Understanding Rosé

Is it any wonder rosé wines have become a global phenomenon? Diverse, food-friendly, crisp and light, they are as pretty to look at as they are delicious. These days, rosé wines are made all across the globe in a variety of styles from nearly every black grape imaginable, and they all have a way of turning any get together into a special occasion.

New World vs. Old World

While there are, of course, exceptions, as a general rule, the Old World (those European countries with an ancient history of winemaking) tends to produce a drier, more subtle style of rosé in comparison to the richer, more exuberant examples prevalent in the New World.

Fast Facts

Drink it soon – rosé is generally meant to be enjoyed, not cellared.
Many of the earliest wines were rosés, as blends of red and white wines were diluted with water.

How Rosé is Made

While its colour may range from barely blushing to deep pink, there are three methods that give rosé its distinct hue, all relying on the pigment derived from black grapes.

In this method (the term translates to “bleeding”), the pink colour is a by-product of the red wine–making process. A small amount of pink juice is removed from the vat a short time after pressing and fermented on its own. (The rest is left to become red wine.)

Skin Contact

This is widely considered the purest method of creating rosé: after pressing, black grapes are left in contact with the juice for a short time, usually no more than two days. The colour derived from the skins, in a process known as maceration, produces a pink wine.


Rosé can also be made by simply mixing red and white wines together. This allows producers to choose the exact colour and flavour they prefer. The practice isn’t widely used, except in Champagne, where nearly all of the sparkling rosé is made by adding a little red wine — Pinot Noir, usually — to the blend. 

Versatile Varietals

Regardless of which method winemakers use, rosé can only be made using black-skinned grapes — Grenache, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Tempranillo among them — although white-skinned grapes may be part of the blend. And with so many different varietals being used, there’s a rosé for everyone’s palate.
Cabernet Sauvignon

Easily one of the most famous grapes on earth and best known as a classical red wine producer, Cabernet Sauvignon creates deep pink rosés with many of the black pepper, cherry and vanilla flavours typical of the varietal. Rosés from this grape tend toward the darker, heavier end of the spectrum, making them a natural fit alongside rich dishes like tangy barbecued ribs and thick-cut steaks.


Having first gained renown as one of the primary blending grapes for wines from Provence, in southern France, Grenache is now used the world over. Its popularity stems from the fact that it produces juicy, bright pink wines with loads of luscious, floral aromas. Some goat cheese slathered on a baguette and a Grenache rosé equals picnic paradise.

Pinot Noir

Famous for creating delicate yet complex red wines, Pinot Noir reveals those same subtle qualities when used to make rosé. The grape produces deeply aromatic wines often made in a dry style and featuring watermelon and pink grapefruit flavours. A carefully composed niçoise salad with seared tuna or fresh boiled corn dripping with butter would pair equally well. 


Also known as Shiraz, this widely planted rich, red grape produces a big, bold, dark rosé that can hold its own against all kinds of full-flavoured dishes. You’ll almost always taste red fruits on the palate, along with a slight earthy, herbaceous quality and a touch of smokiness that really plays well with grilled dishes.


Spain’s most famous red wine grape also makes exceptional rosé. It’s not just the Spanish, however, who appreciate the potential of this tasty grape. Winemakers across the globe are turning out spectacular examples that are rich with raspberry and cherry flavours and, appropriately enough, the scent of roses. Grilled seafood and shellfish are right at home alongside a cool glass of Tempranillo rosé.


White Zinfandel, as it’s commonly known, is often people’s first introduction to rosé. Produced primarily in California, this style of rosé is typically sweeter and less complex than some of the more classic versions. Fairground flavours — cotton candy, watermelon and caramel corn — make this wine a natural fit for hot dogs and hamburgers.

Try These Rosés