25 Great Rosé Pairings:  Pairing Rosé with Food

Part of our ongoing series on pairing wine with food

Rosé is an often-overlooked category of wine.  That's a shame, we think, because it's perfect for warm summer days, paired with virtually any warm-climate cuisine.  There is a huge difference between American "blush" wines and true rosés, and the difference is like night and day.  If you've tried just a glass or two (or none at all!) and think rosé is just not for you, we strongly suggest you give it another look.  

How is Rosé Made?

Rosé sits in the middle of the white-red wine spectrum.  

Many people mistakenly think that rosé is a blend of finished red and white wines.  It is not.  In fact, in France, such practice is illegal - except in the Champagne region.  And even there, this blending is rarely used.

Rosé is instead made by altering or shortening a key step in the making of red wine - the "grape skin contact" stage.  The winemaker incorporates the red-color of grape skins during winemaking, and stops that process before it fully goes to red-wine levels.  

Here's the thing -- nearly all grape varietals yield clear juice.  The color in nearly all wines comes from the skins, not the juice.   With a rose, the color usually comes from grape-skin-contact with the juices, but the process is aborted (and skins removed) before it would qualify as a red wine:

  1. Red grapes are lightly crushed and left to macerate with their red skins for a while (typically 1-3 days.)
  2. When the winemaker is happy with the color of the rosé, he/she removes the skin, pips and stems from the tank.
  3. If the winemaker wishes to add more tannin and color, some of the pink juice from the solid-mass "must" is removed, which intensifies the red wine notes and tannin.

As a result, a great Rosé has the body of a red wine.  But it's served chilled, and is extremely refreshing.  

Common varietals used are Grenache, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Tempranillo.   The most common terms used to describe the flavor profile are grapefruit, strawberry, raspberry and blackberry.

Styles of Rosé

We readily concede there are some awful rosés -- most of them, to our taste, far-too-sweet, generally American Zinfandel blushes.  Stay away from the ones that come in a box.  While it's a personal preference, we suggest you begin on the drier side of the house.

If you haven't tried rosé, or haven't had one recently, start with a bone-dry rosé from Provence.  There are some fantastic dry rosés that are absolutely perfect for spring and summer dining.  Traditionally dry rose's are made from Grenache, Syrah, Sangiovese, or Pinot Noir.  Traditionally sweet rose's are usually made from White Zinfandel, White Merlot or Pink Moscato.  You can't really tell whether a rose is dry or sweet from the color -- you really must know more about the varietal of the grape, and the typical regional style.

This wine's style is quite varied, but certain regions have made their mark.  From the refreshing medium-dry of the Loire Valley (France), to bone-dry, very powerful wines such as Languedoc-Roussillon from Provence (France), to sweeter blush wines such as White Zinfandel, typically from California, you're to find a great option for a summer picnic, luncheon or dinner party.

The primary ten grapes used in rosé are:

  • Provence - fruity and delicate
  • Grenache - fruity
  • Sangiovese - fruity strawberry
  • Tempranillo - light, watermelon
  • Pinot Noir - fruity and delicate
  • Syrah - savory, strawberry
  • Cabernet Sauvignon - savory, deep cherry
  • Zinfandel - sweet
  • Tavel - dry and rich
  • Mourvèdre - flowery and fruity

Serving Temperature

We think rosé is best enjoyed at 45-55 °F or 7-13 °C.

Great Pairings with Rosé

Here are 25 terrific pairings to try:  


Main Dishes, Side Dishes

For us, rosé makes us think of summertime.  It's best-served chilled, and is often more refreshing than a big red wine on a hot summer day.  Not surprisingly, some cuisines that work best of all with rose are the warm-climate cuisines.

Warm-Climate Cuisines Rock with Rosé

Looking for inspiration? Since Rose works so well in a warm climate, try one of these warm-climate cuisines:

Enjoy a glass poolside or on a picnic.  So come on, give rosé a chance -- it's may just be like rediscovering a summer love.