How Do You Define Rosé?

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Certain categories of wine must be approached on tiptoe, as opinions surrounding them will be tenaciously defended, even if their champions are ill-informed. Arguments will ensue.

Riesling is like that, for sure, and natural wine, without a doubt. But rosé?

Rosé is a popular, beloved sort of wine, I imagined, that all would embrace. It’s for lovers, not for fighters, connoting relaxation, not combat.

Yet as we explored an assortment of rosés in our latest unit of Wine School, I was surprised to find substantial disagreements not only on how these wines were experienced — that’s always a given — but also on the nature of rosé, how to define it and whether it has any value at all.

Many people assume that the paler the rosé, the better. Yet one of our three bottles, the Tiberio, was cherry red. The great Bandols are pale, yes, but some of the world’s best rosés, like Château Simone in Palette, a small town in Provence, and Domaine Ilarria in Irouléguy in Southwest France, are as dark as the Cerasuolo.

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