Rosé has become the "it" wine in recent years, thanks to its attractive pink tint and refreshing flavor on a hot summer day, and it doesn’t look like it’s fizzling out any time soon.
Despite its popularity on social media and its attractiveness as a backyard party wine, many people have no idea what rosé is or where it originates from. There are also other frequent misunderstandings about this blush-colored wine, such as that it's overly sweet (it may be dry, too) or that it's a new sort of wine (it's been there for a longer time than people tend to believe).
When looking for alcohol-free rosé wines, people tend to think similarly and don’t realize that not all alcohol-free options are sweet.
Read on if you’ve ever wondered, “are alcohol free rosé wines sweet?” or "is rose wine sweet?"
But before looking at which rosé wines are sweet or dry, it’s important to understand why they are that way. Let’s take a look at the process of making rosé wines and understand what gives them their beautiful color, flavors, and sweetness or dryness.
What exactly is a rose wine?
It’s not a combination of red and white wines as many people believe, although that type of rosé does exist. And it’s not even new – it has just become a trend recently.
Rose wines have been produced in Southern France since the 6th century BC. They can be manufactured in a variety of ways, but most are made from red varietals whose skins were only allowed to sit in contact with the juice for a brief length of time to add a tinge of color. It’s the reduced amount of time that the skins are left to ferment that gives this wine a light, blush-like color. Leave the skins in longer, and you’ll have a robust red on your hands!
Rosé is not a specific type of grape, either. It can be made from nearly any variety of red wine grape originating from any region. The differentiating factor between most rosé wines is the subtle differences in the grape varietals. Most types of rosé wines are made with a combination of different grape varietals, but you can also find rosé wines made with a single type of grape. The single-varietal rosé is the most common in California.
Apart from the subtle differences between the grape varietals, the color and taste also depend on the process used to make the wine.
Ways of making a rosé wine
The sweetness and taste of rosé wine, and also how it combines with food, may be greatly influenced by subtle variances in the grapes and winemaking procedures. Rosé can be made using any of the following methods.
The maceration method is also commonly known as the Direct Press method. The grapes for red wine are squeezed and left to sit with their skins. Instead of leaving the skins on for the whole of the fermentation process, they are removed after 2 to 24 hours.
"Gray Wine" is the literal meaning of Vin Gris. This occurs when red grapes have been used to create a wine that is practically white due to a very short maceration period. Lighter red wine types, such as Pinot Noir, are favored in this style.
The Saignée (pronounced Sohn-yay) method entails "bleeding off" a little amount of red wine juice. The hue is determined by the amount of time spent "on the skins" and can be quite light if very briefly in touch with the skin. Saignee wines are frequently blended or co-fermented with certain other whites to expand and lighten the hue.
What does rosé taste like?
Rosé is usually light and fruity rather than full-bodied. It’s closer to a light red such as Pinot Noir but with the crisp and bright flavors of a white. Each type of rosé will taste a little different depending on the type of grapes and the process used to make them. However, you can find some common flavors among all of them, such as:
- Red berries (such as raspberries, strawberries, and cherries)
How strong these flavors are will depend on how sweet, dry, or savory the wine is.
Which rosé is sweet and which is dry?
While there’s a common misconception that all rosé wines are sweet, it’s far, far away from the truth. In fact, you’ll likely find more varieties of a dry rosé than that of a sweet one. As mentioned above, it all depends on the type of grapes and the process used.
It’s also not true that the lighter wines are drier or that the darker ones are sweeter. The color simply depends on the amount of time the skin is left in the juice and how long it’s left to ferment.
Do note that drier wines may also contain more alcohol in them than sweeter ones. That happens because the quicker the fermentation process is stopped, the more natural sweetness from the grapes it retains.
Some sweet rosé wines are also made that way by adding extra sugar to them, but these are usually the ones that are candy-sweet and will taste more sugar than grapes.
It can be tricky picking a dry rosé from a sweet one, so here’s a list of the wines that are usually dry and the ones that are usually sweet.
Sweet rosé wines
There are only a handful of sweet rosés such as the following:
- White Zinfandel
- White Merlot
- Pink Moscato
Dry rosé wines
On the other hand, you can pick from any of the following wines if you’re looking for a dry variety:
- Pinot Noir
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Sangiovese (but these can be mildly sweet, too, so check the label!)
Alcohol-free rosé wines
You can find both sweet and dry varieties in alcohol-free rosé wines. If you’re looking for a particularly dry variety, you can choose the Surely or Noughty Rose wines. These are the driest alcohol-free rosé wines. The rest range from dry to moderate to sweet.
Contrary to popular belief, rosé wines are not overly sweet, although there are some sweet varieties, too. The sweetness or dryness of the wines depends upon the making process of the wines. Similarly, alcohol-free rosé wines also have several dry varieties, such as the Surely or Noughty range of rosé and sparkling rosé wines.