The rosé wine market is exploding with options. Luckily, you can learn a lot from the label. Take a peek at these three details to see if the pink drink is worth the price tag.
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Today’s rosé wine has come a long way from your mom’s “blush” white zinfandel. By dialing back the sweetness, cuing in on the quality, and focusing on great grapes, wine producers created a delightful supply that’s definitely boosting demand. Alongside the recent uptick in sparkling wine sales, Rosé wine is one of the biggest trends in the beverage industry. It doesn’t hurt that its color and some savvy branding and cute labels make it oh-so Instagrammable, too. With more rosé wine options than ever, how do you pick the best bottle (or can) for your buck? Turns out, the label (no, not just the design of the label) can clue you in about a lot.

various bottles cans rose pink blush wine
Credit: Jacob Fox

How to Buy the Best Rosé Wine: 3 Label Facts to Find

While some wine pros recommend looking at the color, that’s not always a fail-safe trick to pick the best bottle of rosé. Take a peek at these three details to pick a refreshing, high-quality rosé that will have you saying, “Yes way!”

 1. The Vintage Year

Rosés are made in every country that produces wine, often with the same grapes that make other varietals. To achieve the pink hue, vintners use one of two wine production methods:

  • Saignée: French for “bleeding,” producers remove part of the juice from the grapes to make more concentrated red wine. This lighter grape juice is then transformed into rosé. Saignée is a more common practice in regions where bold, big reds are created. The resulting rosés are often rich and fruit-forward.
  • Skin Contact: This is the more traditional method of the two, in which grape skins are allowed to hang out with the grape juice for a limited time. Those skins infuse some color and a hint of tannins (that astringent quality you notice in some red wines) before they’re removed and fermentation and the rest of the winemaking process continues. These rosés are generally lighter in hue than saignée wines and taste more like citrus (aka higher in acidity) than berries.

Now that you know how rosé gets rosy, we’ll admit: The production method isn’t usually listed on the wine label. Why? Both methods can produce good bottles of rosé—it just depends on your flavor preference.

So instead of how it was made, look at when it was made. Unlike common wine wisdom might make you believe, not every wine gets better with age. Since rosé grapes are selected for their freshness, harvested early, and fermented at chilly temps, the final product is generally zesty and fresh-tasting. Consider this your “best if consumed by” rosé rule: Enjoy within two years of its vintage year—which is listed on the label—if possible. Occasionally, although not always, they tend to taste slightly “flatter” once it gets older.

2. Rosé Alcohol Percentage

If those fresh, youthful, light-bodied flavors are what you’re after, seek a rosé alcohol content of 13% or less ABV (alcohol by volume), which is required to be listed on the label by law. Whether you’re pairing them with a light seafood dish or simply enjoying a glass on the patio, we often pop open a bottle of rosé when we’re looking for something bright and refreshing. At this alcohol level, that’s likely what you’ll find. Rosés with higher ABV than 13% aren't necessarily inferior, they just won't taste as similar to what most wine pros consider high-quality rosé—ones that tastes most similar to rosés made in Provence, France.

3. The Location of Origin

These locations are known for producing delicious rosés at great prices. You should be able to some of the best-tasting rosé wines in the $15-$30 range.

  • Loire, France
  • Tavel, France
  • Provence, France
  • Rioja, Spain
  • Sonoma, California

While these are standbys for quality rosé wine, there are also increasingly amazing rosés coming out of Oregon, South America, South Africa, Italy, and more. Sounds like the perfect excuse to invite over your pals and host a wine-tasting party!

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