It's Rosé, not White Zinfandel

Over the weekend, I met with a client who wants me to conduct a wine tasting party. When we got to discussing which wines to purchase, she said she would buy her own. I gave her some guidance on white and red wines, then I said she might want to include a rosé. She said, "Like white Zinfandel?". I hear this a lot. It is unfortunate that most people think of rosé as white Zinfandel, because they are missing out on some great, versatile wines. I find myself serving more and more rosé wines, and there is a growing rediscovery of these great wines..

To make rosé, the winemaker needs red grapes. As you are probably aware, most juice from red grapes is clear (there are a few exceptions). The wine from red grapes gets its' color from contact with the skins during the maceration process. The amount of time and temperature, as well as the pigment in the skins of the grapes, will eventually determine the color of the finished wine. To make rosé there are actually a few different approaches: blending; saignée; and skin contact. Blending is probably the least likely approach you'll see. In this process a little red wine is mixed into a white wine. The only wine region that admits to doing this is Champagne, for their pink sparklers. A more common method is known as saignée. In this process some of the juice is bled off of a tank of red wine. The remaining red wine is now more concentrated, with more color and  intensity. The amount that is bled off, is put into it's own vessel, and fermented to the desired alcohol and residual sugar levels. In the last method, the red grapes macerate with the skins for a short period of time. This is usually just enough to extract the desired color from the skins. The juice is then separated from the skins, and proceeds just like a white wine.

You may also hear the terms "blush" versus rosé. While these are probably considered interchangeable, I would suggest that blush wines have a bit more residual sugar and tend to be lighter in color. When I think of  blush, this is when I think of white Zinfandel. When I think of rosé however, I think of Southern France. Some of my favorite rosé wines are from Tavel and Bandol. These wines are made from Grenache/Cinsaut and Mourvedre, respectively. These wines can be expensive, and sometimes hard to find, but if you see it at your local wine store, buy a bottle and give it a try. These wines are not meant for storage, but are ready to enjoy within the year they are released. My favorite Bandol is Domaine Tempier.

Lately, I have been finding some very nice rosés coming out of the California Central Coast. Some of my favorites: Dragonette Cellars Rosé (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre), Ampelos Rosé (Syrah), Foley Rosé (Pinot Blanc), and  Mitchella Reluctant Rosé.

Back to the beginning...if you like white Zinfandel, then drink it. Sutter Home and Beringer make nice satisfying and refreshing wines. I find these as good "entry level" wines, for those who are starting to try wine. Heck, I started on Annie Green Springs, Boone's Farm and Asti Spumante (yes, I'll admit it,,, but it was over 30 years ago). As the weather warms up, and summer approaches, keep these great wines in mind (and on ice).


  1. Another good Rose (if you can find it) is Erin Glenn Velvet Ass Rose, made from Barbera from the Columbia River Gorge area of Washington/Oregon.

  2. Volcanic Hills Estate Winery in okanagan Valley in West Kelowna B.C Canada is a 4 gold winner , sexy summer sipper and My new Favorite!!!!! Light pink-red in color with aromas of strawberry, rhubarb, mineral and notes of floral and citrus. The palate is juicy strawberry, rhubarb/cranberry and pink grapefruit. The fruitiness of the palate is well balanced with vibrant acidity. The finish is long, clean and refreshing.

  3. A pink wine should never be called white. One can place: the 'white', the 'rose', the 'blush' versions of zifandel next to each other and they all look the same (and subjectively taste the same).