How to Choose a Perfect Bottle of Rose?

Sommelier tips

Rose wines are relatively easy to make, to understand and to drink.  Fresh and fruity,  they are an excellent pair to fish, seafood, charcuterie, and spicy Asian dishes. 

When choosing a summer aperitif or picnic wine, I often turn to rose. A bottle of rose always creates festive mood. Plus, rose wines come in a variety of fun bottle shapes, unlike more conservative reds, and whites. 

Worldwide, over the past 25 years, rose wine consumption has nearly tripled. The French and the Americans are among its biggest fans.  It came as a surprise to me that rose wine today is more than a third of total wine consumption in France. 

It is commonly believed that rose is preferred by women, however, research has shown in the US, Brazil, Russia, and Australia, men are embracing rose even more than women, what is being dubbed the “brosé” phenomenon. 

I believe the popularity of rose is also explained by their easy, non-intimidating character. Rose is easy to choose. Just remember these few points that will help you choose an excellent bottle for any occasion.

1. Which year to pick?

Always, the first rule of rose is: buy the most recent vintage of rose that you can find.  For example, in 2020, buy 2019 or 2018.  Rose wines are to be enjoyed young, fresh, and fruity. As time passes, wine changes its color to yellowish. It becomes bland, stale, lacks crispiness, and aromas.  

I was recently introduced to someone who bought a beautiful chateau near Bordeaux, France. The castle came with a vineyard, running winery facilities, and a stock of rose wines. Unfortunately, all rose wines in the stock were 4-5 years old.  To the disappointment of the buyer, who wasn’t into wine, the acquired wines turned yellow, they lost their crispiness and fruit aromas, and all of their value.

Next time you see deep discounts on inexpensive rose wine that is 3 plus years old, remember this story, and resist the temptation. There are rare exceptions to the rule. However, this concerns only some exquisite extremely well-crafted wines. 

2. Which country produces the best rose wines?

France, Spain, USA, and Italy are the production leaders. The differences in the aromas of wines from these countries will be related to the grapes used to make rose as well as the production methods. California rose uses white Zinfandel, while French Provence uses Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Mourvedre. Italian rose is mainly Sangiovese and Primitivo-based.

In the past, California rose wines were sweet and cheap, however recently, excellent dry wines are being made in Napa and Sonoma from less traditional grapes – Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Sangiovese. 

The choice of the country comes down to your personal taste.  Which aromas do you prefer? What is you favourite grape variety? 

France produces rose in Provence, Rhone, Loire, Bordeaux and Champagne. French rose from Cotes de Provence gained the highest reputation in France and frankly in the world for their beautiful colors, aromas of peach, strawberry, lemon peel, and passionfruit.  I could be biased, but would say rose from the Cote de Provence is always an excellent choice for any occasion.

3. Which color to choose?

The color of rose can vary between light almost grey and dark pink (clairet).  In between, rose exhibits beautiful shades of pink, coral, and salmon. The color depends primarily on the production method and it does have an impact on the taste.

Rose is made of black grapes using the vinification method that is the same as for white wines. When making rose, after the grapes are crushed and pressed, skins are separated from the juice. A little bit of color is all that the wine takes from black grape skins. Whereas, red wines spend about a month in contact with skins, gaining deep color and tannins.

Sometimes, winemakers let black grapes stay 2 to 24 hours in contact with the juice to extract more color and tannins. 

Cote de Provence in France mostly produces the lightest, sometimes grey rose, while rose from the Tavel region or the Navarra region in the northeast Spain could have quite intense, almost azalea and raspberry-like color. 

Darker-colored rose have more tannins and structure and are more suitable for pairing with food like roasted chicken and beef stew.  These version of rose wine can be enjoyable during colder months of the year.

It is strictly forbidden to mix red and white wine to make rose wines. With one exception: only in the production of Champagne it is possible to blend red and white wines. Today, approximately, 12% of all Champagne are rose.   

4. Dry or sweet rose?

To understand the level of sugar in rose, look at the alcohol content. Anything lower than 11 degrees will be slightly sweet.  To retain some sugars in the wine, the winemaker simply stops fermentation by adding sulfur dioxide (S02).

Traditionally, rose is made in a dry style, using Cinsault, Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, Carignan, Sangiovese, and Tempranillo grapes.

Sweet rose wines are most often made of White Zinfandel or White Merlot, and Pink Moscato.

5. How much should I pay for a good bottle of rose?

In the US, the prices range between $10 and $25 dollars. Rose wines are less expensive than reds because the long process of tannin and color extraction, and barrel-aging is not involved in the making of rose.

6. What is premium rose wine?

There are big wines in the world of rose. Grapes used for the best rose are harvested by hand at sunrise. They come from old vines grown on the best parcels of land.

Only the perfect berries are selected as they go through a high-tech optical sorting process. The best rose wines of Provence will be made of primarily free-run juice, there is little no pressing and no maceration on skins. This is why some of the best examples of rose are of very pale colors.  

The winemaking process takes place in temperature-controlled environment.  

Garrus by Chateau D’Esclans was named to be the best rose wine by critics and was extremely highly rated for its pronounced aromas and full body. Whispering Angel is also produced by Sasha Lichine at Chateau D’Eclans. This wine claims to be the best selling rose in the word. 

Another popular rose is Miraval, also made by a Cote de Provence estate purchased in 2008 by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. In 2018, Chateau Miraval created its most famous cuvée Pink Floyd, a wine with remarkable freshness.

Jon Bon Jovi’s  Diving into Hampton Water rose produced in the Languedoc region of France in collaboration with his son Jesse and French winemaker Gérard Bertrand, was on the Top 100 wines list by Wine Spectator in 2018.

Minuty is another emblematic brand from Saint-Tropez in Provence.  The estate dates back to the times of Napoleon III,  They are now managed family Matton and gained great popularity for their freshness and intensity of aromas.

7. Do rose wines contain sulfites?

In fact, almost all wines contain sulfites and so do rose wines.  

Sulfur dioxide, SO2 protects wines against oxidation as SO2 serves as antioxidant and antiseptic.  Without the use of SO2, wines will quickly lose their color and turn yellow. 

8. How to serve rose?

Rose should be chilled before serving. The recommended serving temperature is 8C or 45F. Use an ice bucket, a chilling stick, a freezing sleeve, or pop some frozen grapes into your wine to chill it.

In Spain and other Mediterranean countries, it is common to serve rose with ice cubes on a hot summer days. You have to drink it really fast or risk dilution of wine. 

How about Frose – frozen rose wine slushies?  

Enjoy your rose and come to visit the French rose makers on a wine tour in Champagne, Provence, and Bordeaux.

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