Rose isn’t red or white wine, but something all its own. Keep these rose basics in mind when you buy rose:
• Rose isn’t white zinfandel (or white merlot or whatever). Roses are pink wines made with red grapes and they aren’t sweet. Why are they pink? Because the red grape skins are left in the fermenting grape juice just long enough to color the wine. There is a second, much less common method called bleeding, in which wine is siphoned from freshly pressed red wine.
• Rose’s fruit flavors are mostly red berries (think strawberry or cranberry) or watermelon. They should be served chilled, and they pair pretty much with any food, including beef and barbecue. Rose was made for Sunday afternoon, sitting on the back porch, rose in hand, burgers on the grill.
• Don’t buy old rose. Look for vintages that are a year old, and at most two. Roses are not made to age, and should be fresh and flavorful. The color in older vintages starts to fade, like paper that yellows.
• Rose styles vary by country (though these are becoming less noticeable as winemaking becomes more international). Spanish wines are going to be bone dry with less fruit flavor. French roses are not quite as dry as the Spanish, but they usually don’t have a lot of fruit flavor (and rose from Provence is among the best in the world). Some U.S. wines are so full of strawberry flavor that they seem sweet, but that’s your taste buds playing a trick on you.