Rosé means pink in French. The color pink, rose, becomes an adjective for the wine, un vin rosé, of pink color.
Red wines tend to go well with meat and some fish, as well as chocolates. White wines are that dry pair with seafoods, salads, and sweeter whites can accompany desserts. Rosé wines are typically associated with summers and served chilled at the beginning of a meal, at a time you could serve a Champagne or a Prosecco. In that case you cheer with friends drinking a glass of cold rosé.
France is the largest maker and exporter of rosé wines as of the beginning of the twenty first century. And within France Provence is the largest region, just like for Argentina the vast majority of wines come from one area: the Mendoza province. Now this may sound like rosé wines from France are easy to understand. But it’s recently gotten complicated:
- Traditionally a rosé wine is made using black grapes that produce light-colored “white” juice, through a process of careful maceration.
- Many grape varieties can be used: pinot noir, cinsaut, grenache, cabernet franc. Mostly, red grapes.
- Since 2009 there is a trend of making rosé wines through the blending of red and white wines, including the region of Champagne in France where a wine can be labelled as a rosé as a blend.
Our story with rosé wines
Growing up in the South of France, rosé wines were everywhere, particularly in warm months from Spring to Fall. Enjoyed as an apéritif, people at a bar would typically sit at a table outside when it’s warm. One person ordered a Pastis, another one a beer, and some ordered a glass of rosé, all cheering before a meal, or for no reason in the afternoon. Nowadays we drink rosé wines in the US with friends over lunches in the summer. We usually drink crisp and dry varieties of rosé wines when it comes to French bottles.
How to drink a French rosé wine
Decanting wines, when it comes to reds, can make a significant difference. A wine that can feel too intense when poured directly into a glass becomes more drinkable, smoother after being in the presence of oxygen for a few minutes, either in a traditional decanter or using newer techniques like aeration. But when it comes to rosé wines, our experience is that decanting matters less. We can hardly tell, or not tell at all, whether a rosé has been decanted or not. In the tests we made to date, decanting made no difference.
Corks for wines are evolving. For red and white wines some bottlers are moving to composite corks. These are more environmentally friendly, although they lack the interaction between the wine and the cork, passing oxygen and letting some of the wine infiltrate slowly over the years when the bottle is stored horizontally. Rosé wines now come with bottles using corks made of glass. Time will tell if this is here to stay or not. For now these corks provide nice aesthetics. Given French rosé wines are also drunk within a couple of years of being produced – they are not typically aged like red wines, the cork only needs to do its sealing work.
So, what makes a difference in drinking a rosé wine, apart from the contents? Temperature. A really nice, chilled, close to freezing temperature helps a rosé wine feel super light and drinkable.
French rosé wine characteristics and suggestions
Having tasted French rosé wines from several regions of the world, what makes a good wine from the South of France is its drinkability. Wines are generally light, crisp, citrussy, and a good bottle should not have the acidity and bitterness found in some not-so-good rosés. If you happen to come across one of these bottles you’ll notice that the associated bitterness can be a turnoff, and that’s mostly the case for cheap bottles. All rosé wines from the south of France can be excellent, not only the most famous one: the Bandol, from the town of Bandol on the Riviera, near the Mediterranean sea. You can even find very good rosé wines from the southwest of France, outside Provence. That’s actually one of our picks! It’s no surprise that after France, the next countries to export rosé wine are Spain and Italy.
- 2015 cote des roses, Gérard Bertand: blend of grenache, cinsaut, and syrah
- 2015 Hecht and Bannier Côtes de Provence: blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, Rolle
Food pairings for French rosé wine
A French rosé wine can go with many foods, it is very versatile as it stands between a white and a red. Typically consumed with appetizers and starter courses here are some ideas for food pairing: