How do you pick Rosé?
Perhaps you really want a nice pale-coloured Rosé, but how on earth do you choose off the wine list, when you can’t see the colour?
Fortunately, winemakers all over the world are responding to the wave of consumer preference for dry, light Provençal-style Rosé with a mere blush of coppery pink. So you don’t always have to pick 'Provençal' if that’s the style you want.
This is opposed to deeper coloured, often more structured (for example with a touch of tannin and body) and/or sometimes slightly sweeter Rosés that consumers are moving away from. Either because they really prefer that more delicate, dry style, or they've somehow picked up that pale rosé is 'the done thing'.
First off, before we write-off pinker rosé, know that paleness is not a proxy for quality or flavour profile; quality rosés come in all shades. It’s just a current stylistic preference. (Why not experiment and check you're not missing out on something you might really like?)
But if you're after a pretty pale rosé, don't panic: here are my tips for when you get handed the wine list:
1. Go Local
If abroad, go local if you can as obviously you’ll get much better value. This is a no brainer.
2. Don’t Spend Too Much!
Yes, you can get incredible Rosé. I've tasted ones that smell like freshly picked rosemary and strawberries. Yes, you can get terrible Rosé. BUT, hear me out. Compared to top quality red wines and white wines, there is an upper limit for complexity when it comes Rosé - which is NOT always reflected on the price list.
This is down to the quick maceration, sometimes just a few hours (to avoid too much colour coming from the skins staining the clear juice). So even at the top level, it’s almost always going be an essentially, and inherently light, young-drinking style. There's nothing wrong with this, its just what we want from our rosé, but the point is were not talking about expensive oak treatment, cellaring time, bottle age. These are factors that may add cost to premium red and white wines, which would not be appropriate to Rosé winemaking.
So beware the mark ups on smart looking bottles of Provençal Rosé, especially the branded ones. (Whispering Angel, Chateau Miraval etc). Yes they’re lovely, sometimes wonderful wines but be aware you’re really paying for a lifestyle brand, not the wine.
3. (Some) Clue's in the Name
Lots of red grapes make many different shades of Rosé so the grape varietal alone is unfortunately not a colour guide; like so much in wine, it all depends on the winemaking. But, some grapes naturally have less colour, so this can sometimes be a clue to a paler style, e.g: Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir.
Label terms that typically signal a DARKER rosé:
France: Clairet. Tavel
This picture is of a glass of Clairette in Bordeaux - the traditional, darker style. Delicious!
4. Look Out for White Grape Names
Sometimes the wine list shows the blend of grapes that constitute the wine: look out for white grapes in the mix and this is then likely to signal a paler style.
In Spain you might see Viura.
In France, Rolle, in Italy, Vermentino.
They also add lovely aromatics into a style that can sometimes be lacking in aroma intensity due to that short maceration.
5. Drink It Young
Always drink the youngest rosé you can find. Almost without exception, Rosé is fresh and delicate and does not improve with age!
If in doubt, ask to see the bottle before they open it! Don’t feel embarrassed or pressured into a quick decision. Wine is usually the biggest expense on your bill at the end of the mean, so take your time. Don't feel rushed or embarrassed because you feel like you should somehow know. Why should you? Wine IS complex. So don’t let ‘wine anxiety’ get in the way of drinking exactly what you want!