A Tour Across the European Most Noteworthy Rosés
Rosé’s popularity seems unstoppable, and consumers today can choose from an increasingly wide range of rosé from around the world. Europe, particularly France, Spain, and Italy, accounts for the lion’s share, with over half of the rosé wine produced globally.
France is the world’s leader in rosé production, and it is also home to an extensive range of rosé’ styles and appellations.
France’s most popular rosé’ is produced in Provence, in the southeastern part of the country. This region has set the trend for pale pink rosés that have been replicated almost elsewhere globally, and it is considered the benchmark for rosé wine production. Provence has a warm Mediterranean climate, yet it produces crisp rosés that are typically very pale and dry. They combine firm mineral acidity and fresh flavors of red fruit, hints of stone fruit (peach), herbs, and subtle notes of garrigues. Most Provence rosés are based on Grenache and Cinsault with smaller additions of Mourvèdre, Syrah, and sometimes white grapes such as Rolle (Vermentino). Although most rosés of Provence are meant for early drinking, some examples can age for 3-4 years, developing a more complex profile with notes of dried fruit and nuts.
Provence is also home to another notable rosé, Bandol. Although principally known for its robust, full-body Mourvedre-based reds, the appellation of Bandol also produced structured, full-bodied, dry rosés with often a distinctive herbal note.
The popularity of the rosés from Provence makes it easy to forget that there are several other rosés worth seeking out in France. Tavel, a village located in the southern part of the Rhone region, is a historic and prestigious rosé’ appellation and is considered the most reputed rosé’ of the Rhone Valley region. It is unique among French appellations, as it is exclusively dedicated to the production of rosé. The rosés from Tavel are usually Grenache-based and go through more extended maceration on the skins (three to four days). They are notably deep in color, full-bodied, sweet-tasting, and high in alcohol. The best Tavel are full-flavored, complex, structured, and are among the few rosés that can age, developing savory notes with bottle age.
The Loire Valley is home to four rosés, Rosé’ de Loire, Rosé’ d’Anjou, Cabernet d’Anjou and Sancerre. The former three are produced in Anjou, Saumur, and Touraine areas and differ for the residual sugar in the wine. Rosé’ de Loire is always dry and based on a minimum of 30% Cabernet Franc and/or Cabernet Sauvignon. Rosé’ d’Anjou is an off-dry rosé predominantly based on the local black grape Grolleau. Cabernet d’Anjou is a medium-sweet rosé produced from a blend of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Thanks to the cool climate, the rosés from the Loire Valley show crisp acidity that nicely balances the fruit and the residual sugar. Sancerre is world-famous for its racy, mineral, dry whites made from Sauvignon Blanc; however, interestingly, it also produces a small volume of charming, crisp rosés made from Pinot Noir that enjoy an increasing following.
The Burgundian village of Marsannay, situated in the northern part of the Côte de Nuits, produces excellent rosé. The wines are made from Pinot Noir and show the grape’s typical finesse combined with soft cherry red fruit and firm acidity. Curiously, Marsannay is the only village appellation of Burgundy for rose.
Italy is the world’s fourth-largest producer of rosé. From north to south, Italy produces a wide range of rosés (rosato in Italian), and some appellations specifically focus on rosé production.
Bardolino is one of Italy’s most well-known rosés and is considered among Italy’s best. Located in the northern Italian region of Veneto, on the southeastern shore of Lake Garda, Bardolino is known for its rosé style called Chiaretto, which refers to the light intensity of color. The wines are made predominantly from the Corvina grape complemented with Rondinella and Molinara. Bardolino Chiaretto is pale pink, light in body, fresh and fragrant with floral and red fruit notes.
Proceeding south in central Italy, facing the Adriatic Sea, there is the region of Abruzzo. Primarily known for its production of reds from the grape Montepulciano, Abruzzo is also home to one of Italy’s most distinctive and well-respected rosés, Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo, made from the same Montepulciano variety. The rosé from Montepulciano can be produced with a brief maceration on the skins thanks to the grape's high levels of anthocyanins. Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo boasts a characteristic deep pink color (similar to Tavel), tannic grip, and bracing acidity. It combines red fruit and savory notes, and it is considered one of Italy’s most complex, structured, and age-worthy rosés.
The southern region of Puglia has one of Italy’s longest history of rosé production. The region is one of Italy’s largest producers of rosé and has almost become synonymous with this style. Some of the most remarkable examples of Italian rosé are produced in Puglia, most notably in Salento. The principal grape used for rosés is Negro Amaro. Primitivo and Bombino Nero are also used. Apulian rosés, especially when made from Negro Amaro in Salento, show a medium to deep cherry color, strawberry aromas along with a rich, full body.
Spain is the world’s second-largest producer of rosé wines (rosado in Spanish) after France. Rosés are made in several Spanish regions; however, differently from France or Italy, Spain does not have specific districts and appellations that focus on this style. Traditionally, Spanish rosés were deep in color. The popularity of the Provence rosé style has led to a significant increase in the number of pale pink rosés produced in Spain. Many Spanish producers, however, continue the tradition of deeper colored rosé.
Rioja, Spain’s most famous and historic wine region, is mainly known for its Tempranillo-based reds. A small volume of very distinctive rosé wines is also produced. They are crafted from Tempranillo or Garnacha. Some of them are matured in oak vessels resulting in smooth texture and greater complexity of flavors. Some of the rosés produced in Rioja are amongst Spain’s best, such as the unique and exceptionalViña Tondonia Rosé Gran Reserva produced by Bodegas López de Heredia.
Navarra is another of the Spanish regions known for rosé. The cool conditions in the northern part of the region allow to preserve of acidity in the grapes, which is ideal for the production of rosado. Rosés from Navarra are usually medium to deep in color and are mainly crafted from Garnacha, sometimes complemented with Tempranillo and Bordeaux grape varieties.
Clarete is a historic Spanish style that can be described as between a rosé and a light red wine. It originated in northern Spain, mainly in the regions of Cigales and Ribera del Duero. It is traditionally produced by crushing both red and white grapes together and vinified as a red wine, keeping the juice in contact with the skins for a short period of time. Clarete shows juicy cherry aromas with citrus and orange peel notes combined with fresh acidity and a gentle tannic texture.