All wine is the product of a growing season with summer at its core. Galileo even said that wine was sunlight held together by water, but if there is one type of wine that embodies the essence of summer in the social consciousness, it is rosé.
Rosé wines are made in most wine-producing countries from Old World standard bearers like France, Spain and Italy to New World stars such as California, Australia, Chile and New Zealand.
Pink-hued wines come in various styles, from bone-dry, dark-coloured, made-to-be-enjoyed-with-food versions to light, off-dry, ethereal affairs perfect for sipping while watching the sunset. Rosé wines are vinified using various grape varieties depending on where they are made.
Provence in France, often thought of as rosé’s “spiritual home and most noble expression", uses Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah and Mourvèdre to make single-varietal wines or as part of blends. The neighbouring southern French regions of the Rhone Valley, Ventoux and Languedoc also produce great rosés with the same grapes. The Loire Valley, further North in France, relies on varieties such as Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Gamay and Grolleau to craft rosés ranging from aromatic and off-dry Rosé d’Anjou to elegant and restrained Sancerre rosé.
Spain’s best known rosés hail from Rioja. They are balanced, fruit-forward, yet food-friendly, usually produced with Tempranillo grapes, also known for producing the great reds of Rioja. Rosés from nearby Navarra are fuller-bodied, more concentrated and display a stunning deep, almost neon-pink colour. They are made using Grenache, but nowadays often include a portion of international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to provide added structure.
Spain’s neighbour on the Iberian Peninsula, Portugal, is no slouch when it comes to rosés, producing great value wine from a myriad of indigenous varieties from the Algarve in the south to the Vinho Verde region in the north.
Rosé wines are made all over Italy from various grape varieties. Generally speaking, the wines made in the northern regions of Veneto, Friuli-Venezia and Trentino-Alto Adige tend be lighter and more delicate, contrasting with the wines made in Calabria, Puglia and Sicily in the south that are inclined to be fuller-bodied and darker in colour.
Light, quaffable rosés, for example, are made in Veneto using Pinot Grigio. Due to the pigments contained in its bronze-coloured skins, this variety can be vinified as either white or pink wine.
Stalwart Tuscany produces lively, approachable, middle-of-the road rosés from Sangiovese, the grape at the core of many of the region’s appellations, including Chianti. Up and coming Sicily has, in recent years, excelled at the art of making vibrant, modern pink wines by blending indigenous grapes such as Nero d’Avola with international varieties such as Syrah, to great effect.
On the New World front, California is leading the modern rosé charge with increased production of drier, food-friendly rosés now complementing the existing production of the confusingly-named White Zinfandel, an off-dry or even sweet rosé wine made with the Zinfandel grape that is otherwise used to make full-bodied brambly reds.
Australia, New Zealand, Chile and Canada, to name just a few wine-producing countries, are also taking notice of the increased demand for pink wines and are shoring up existing offerings by experimenting with new varieties or in promising regions.
Rosés are versatile, approachable wines that can be enjoyed year-round, with or without food, but there is no denying that they are imbued with a bit of summertime magic that make them perfect for warm sunny afternoons.
Jean-Sébastien Morin is a category manager with P.E.I. Liquor. He is an accredited sommelier, wine writer, educator, and wine judge. His love of wine was born in the late 1980s, while studying and working in Europe. Inspired Grapes aims to transmit Morin’s passion for wine while never forgetting that the pleasure of a glass of wine often resides in the moment and the company in which it is shared. To reach Morin, email email@example.com.