Rosés are Trendy

When it comes to wine for the patio this summer, think pink.

Rosé wines — occasionally called pink or blush wines — are one of the hottest trends in wine these days. They’re beautiful, food-friendly, affordable and delicious, plus they have tons of style and history.

While only four per cent of the wines we drink in Canada are rosé, according to a 2015 study from Vinexpo the number is growing faster than any other wine category. And according to some reports, rosé sales have doubled in Canada in the past decade.

Rosé wines likely date back to the time of the ancient Greeks, roughly 2,600 years ago. France made them famous, however, and the country still leads the way when it comes to the crisp, dry style we’re embracing most in Canada. Even Bordeaux winemakers make rosés, from Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.

Nowadays rosés are made in most of the world’s major wine regions and wine-producing countries. Wineries in Australia, France, Spain (you’ll see “rosado” on the labels), Italy (rosato), California, and Canada’s own Niagara and Okanagan Valley make fantastic examples.

Depending on the winemaker and region, they can be sweet and sparkling or dry and delicious. They’re made with myriad red (sometimes referred to as black) grapes and they range in colour from the palest of salmon colours to intense bright cherry hues. They’re definitely worth checking out.

How Rosé Wines are Made

Saignée — During the process of making red wines, some of the juice (depending on the winery, about 10 per cent) is bled off early. The process, which literally translates as “bleeding” in French, increases the concentration of the red wine that’s been left behind, while the pale pink juice that has been removed is then fermented, becoming rosé wine.

Maceration — The grapes are crushed and the juice is left in contact with the skins for a very short period of time, as little as a few hours, to get the desired colour and tannins. All of the juice is then removed from the skins and the wine is made like a white wine.

Blending — literally what it sounds like: red wines are mixed with white wines to get one that’s pink. Blending is popular in the Champagne region of France, where it is used to make the region’s famous rosé Champagnes. But outside of Champagne it is forbidden by French law to use blending to create rosé wines, and blending is seldom found in other wine regions.

Renowned Regions for Rosé

Provence, France — Sunny, beautiful Provence, in southern France, is home to many wonderful rosés. Typically made from Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah or Mourvedre grapes, as well occasionally from an indigenous Provencal variety called Tibouren, these wines are very dry and crisp. American culinary legend Julia Child was a big fan; she liked them paired with pâtés, eggs and pork.

Tavel, France — Tavel is located in the Southern Rhone Valley, just across the river from Chateauneuf-du-Pape. All wines from Tavel must be rosé. The main grapes include Grenache and Cinsault, but Syrah and Mourvedre are also grown in the region. The wines are dry, with at least 11 per cent alcohol, which gives them more body than some pink wines. They can also be aged, but they’re terrific young. American writer Ernest Hemingway was a big fan of Tavel rosés, just in case you need further convincing.

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada — While the Okanagan’s winemaking history certainly isn’t as ancient as France, the region’s winemakers are still turning out some fine rosés. Grapes include Pinot Noir, Gamay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot and Syrah. There are even pink icewines being made in the valley!

Rosé flashback

Rosés developed a bad rap in the 1970s and 1980s, thanks to the cheap and sweet “blush” wine known as white Zinfandel that flooded our market from California.

Despite the name, this wine style is actually pink in colour and is made from Zinfandel, a red grape. Created by accident in Napa in 1975, white Zinfandel almost immediately took off in popularity and was widely copied by other wineries — and widely slammed by “serious” wine drinkers. Confected both aromatically and on the palate, it’s not likely to appeal to aficionados of the dry European rosé styles, but it still has plenty of fans. In fact, at least one American winery claims that one out of every 10 bottles of wine opened in the US is white zin. They are typically very inexpensive and pair best with spicy foods such as hot curries.