When clinking glasses to celebrate a holiday, few wines fit the occasion more perfectly than rosé at Easter. Rosé’s versatility makes it a superior contender for traditional Easter dishes like ham or scalloped potatoes and also non-traditional options like salmon or spring soup.
Winemakers can choose from a few different production methods to make rosé. The techniques don’t necessarily play into specific food pairing ideas. Still, they determine body, color, and flavor, which, in turn, are huge factors when choosing a wine to serve with a meal.
Pale pink rosés — the result of limited skin maceration (anywhere between six to 48 hours) or direct pressing — are light and refreshing, perfect as an aperitif or paired with a light starter dish. Wines that go through the saignée method, or ‘bleeding’, are richer in style and more suitable to pair with an entrée — this is because the winemaker will begin by vinifying a red wine with typical juice-to-skin ratio, then remove, or ‘bleed’, some of the juice from the tank to vinify separately as a rosé.
Rosé is a style that law rarely determines, even in Old World wine regions where rules surrounding winemaking methods can be rigid. Save for one method: blending. The practice of blending white and red to make rosé is prohibited for PDO wines in Europe, the lone exception being Champagne. However, blending is a viable option globally, resulting in drastically different styles depending on the amount and type of red wine in the blend.
So, what’s the best rosé for the Easter table? Taste, taste, taste! Grab a few different bottles from various regions. Get to know the areas that specialize, and read up on producers with dependable reputations for making pink juice. Here are a few to start:
Provence, in southeastern France, is where some of the world’s most famous rosé wines come from. The region spans over 100 miles (200 km) along the Mediterranean, from Nice to Marseilles, and is home to nine AOC appellations. The largest is Côtes de Provence, which accounts for 75% of Provence’s wine production. Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence and Coteaux Varois en Provence are the next biggest.
Provence rosés are highly quaffable and known for being light and refreshing. The area’s hot and dry climate makes it ideal for growing Rhône grape varieties — Mourvèdre, Grenache, and Cinsault being the primary rosé players. Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon are also popular while blending varieties include Carignan, Braquet, Calitor, Folle, and Tibouren.
According to Vins du Provence, most winemakers make rosé via skin maceration or direct press.
Provence Rosés To Try:
Whispering Angel Rosé
Maison Saint Aix
Côtes de Provence Rosé
Other Rosé Wine Regions in France
In the southern Rhône Valley, Tavel is the only French appellation that specializes in dry rosé; producers cannot legally produce red or white wines. Grenache, Cinsault, and Syrah are the primary grapes. Grenache Noir is the most common; however, Grenache Gris and Grenache Blanc are also allowed, meaning Tavel rosé can technically comprise only white varieties, though made with skin contact resulting in a pale pink color.
In northern France’s Chinon (Tourain) and Anjou (Loire Valley), Cabernet Franc is the base for most rosés, resulting in delicate expressions with herbal and fruity notes.
Central Coast, California
California’s Central Coast stretches 250 miles (402 km) between San Francisco Bay and Santa Barbara County. Approximately 100,000 acres of vineyards grow across several AVAs (American Viticultural Areas), including Santa Barbara County, Livermore Valley, Paso Robles, Monterey County, and many more.
Considering the region’s size, it’s no wonder that a wide variety of grapes go into making rosé wine. The maritime influence in northern parts inspires rosé with crisp acidity from Pinot Noir. However, the long growing season also allows for pockets of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, lending to more fruit-forward versions. Pinot Noir also goes into making most rosé from the southern end of the Central Coast, particularly in Santa Barbara County.
In contrast to the north and south ends of California’s Central Coast, the middle, more in-land areas (like Paso Robles AVA), is known for rosé from Zinfandel and Rhône varieties, such as Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, and Cinsault.
Central Coast Rosés To Try:
Niki’s Pinot Noir Rosé
Other Rosé Wine Regions in the United States
In upstate New York, the Finger Lakes wine region is best known for its Riesling, but the area also produces some excellent rosé wines made from a range of grapes, including Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir. The wines are typically dry and refreshing, with bright fruit flavors and a crisp finish.
While Rioja is more famous for its red wines, about 5% of the region’s production is rosé (rosado), made using Garnacha (Grenache) or Tempranillo. The climate in Rioja is continental, with hot, dry summers, which is ideal for growing these two grapes.
Traditionally, rosé is straightforward and quaffable. However, in the case of Rioja, rosado follows similar (though not identical) barrel aging rules as its white and red counterparts. For rosado, they are:
- Joven (no aging requirement)
- Crianza (minimum two years from Oct 1 of the harvest year, with six months in barrel)
- Reserva (two years with six months in barrel)
- Gran Reserva (four years with six months in barrel)
Rioja winemakers often use the saignée method to produce wines that are deeper in color, with a beautiful pink hue that ranges from pale salmon to ruby.
Rioja Rosados To Try:
Marques de Riscal
Other Rosé Wine Regions in Spain
In northeastern Spain, Penedès is best known for its sparkling wines (Cava and Classic Penedès), but producers there are also making still rosé wines from a range of grapes, including Garnacha and Pinot Noir. The wines are typically dry and crisp, with bright acidity and delicate fruit flavors.
Other Rosé Wine Regions in Europe
In Portugal, Alentejo is a warm, dry region that produces rich and fruity rosé wines made from a range of grapes, including Touriga Nacional and Aragonez. In the Bairrada region in central Portugal on the Atlantic coast, rich and fruity rosé wines are made primarily from the Baga grape. The wines are typically full-bodied and complex, with notes of red fruit, spice, and earth.
The Veneto region in northeast Italy produces a range of rosé (or rosato) wines, from dry and crisp to sweet and bubbly. The Bardolino Chiaretto DOC is a particularly popular dry rosé wine from the region made using the Corvina grape. In central Italy’s Abruzzo region, the Montepulciano grape goes into making the ever-popular Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo.
The Rest of the World
In the Andes Mountains’ foothills, Mendoza producers make rosé wines, primarily from Malbec. They are known for their crisp acidity and bright fruit flavors.
Best known for its Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, produces some excellent rosé wines from Pinot Noir.
And finally, north of Cape Town in South Africa, Swartland is gaining recognition for its rosé. The wines, typically from Syrah or Grenache, are full-bodied and rich, with bold fruit flavors and a hint of spice.