Pink Wine: Exploring What Makes Light Pink Wine Pink

Pink Wine: Exploring What Makes Light Pink Wine Pink

McKenzie Hagan |

While most of us wine lovers have favorite red and white wines, far too many people overlook pink wine. Perhaps it's a stereotypically feminine color that puts some off or the wine’s unfair reputation as a sorority girl drink, but if you’re not drinking pink wine, you’re missing out.

Produced using red grapes, pink wine has the complex fruit flavors of red wine, but with the fresh sharpness of white. With a pink version of almost all of our favorite red grapes, there are so many varieties to choose from. Whether you love Merlot or Pinot Noir, there’s a pink wine to suit your tastes.

In this article we break down why we love pink wine and why you should give it a chance.

Are Pink Wine and Rosé the Same?

Yes! When someone refers to a bottle of rosé, it's safe to say the wine will be pink.

While some rosés are pinker than cotton candy and others have far more subdued hues, all rosé wines are considered pink wines.

As Bordeaux is considered the wine capital of the world, it’s only fitting that the French word for “pink” is the international name for this blush-colored wine. So if anyone offers you a glass of pink wine, you can be confident that you’re about to get a refreshing glass of rosé.

The only other wine that could be mistaken as pink wine is skin contact wine, or as it’s better known, orange wine. While skin contact wines usually exhibit a golden orange hue, there are a few on the market that have a pinkish quality and could be confused for a rosé.

Skin contact wine is pretty different from pink wine. They’re made in different ways. Skin contact wine/orange wine is created by crushing white grapes with their skins still intact and leaving them to ferment this way for up to a year.

This process results in unusual wines that have bold flavors, such as bruised apple, jackfruit, and orange rind.

How Is Pink Wine Made?

Rosé wines are made in a similar way to white wines and red wines, but there are some key differences that give it that famous pale pink color.

Initially, winemakers select either red- or black-skinned grapes for the process. Cabernet Sauvignon is a common choice, just like other notable red wine grapes, including TempranilloSyrah, and notably Pinot Noir. In this context, one might naturally ask, what is Pinot Noir? This grape, celebrated for its complex taste profile, is indeed a significant contributor to the wine industry's diversity.

Next, the grapes are crushed and left to ferment with their skins on for a few hours. This step is key to creating the pretty pink hue of the wine, as well as a lot of the fruity flavors that set pink wine apart from white wine.

The grape skins are removed from the wine on the same day, unlike red wines. This means the wine takes on more of the tannins in the skins, without taking on the robust flavors found in red wine.

Finally, the pink wine is matured in stainless steel tanks to preserve the crisp, sharp qualities of the wine. Red wine, on the other hand, is matured in oak barrels, allowing for gentle oxidation which creates rounder, softer flavors in the wine.

Because a wide range of grape varieties are used to produce pink wines, the colors can differ greatly. While some may look hot pink, others will only have the faintest salmon-like color.

What Does Pink Wine Taste Like?

pink wine: several bottles of Rosé from Usual Wines on the grass

Asking what pink wine tastes like is similar to asking, “How long is a piece of string?” The answer: It depends. Because each grape has its own specific flavors, sugar levels, and acidity, each wine will taste slightly different.

For instance, let’s look at a Tavel rosé. This French wine is a dry rosé with a dark pink color. It’s commonly made from a mix of Syrah, Grenache, and other French grapes. It has floral tasting notes, as well as strawberry and watermelon.

Now, let's compare that to a very well-known rosé, White Zinfandel. By contrast, White Zinfandel is sweet with juicy red fruit flavors, like strawberries, raspberries, and cherries. Much of the world’s White Zinfandel is produced in Napa Valley, California in the United States. Although many people love the sweet, fruity flavors, others find it sickly sweet. 

Due to the popularity of White Zinfandel, the reputation of pink wine has been somewhat damaged, as many assume that all pink wines are very sweet and fruity. However, there are so many wonderful options available to try — just because you dislike one doesn’t mean you won’t like another.

What Does Sparkling Pink Wine Taste Like?

Sparkling rosé follows the same winemaking process as other sparkling wines, such as Champagne. Winemakers ferment their grapes into wine and then subject this wine to a second fermentation to add that marvelous fizz.

Much like white sparkling wines, pink varietals have a range of flavors and qualities. For instance, Ruinart rosé, a very high-quality pink Champagne, is smooth and delicate with tasting notes of cherries, wild strawberries, and even tropical fruits like lychee.

On the other end of the scale, pink Prosecco is light, pale in color, and has tasting notes of grapefruit, white flowers, red berries, and apples.

How to Enjoy Pink Wine

Pink wines pair wonderfully with a range of dishes. Before you select your food, check if your bottle is dry or on the sweeter side.

For sweet rosés, like White Zinfandel, opt for classic BBQ dishes, roasted meats, and dishes with sweet, rich sauces. For dry rosés, such as Tavel, choose lighter dishes. Grilled chicken and pan-fried salmon are great options. A summery salad will feel far more indulgent with a glass of pink wine on the side.

As for serving your wine at the right temperature, pink wine is best when chilled to 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Pop your bottle in the fridge for several hours before drinking, or serve in an ice bucket.

Unlike many of its red cousins, rosé wine does not benefit from decanting. Instead, serve it straight from the bottle, taking the time to enjoy the aromas of the wine before you sip.

Pink wine is traditionally served in stemware with a short bowl and a flared lip, but a standard white wine glass is also suitable. A sparkling variety is always best in a long, slim Champagne flute — this will keep your glass bubbly for longer.

Tickled Pink for Pink Wine

a person holding a bottle of Rosé from Usual Wines outdoors

As you can see, pink wine and rosé are one and the same, so if you choose to refer to it as pink wine, that’s totally your call. 

Whatever you call it, pour a fresh glass by grabbing a Usual Wines Mixed Pack, which includes an easy-drinking pink wine from the Central Coast of California alongside bottles of Red and Brut. Each single-serve bottle is full of sustainably farmed, minimally intervened, and small-lot wine.

While many have written rosé off, we think they’re mistaken. While super-sweet White Zinfandel may be most people’s experience with rosé, there are many wonderful pink wines on the market, all with their own unique flavor profiles.

So, the next time you’re heading out for a BBQ or looking for the perfect wine to accompany your grilled fish, think pink. From beautifully complex dry varietals to delicate sparkling ones, there’s a pink wine for every occasion.