The Best Rose Wines

Nothing brings a smile to my face faster in the springtime than the rosy hue of aisle 2 as the latest vintage of blush wines begins to trickle into stock. From the pale, almost-orange-y salmon wines from Provence to the vivid, electric pink of the Italian and California bottlings to the deeper magenta of those from Argentina and Spain, every shade on the spectrum is represented, and it follows, naturally, that each brings with it a different and wonderful flavor profile as well.

Rose or blush wines are most frequently made in one of the following ways: bleeding off juice from the grape skins before full maceration (known as the saignee method), bleeding off juice immediately, before maceration (resulting in wines known as vin gris), or by blending red and white wines. Because of this, these wines may be comprised of any number of grapes, and can be dry, sweet or any style in between.

The saignee method is by far the most popular way to produce a rose wine. Historically, wines from Provence and southern France make use of saignee in their production of light-bodied, refreshingly acidic, dry roses, and these are the most ubiquitous bottlings. Perfect for warm, summer afternoons and well-suited to salads, soups or sandwiches.

My favorite by far are the Italian roses, with their vibrant fuchsia tones and floral aromatics. Violets and rose petals are always prominent on the nose of these wines, and the strawberry/cherry/raspberry fruit flavors are a bit bolder. Because the acidity is a bit softer, the roses from Italy are able to pair with more savory/spicy dishes, but in my opinion, serving them chilled on their own is definitely best.

On the other end of the spectrum, sweeter blush wines are most frequently found in California or New York, though the rise of Pink Moscato means we are seeing many wines from other areas such as Italy and Australia. On the West Coast, White Zinfandel (nope, it's not actually white) is considered the most classic and traditional, albeit its actual emergence not occurring until the 1970s. Fortunately, it was the sheer volume of White Zin sales in the past few decades that saved America's Heritage red grape, Zinfandel, from being ripped out of vineyards to make way for more trendy varieties like Cabernet or Pinot Noir. In New York, blends of Concord and Niagara are common, while other indigenous grapes like Catawba and Isabella make similar yummy, grape-flavored blush wines.

Bottles to try: