domaine de jarras, camargue    |   © katherine cole

domaine de jarras, camargue   |   © katherine cole

While researching and writing the book Rosé All Day (Abrams, spring 2017), I observed that many wineries were turning out similarly disappointing rosés. And I was surprised and delighted by wines that elevated the rosé conversation by exploring the boundaries of the genre.

What, then, are the differences between a sub-par, a good, and a great pink wine? I keep the following criteria in mind as I taste rosés today. (For a more in-depth explanation of the following outline, head over to medium, where I have also posted some nice photos.)

—Katherine Cole


signs of quality in a rosé

  • Acidity, fruit and alcohol are in balance
  • The majority of the fruit has been farmed and harvested specifically for rosé production
  • Saignée, if used, is just part of the recipe
  • The mouthfeel is textured, whether with spritz, silkiness or light tannin
  • The wine holds up to one year of cellar age, even if it is made in a “drink-now” style
  • The packaging is alluring, because presentation plays a key role in rosé’s identity


some common rosé blunders

  • Alcohol overpowers fruit and acidity
  • The pursuit of pale color and translucence has stripped flavor and identity from the wine
  • Too much sulfur, added as a preservative, has imparted a foul odor
  • An overly expensive, heavy glass bottle is used — especially when the quality of the wine does not warrant such a splurge
  • Overripe fruit makes for raisin-y flavors
  • Use of a cork results in TCA taint and/or oxidation
  • Use of commercial yeast makes for overly candied aromas and flavors


rosé-making moves worthy of praise
(when warranted)

  • Lees aging and stirring, to naturally enhance texture
  • Fermentation and aging in vessels other than stainless-steel tanks, such as subtle oak barrels, cement tanks or amphorae
  • Allowing malolactic fermentation to happen
  • Allowing spontaneous, natural-yeast fermentation to happen
  • Experimenting with whole-cluster fermentation
  • Attention to subtle design detail in packaging
  • A back label informing the consumer of the grape content, the vinification process, and the location of the vineyard site


questions we should ask of rosé makers

  • How can you express typicity and terroir in your rosé?
  • Could you aim to make a wine that can withstand, at minimum, a couple of years of cellar age?
  • If your rosé veers significantly from the standard style, should your back label make note of this fact?
  • Are you comfortable with the negative environmental impact of that onerously heavy glass bottle?
  • Why not use screwcaps or glass stoppers as closures?
  • Should you alert consumers that clear glass rosé bottles should be stored in a cool, dark environment?