Wine styles

Guide to rosé wines

Rosé is the perfect summer staple but can be enjoyed any time of the year. Made by a variety of methods, Rosé is made from red grapes, but kept on the skins significantly less time than other red wines, leaving you with a fresh, light, and often fruit-driven wine.

I Like… Rosé Wines


  • Grenache/garnacha
  • Cinsault
  • Pinot Noir
  • Sangiovese


  • Provence
  • Corsica
  • Central/southern Italy
  • Northern Spain

Popular rosé grapes

Where you'll find it: Most commonly in the Rhône, Provence and Spain

Flavours: Strawberry and spice

Style: Powerful, rich and fruity.

Food: Summer salads and grilled vegetable dishes, particularly if they also feature seafood.

Drink it here: A Friday night tapas party with friends.

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Where you'll find it: Languedoc and southern Rhône

Flavours: Floral and summer berries

Style: Aromatic and refreshing.

Food: Pre-dinner nibbles like charcuterie or crostini topped with smoked salmon paté.

Drink it here: As a delicious aperitif.

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Where you'll find it: The Loire and new world countries like New Zealand, plus in rosé Champagne.

Flavours: Cherry, strawberry and citrus Zest

Style: Delicate, elegant and refined.

Food: Fresh salmon steaks or ham hock salad.

Drink it here: Summer weekends with friends.

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Where you'll find it: Corsica, Italy and increasingly new world countries, especially Australia.

Flavours:Red berry, citrus and spice

Style: Pale and interesting, and very food-friendly.

Food: Caprese salad, herby olives or even a rich chicken or fish curry.

Drink it here: A garden party with a full-flavoured buffet.

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Syrah rosé: In the Rhône and Languedoc, the syrah grape is often used in blends alongside cinsault, grenache and mourvèdre, producing full-flavoured, highly versatile rosés which work well with Middle Eastern tagines. Also increasingly used on its own in the new world to make focused, spicy pinks.

Cabernet sauvignon rosé: Most commonly made in Bordeaux, producing deeply coloured rosé, robust enough to partner rich local dishes like confit duck.

Mourvèdre rosé: usually blended with other grapes. In France, it reaches great heights of sophistication in Bandol making wines that are light in colour but with real body and personality which matches Provençal cooking's garlic, aromatic herbs and super-ripe vegetables.

Tempranillo rosé: In the Rioja region, tempranillo makes herbaceous and strawberry-scented pinks.

Merlot rosé: Used to make Bordeaux rosé, sometimes blended with cabernet sauvignon. Aromatic and juicy, rosé merlots are particularly good with cold cuts and meaty pâtés.

Gamay rosé: Usually used on its own in Beaujolais or the Auvergne. Delightfully fruity, gamay rosé can be good with light desserts.

Tannat rosé: the great bruiser of Madiran country may hold records for mouth-puckering tannin, but it turns into a pussycat when made into rosé.

Popular rosé regions

The spiritual home of rosé draws inspiration from several varieties. Most contain cinsault, grenache and syrah, while the better ones will include mourvèdre and cabernet sauvignon is also allowed in some areas. A little-known grape called tibouren is also used. These have the oomph to cope with garlicky aïolis or chunks of beef and red pepper skewered on sprigs of fresh rosemary, and are so much more refreshing than a red on a hot day.

In tandem with the local sciaccarellu grape, the nielluccio grape, related to Tuscany's sangiovese, makes exquisite rosés on this ruggedly beautiful island, demonstrating that depth of blush is not necessarily an indication of strength. Despite being pale in colour, Corsican rosé is utterly fearless in the face of a herb-encrusted sheep's milk cheese, robust black pudding or similarly hearty sausage, especially Mediterranean varieties.

The chiaretti of Bardolino and Piedmont in northern Italy can make delightful quaffing, but going south, Italian rosato wines take on deeper colour and are full of flavour and good fruit. This makes them ideal with garlic-dressed salads, Mediterranean fish like snapper and sardines and all sorts of antipasti.

Navarra, next door neighbour of Rioja, is rosado central, producing lovely, digestible wines from garnacha, with and sometimes without tempranillo. This region is also one of Spain's best market gardens, so think globe artichokes, asparagus, piquillo peppers, and perhaps a spicy dipping sauce of fruity olive oil and smoked hot pimentón to dunk them into. The versatility of these high-octane rosés also makes them excellent partners for the diversity of tapas dishes.

How is rosé made?

There are three main methods used to make rosé wine:

  • Traditional method: Rosé gets its colour from the skin of red grapes. The traditional method is by short maceration after crushing the grapes a day or two before the skins are separated from the wine.

  • The 'saignée' (bleed) method: The colour still comes from the grapes' skins, but in this method tanks of lightly crushed red grapes are 'bled' (saignée in French) after a day and the free-run juice produces a rosé wine.
  • Blending red and white wines: Mostly used in the Champagne region, and not generally permitted elsewhere.

Rosé food and wine matching

A chilled glass of rosé is delicious on its own but many are better still with food, working well with fish, grilled meats or vegetables. They are fearless in the face of tomatoes, fresh herbs, garlic, chilli, salad dressings and even eggs. They love the outdoors and are irrepressibly convivial. Fuller-bodied styles can cope with roasts and grilled meat and fish; just off-dry rosés are remarkably good with mildly spicy cooking and the cheese course. Sweeter rosé wines can partner pastries and fruit tarts well.


Rosie Allen

The Society's Brand Marketing Manager

Rosie Allen

Rosie joined the team in 2016 and oversees all our content including 1874 magazine and Discovery pages.

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