Historically, many of the first-made wines were light-colored field blends of both white and red grape varieties. In the sixth century BC, the Phoenicians brought grape vines from Greece to what is known as modern-day Marseille in southern France. The wines produced from these vines were naturally light in color and word spread of this pleasant wine around the Mediterranean. When the Romans landed in Provence, they used their trade networks to popularize these wines throughout the south of France and henceforth many consider the epicenter of rosé to be in this region of the world.
Rosé, however, isn’t from a specific region or grape. It’s a genre of wine, like red wine and white wine. The biggest producers of this style are France, Spain, Italy and the United States. Several other places of the world also make excellent rosé including South America, Germany and Australia. These pretty wines are known by other several names including rosado, rosato, blanc de noir, vin gris and blush. The wines may also have a name using the single grape variety from which they are made, such as White Zinfandel, White Grenache, Pinot Noir Blanc or White Merlot. Most rosé wines are blends of multiple grapes. Some of the most common grape varieties used in dry/European-style rosé are Grenache, Sangiovese, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan, Cinsault and Pinot Noir.
While there have been rosés made in the European style throughout the American winemaking history, it wasn’t until the end of the 20th century that “pink wines” became a truly significant segment of the American wine market. Like the romantic fascination of the French baguette and beret, rosé has been adopted into American culture with charm. Over the years, it has become a quality wine choice with an unpretentious and delicious flavor for many palettes and continues to be a favorite choice for many people today. California, in particular, is making beautiful rosés that can rival some of the best in the world.
how rosé is made
Winemakers use nearly all types of grape varietals to produce rosé. And, it can be made still, semi-sparkling or sparkling with a range of sweetness levels. There are basically three ways to make rosé wine. The main style used for making rosé as a primary wine is called the maceration method. It is a method of letting the juice stay in contact with the grape’s skin for a period of time ranging from two hours to a couple of days depending on the producer and winemaker’s choice. The longer the skins are left sitting in the juice, the darker the color of the finished rosé and the more the wine will take on the tannin structure found in red wines. After the time with skin contact, the grape’s juice is strained from the solid matter, called “must”, and fermentation begins.
Another method is called Saignée, pronounced “san-yay”. This method consists of taking the juice from the first part of the red wine process and putting it into its own vat. This is a common methodology in regions that produce fine red wines like Napa and Sonoma. The purpose of bleeding off the juice not only produces a lovely rosé but it also concentrates the red wines’ intensity.
Lastly, the blending method is used when a bit of red wine is added to a vat of white wine to make it pink. It doesn’t take much red wine to dye a white wine. This is more common in regions where sparkling wine is produced such as Champagne, France.
swirl, sniff, sip, savor
How to identify wine in the glass
Most obviously, the tell-tale sign of a rosé wine is from its color: PINK! Other than that, depending on the type of grape the rosé wine is made with will vary the flavor, as will the sweetness level of the wine. For example, a deeply colored Italian Aglianico rosé will bring out lively orange and soft cherry flavors while a pale-colored Grenache rosé from Provence will taste of honeydew melon, lemon and celery. Essentially, there is a range of variance in style of rosé depending on region, grape and sweetness level which will determine slightly different palette characteristics of the wine. Overall, the primary flavors of rosé wines, in general, are strawberry, watermelon, rose petal, hibiscus, honeydew melon and citrus zest. For drier rosé, there is often a pleasant crunchy green flavor similar to celery or rhubarb with a slightly salty finish.
What’s in a glass?
Would wine in any other glass smell as sweet?
There are two types of wine glasses generally used for rosé wines. One option is a stemmed glass with a short bowl and a slightly flared lip. The flared rim glass directs wine to the top of the tongue to help temper the crisp acidity or enhance any sweetness in the wine, depending on the style chosen to imbibe. The round bowl of the glass emphasizes the fruitiness of the wine.
The other option is an all-purpose white wine glass since the process of making rosé mostly resembles that of white wine.
Recommended California Central Coast Rosés
WINERY • FARMSTEAD • RANCH
2018 Lilly Rosé
Estate Santa Ynez Valley
The 2018 Lilly Rosé was made entirely from the most zesty and savory block of Grenache in our Folded Hills estate vineyard. It is an enlivening and delicious wine perfect to enjoy on its own, or through the course of a meal. The 2018 brings together beautifully perfumed aromatics of strawberry with a crisp, refreshing and flavorful palate of natural spices, red berries and sprinkled with a touch of cream through the incredibly long finish.
1294 Coast Village Road, Montecito CA 93108
(805) 694-8086 | FoldedHills.com
2018 Rosé, Central Coast, California
This rosé blend of Grenache, Syrah and a kiss of Viognier lends to the feeling of your feet buried in the sand as you watch the sunset on summer solstice. Appetizers of fresh cut watermelon, sour cherry and lychee fills the air around you. While the sunset lights up the sky with a beautiful array of red rose petals and strawberry brush strokes – all balanced with a glass of your 2018 Opolo Rosé.
7110 Vineyard Drive, Paso Robles, CA 93446
(805) 238-9593 | opolo.com
2017 Rosé Wine, Santa Barbara County
With elegance and ambiance, this 2017 Mourvedre Rosé fills your senses with floral notes, such as rose petals and gardenia; chased by hints of apricot, grapefruit and guava on the palate. There is fresh acidity for a delicious lingering mouth-feel. Pair it with salmon, sushi or a light salad.
2901 Grand Ave #C Los Olivos, CA 93441
805-691-9951 | www.rivahilwinery.com
2018 Pink Pedals Rosé
Lady Pink rides into town on a fresh summer breeze, and so does this Grenache- and Syrah-based Rosé. Sporting bright, crisp and refreshing flavors, this vibrant Rosé rolls down a road filled with watermelon, pomegranate, cantaloupe and cherry Jolly Rancher leading right to your happy place.
2020 Nacimiento Lake Drive Paso Robles, CA 93446
(805) 237-7848 | chroniccellars.com
MARGERUM WINE COMPANY
2018 Riviera Rosé – 375ml Cans!
No glass allowed? No problem! This delicious Riviera Rosé of Grenache - now available in 375ml Cans - is dry and crisp on the palate, with mouth-watering acidity and plenty of verve. It’s the perfect summer sipper that has just enough seriousness to pair with your favorite al fresco meals. Easy to bring along for all your outdoor activities!
Tasting at Hotel Californian (Mason & Helena), Santa Barbara
(805) 845-8435 | www.margerumwines.com
Tasting at the Winery on weekends:
59 Industrial Way, Buellton, (805) 686-8500
Derby Wine Estates
Derby Vineyard 2018 Rosé
This inviting Rosé blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Counoise is grown in the calcareous soils of the winery’s estate vineyard in Paso Robles. Stunningly pale in color yet boasts an abundant bouquet of strawberry, grapefruit zest and candied melon notes accenting a full mouthfeel and refreshing acidity. This Derby Rosé is the perfect counterpart to summer. Only 150 cases crafted.
525 Riverside Ave, Paso Robles, CA 93446
(805) 238-6300 | www.derbywineestates.com