Is rosé wine misunderstood?

Rose wine is more than just a pretty bottle. Share this article

People tend to brag after purchasing a fancy bottle of Bordeaux. They'll even rave about their favorite Sauvignon Blanc. Yet, rosé continues to fly under the radar and take a back seat to red and white wines. No matter how mainstream it's become over the past few years, some people are still turning their noses up to the delicious and pretty pink wine – and not because they're smelling it. 

Why is rosé so mysterious?
According to sommelier and wine expert Traci Dutton, America has been slow to approach rosé because it's misunderstood. Dutton highlighted the reasons for rosé's ambiguity in a piece posted on the Culinary Institute of America's website. 

She asserted that the many definitions of rosé are the primary source of confusion, and she's right. Ask 10 people about the rosè wine on your dinner table, and you'll get 10 different answers. It's not to say that the pinkish wine is more versatile, but people may have a more difficult time describing it. Many people shrug off the beverage as being "too sweet" or "too cheap." But they're devastatingly mistaken and potentially missing out on some killer, inexpensive wine.

Not all roses are sweet.Not all rosés are sweet.

A prim and proper portrayal

"Rosés are not all the same."

Rosés are not all the same. Nor are a one particular brand of wine, like Pinot Noir. They're a genre, just like reds and whites. The process of making a rosé differs slightly from making a red or white wine, which is how the wine gets its special hue. To understand the process, it's important to trace the wine's roots back to its birthplace: Provence, France. 

According to Provence Wine USA, the first step in the process is called vinification. In addition to terroir, the characteristics of the wine will depend on three factors – the type of grape, temperature and the amount of time the grape seeds and skins sit in the vat of wine. 

Because each rosé is special, there is a wide vocabulary dedicated to describing it. Here are some proper descriptions:

  • Floral: Refers to the aroma or taste, as reminiscent of a garden
  • Fresh: A wine that's fruity and acidic
  • Fruity: Tastes or smells like apples or berries
  • Acidic: Leaves a tart aftertaste.

One of the biggest mix-ups among wine drinkers is confusing the terms dry and sweet. Even some of the most dedicated sommeliers will tell you that they still have a hard time labeling a rosé as sweet or dry. 

The dry vs. sweet debacle
The Wine Spectator's Dr. Vinifera explained that it's not an easy distinction to make. He pointed out that some people are ashamed to order a wine that's considered to be sweet because it may seem like a rookie move, however, it's not. There are a number of reputable sweet wines out there. You may have to pop a few bottles to see for yourself – not the worst way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

According to Dr. Vinifera, you could look at the amount of residual sugar listed on a bottle, but it will only get you so far because other traits can alter your perception of the wine. Qualities like acidity and number of tannins can make a technically sweet wine taste drier. Further, a wine that's been aged in oak barrels tends to taste sweet even if it has a low amount of residual sugars. It's also important to note that people perceive tastes differently. According to Wine Folly, these discrepancies have kept wine scientists from properly classifying some wines as dry or sweet, which means there's no reason to feel embarrassed if you can't decipher the two.

The debate makes for fun dinner banter next time you're out to eat with a group of friends. You can tease them with your newfound wine terminology, and you may even have to order another bottle to keep guessing. 


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