What’s in a name? Is it rosé, blush, or just pink wine?

Pink wine can take on many hues. Some are barely pink—almost clear, like a white wine. Others are darker hued, and might even be confused with light red wine. Most fall somewhere in between, and all them take their color from the skins of the red grapes they are made with.

Then why aren’t rosés red? Because most of them are pressed off or “bled” away from the skins before much of the red color be transmitted to the juice prior to fermentation.

The French, who make more pink wine than anyone else, call it rosé. Maybe that’s why this is the most commonly used moniker. Sometimes the French use the term vin gris—literally “gray wine”—for a light colored rosé.

The Italians call it rosato, and the Spanish say, rosado. The German descriptor is weissherbst. “Blush” is a phrase commonly used in the New World, especially America, where it often describes a sweeter style of rosé. But blush can also refer to a drier wine style, too, depending on who’s talking.

“Pink wine” works just fine for the category, but it doesn’t seem to roll off the tongue with quite the same aplomb as rosé. So most of us anglophones who make dry pink wine call it rosé. C’est la vie.

And White Zinfandel? Well, it’s more pink than white and nearly always made in a sweet style. That’s why White Zinfandel shouldn’t be confused with dry rosé. (However, fine dry rosé can be made from Zinfandel grapes—no problem.)

In the end, you can call rosé whatever you like. There’s plenty of meaning in a name, but it’s nothing compared to what’s in the bottle.


(Portions of this section are taken from “Rosé, A guide to the World’s Most Versatile Wine,” by Jeff Morgan (Chronicle Books 2004) and reprinted with permission from the author.)