Pink wines are a complicated subject, seemingly having dozens of different names and classifications. This often leads to questions such as: is blush wine the same as rosé?
No, blush wines are not the same as rosé, but they are similar in many ways. Both wines come from the same process taken to different degrees and both wines can appear the same to the naked eye. The fact that pink wines are not strictly classified in America does not help the matter, since it means what separates a blush from a rosé is highly subjective.
This article will go over the differences between the two wines, where they come from, and how to choose the best wine for you.
Where Does Pink Wine Come From?
To understand the difference between blushes and rosés, it is important to understand where wine gets its color from. Wines are generally colored when grape skins are left in the fermenting wine, coloring the wine based on the color of the soaking skins. Grape skins also provide other benefits to wine such as releasing tannins, which add balance and complexity to the mix.
Normally red wines are soaked in grape skins for days to create their deep red coloration, but pink wines are exposed to grape skin for less time. Generally pink wines are only left to soak with skins for a few hours, meaning that they develop a partially red color ranging from faint orange to deep pink.
While this is normally where pink wines come from, there are a few other methods vintners use. Sometimes they will mix red and white wines together to create a pink-hued wine that combines aspects of both finished wines. This is perhaps the easiest way to create pink wine, but the quality of the resulting wine is often just as mixed as the contents.
Another, less common method of creating pink wine is to take a white wine mix and add skins from red wine for a few hours. This adds a hint of red wine color and flavor to the white wine, but like mixing two different wines the results are not as reliable as creating pink wine from red grape juice and skins.
The different techniques used to create pink wines are important to understanding the differences between blush and rosé wine, not just where they come from but their qualities as well.
What is a Rosé?
Now that we understand how pink wines are made, we can understand what a rosé is, and eventually what separates it from blush wine. A rosé is a type of pink wine made using one of two French techniques, either maceration or Saignée, both of which are quite similar.
Maceration is a process for creating a single batch of pink wine by leaving the skins of red grapes in a batch to ferment. As the skins rest, or macerate, they impart color and flavor on the wine to create a large, single batch of rosé. After the crushed grapes have been in contact with the skins for as little as a few hrs the grapes are pressed off the skins to only pick up a small amount of color.
Saignée, or the bleeding method, is another method wherein excess juice is removed from a fermenter a few hours into the process, draining off some of the wine to create a rosé. This technique is especially effective because it means both the red wine and the rosé are more concentrated, giving them richer flavors and more vibrant colors.
Rosé wines are always made with one of these two techniques, maceration or Saignée, to create a pure pink wine. Real rosés are never made from a mix of red and white wine, or from white wine mixed with red grape skins. Rosés are commonly associated with French wine culture, since this is where the techniques originated from.
As for the qualities of a rosé, this varies from batch to batch, as only the coloring technique is important to making a rosé. They are generally fruity, light bodied, and a bit dry, but they can be more bitter or full bodied as well depending on the variety of grape used to make the wine. As a result of the specific techniques used to create these wines, rosés tend to be of higher quality and more complex flavor than other pink wines.
What Makes Blush Wine Different from Rosé?
Blush wines are to the rosé as red table wine is to Pinot Noir, it is a catchall term for generally cheaper, lower quality pink wine made outside of famous growing areas. While this does not make blush wine a bad product, it does mean the quality of blush wine is more mixed compared to a well-made rosé.
Starting with fermentation, blush wines can be made with the maceration or Saignée techniques used for rosés, but they can also be made by mixing red and white wines or putting red grape skins in white wine. This separates blushes from rosés, which are only made using specific French techniques.
Blush wines can also be made with less common strains of grapes from less famous growing regions. Blush wines may be created from lower quality grapes with added sugar for sweetness or from two well-made wines blended together. Blush wines are a staple of less well known wine country as a way to compete with other pink wines like rosés.
As a general rule, blush wines tend to be less complex in their flavor compared to rosé wines. They tend to be lighter and sweeter than rosés, with a fruity flavor and less alcohol content. This contrasts with the complexity and fuller quality of rosé wine, and this is what truly makes blushes different from rosés.
It is important to note that the separation between blush and rosé is not always clear in some countries. In fact in the United States rosés are sometimes classified as a type of well-made blush, since blushes can technically be made using French maceration or Saignée techniques. Keep this in mind when looking for pink wine in American stores.
How to Choose a Rosé or Blush
Understanding the differences between blush and rosé wines, you can now learn the secrets of how to pick the best pink wine for you.
Starting with rosés, you should always begin by looking for wines from a trusted region and grape. This is because rosés are more process involved than blush wines, so picking from a reliable source is essential for getting the best wine possible. Also look for the most recent vintage when shopping, since rosés are at their best when fresh.
Blush wines, being a much more diverse group of wines, are harder to disseminate, even for wine experts. The best advice to give in this scenario is to research the brand of blush wine you are looking for, and see how they make their wine. Also try to find reviews and recommendations if you can, since this is your best hope for a measure of blush wine quality.
As a side note, color is not as important as you might think when it comes to choosing a pink wine. While how vibrant a wine’s color is might tell you how fresh it is, the differences in flavor between different colors of wine are very minor.
The sheer variety of pink wines on the market can lead wine enthusiasts to ask questions like: is blush wine the same as rosé? Rosé wines are professionally made, high quality pink wines, while blush is a catchall term for any number of pink wines, which vary heavily in origin, process, and quality. So, at least in an American context, rosés can be considered a type of blush, but blushes are not the same as rosés.