For the past three decades, wine enthusiasts have shuddered when presented with American rosé.

The reason? Domestic rosé has long been associated with the cheap, sweet “blush” wines that became popular in the 1980s, like Sutter Home’s White Zinfandel. While these wines will always have fans, they’re quite different from the dry, refreshing Old World rosés that oenophiles crave when the weather warms.

In recent years, however, American vintners have started to produce rosés that can easily rival the Old World’s best offerings. With summer just around the corner, these wines are worth exploring — and stocking up on.

Rosé is made in one of two ways.

In the first method, the winemaker crushes red wine grapes and leaves the juice in contact with the skin for a brief period, typically one or two days. She then discards the skins, allowing the juice to finish fermentation on its own. Thanks to the short period of skin contact, the wine retains some color.

In the second method, rosé is a byproduct of red wine fermentation. Red wine obtains color, tannin, structure, and flavors from grape skins. If a winemaker wants to increase the skin-to-juice ratio during fermentation, she can simply remove some juice at an early stage. This pink juice can be fermented separately to create rosé. This method is known as saignée.

Since rosé is the only goal with the first method, some oenophiles call such wine “true” rosé. These wines typically have more texture and higher acid than saignées, so can easily pair with a variety of foods.

True rosé has been a part of life in Europe for centuries. In Provence, France, residents and visitors alike have long recognized the brilliance of pairing rosé with warm weather and coastal cuisine.

The Old World remains the source of countless fantastic rosés. But many domestic producers are now making wines that are just as delicious.

One of my favorites comes from Arnot-Roberts, a small producer in California. Made from Touriga Nacional, a Portuguese variety best known for its large role in Port, the Arnot-Roberts rosé is delicate, crisp, and structured, and packed with complexity.

Elsewhere in California, other favorites come from Copain, Peay, and County Line, three producers that utilize Pinot Noir to make bright, brilliantly seductive wines. Another comes from Matthiasson, a Napa Valley producer that uses Syrah to produce a wine that’s stony, refreshing, and bursting with ripe, citrus flavors. All four are worth seeking out.

California isn’t the only source of top-notch domestic rosé.

In Oregon’s Willamette Valley, Ponzi Vineyards makes one that’s consistently delightful. In New York, Channing Daughters on Long Island has gained a cult following for its offerings — this year, the winery produced seven different rosés! Many wineries in New York’s Finger Lakes are also gaining recognition for their bottlings. The list goes on.

Of course, America remains awash in cloyingly sweet pink wine. And it’s still too easy to accidently wind up with a bottle that tastes more like Kool-Aid than wine. But more and more producers are taking rosé seriously, so it’s easier than ever before to find a crisp, refreshing summertime quaffer that’s worth stocking up on.

David White, a wine writer, is the founder and editor of Terroirist.com. His columns are housed at Palate Press: The Online Wine Magazine.

About The Author

David White

David White is the founder and editor of Terroirist.com, which was named "Best Overall Wine Blog" at the 2013 Wine Blog Awards. His columns are housed at Palate Press: The Online Wine Magazine.

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  • http://passionatefoodie.blogspot.com Richard Auffrey

    I am a huge fan of rosés and like to see articles promoting this wine, but I am bothered by some articles, including this one, when they make rosé seem to only be a summer season wine. Rosé is an excellent food wine, and should be consumed year round. There is absolutely no reason it should be promoted only as a “summer wine.”

    • http://www.toadhollow.com Frankie Williams

      Absolutely! Rose is great any time of the year. I know I am biased – but I am very fond of the Toad Hollow Rose of Pinot Noir (Eye of the Toad). It’s my go to wine – 12 months a year.

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  • Ed Gomez

    The wine making distinction used in this article to explain the difference in rosés misses the key wine making difference. Rosé is produced by limited skin contact before continuing with fermentation. It seems to me that there is no difference between removing all of the juice (true rosé) and part of the juice (saignée), as the rosé does not know what happened to the rest of the wine.

    More important is how long the juice is in contact with the skins and when the grapes are picked. Picking more in line with sparking wine brix gives higher acid and can only be done when rosé is the main event. Waiting for full maturity gives lower acid. Cool climates make for higher acid at maturity, which is why Pinot Noir saignée makes a nice rosé. Some producers use late crop thinning for dedicated rosé but there is not much flexibility if thinning is to be effective for the main crop.

  • http://schiller-wine.blogspot.de/ Christian G.E. Schiller

    Rose can also be made by blending white and red grapes before fermentation or white and red wines after fermentation.

    Most of the Rosés on the market these days are wines that are produced 100 percent out of red grapes. Blending finished white and red wines is outlawed in many countries.
    Interestingly, it is allowed for producing Rosé Champagne and other sparkling wine in France. Blending white and red grapes before fermentation to make rosé-type wines is a specialty in a number of countries, including Germany. http://schiller-wine.blogspot.com/2013/01/a-viertele-of-schillerwein-at-weinhaus.html schiller-wine.