What is rosé wine? – the complete guide

Instagram's sweetheart beverage and the staple of brunches and summertime picnics, rosé is the crown princess of wine. Not as serious as red wine, and more fun and whimsical than white, rosé with its pretty pink hue and refreshing taste is the perfect option for casual day drinking and pretending you're on holiday in the south of France.

Despite some criticism that it’s “too sweet”, rosé has grown in popularity over the last few years. 2020 saw a spike in frosé recipes as we all made our own fun during national and local lockdowns, and Sainsbury’s reported a 26% year-on-year rise in rosé sales in 2021. Us Brits seem to have more than just a liking for pink wine, with the UK being the third-largest importer of rosé in the world.

But there still seems to be some confusion about what actually is rosé wine. Isn’t it just red and white wine mixed together? Where does it come from? What food can you eat with it? What’s the best rosé wine and how should you serve it?

We’ve pulled together the ultimate pink wine guide to answer your Qs and help you get the most out of your rosé.

What is rosé wine?

Rosé is simply a genre of wine, like reds and whites. But it isn’t made with pink grapes – they don’t exist! Instead, it can be created using any variety of red grapes grown anywhere, although its spiritual home could be said to be Provence, France. This area has been making rosé wine for centuries and still pumps out most of the world’s supply of the popular pink beverage. It’s also a popular export from the US, Spain (where it’s called rosado), and Italy.

Rosé is usually made of a blend of grape varieties, most commonly Syrah, Grenache, Sangiovese, Carignan, Mourvèdre, and Pinot Noir. But it can be made with a single variety – California rosé is made using only Pinot Noir grapes.

How is it made?

When it comes to making rosé, it’s all about skin contact (grape skin that is).

The juice from crushed grapes is clear, so winemakers throw in the grape skins to turn it that glorious shade of pink that Millenials and Gen Z’ers love to photograph. Depending on how pink the winemakers want their wine to be, the grape skins may be left to macerate for just a few hours or up to a day or two. The longer they steep in the wine, the darker the shade.

Having achieved the desired shade, winemakers remove the grape skins and ferment the pink juice, turning it into a delicious rosé wine.

What does rosé taste like?

How rosé tastes depends on the variety of grape used, but it’s generally considered the fruitiest and freshest type of wine. Grape varieties such as Moscato and Zinfandel are sweet, while rosé made with Grenache, Syrah, and Sangiovese grapes tend to be dry.

Rosé Splashing into a Wine Glass
Typical rosé tasting notes include:
  • red berries (cherry, strawberry, and raspberry)

  • citrus (lemon, melon)

  • celery (trust us)

  • florals (rose petal, hibiscus)

  • peach or apricot

  • tart fruits like rhubarb

How do I best serve rosé wine?

Now we’ve cleared up any confusion about what rosé is and how it’s made, let’s move on to the more enjoyable part… drinking it.

Should rosé wine be chilled?

The perfect drink for relaxing on spring and summer days, rosé is at its refreshing best when served chilled. The tasting notes are heightened at colder temperatures, meaning they have a better flavour.

If you want to get technical, some wine experts suggest serving rosé when it’s between 10-15 degrees celsius, but keeping it in the fridge or a deep ice bucket for a few hours to chill before serving will do the job.

When it’s been poured, maybe keep your drinks cool with some fruit-infused ice cubes for some extra seasonal vibes. (Bbonus hosting points if you match the fruit to the tasting notes.)

What food should I serve with rosé?

Like a classic black bag or leather jacket, rosé goes well with everything. In terms of food, everything from spicey to mild, sweet to savoury. But the dishes it best pairs with depends on the variety of wine grape you’re drinking.

Not sure what they are? No problem – we’ve broken down the dishes and cuisines best suited to the different varieties of rosé below:

Provence – works well with light shellfish and white meat dishes, so think chicken salads or retro prawn cocktails.

Grenache – match this lively and full-bodied variety with aromatic spices and Mediterranean dishes such as Greek roast lamb and calamari.

Pinot noir – drier than most, this rosé compliments roasted white meats and fatty fish like salmon, as well as fruity desserts.

Zinfandel – generally thought of as the sweetest of the bunch, Zinfandel perfectly cuts through fatty BBQ meats and rich sauces.

Syrah – peppery and sweet, Syrah goes well with vegetable and pasta dishes.

Sangiovese – best pairs with white meats like grilled chicken, salads, and Asian-inspired dishes.

Cabernet sauvignon – deep and rich, this unusual rosé complements grilled meat and fish dishes.

Host Serving Appetizers at Dinner Party with Rosé wine

What should I serve it in?

Because you want to keep your rosé as chilled as possible, the best glass to serve it in is a white wine glass. Since they’re deeper and narrower than your typical red wine glass, they don’t let in as much heat and trap the fruity aromas, meaning your drink will stay cooler and you can enjoy it for longer.

If you’re more into aesthetics and don’t plan on stopping at one glass, switch it up and go for a vintage-style coupe glass or cocktail saucer for some extra class. These are also a great option if you’ve popped the cork on some sparkling rosé.

In the summer, when you’ve decided to beat the heat with some frosé or a rosé granita, opt for something with a bit more room and a big enough rim so you can easily scoop up your refreshing treat, like a gin glass.

Where can I find the best rosé wine?

Not to show off or anything, but we think you can find the best rosé wine right here – fruity but delicate, the Madame F rosé is the perfect addition to any brunch, karaoke party, birthday or random Sunday afternoon. Don’t believe us? Then you should probably try it for yourself…

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