture of this style is another reason it’s terrific with food. Pale, crisp pinks are ideally paired with fresh seafood and salads, while more structural, full-flavoured types can stand up to richer, oilier foods. Rosés with a little sweetness can handle the heat and are great with spicy Asian dishes.