With the arrival of spring and the changing of clocks to daylight time, it’s also time to start thinking about the seasonal shift from the heartier foods and wines of the cold months to the lighter fare of warmer weather. One of the great pleasures of the spring and summer is the arrival of a new crop of delicious rosato wines. The picture of a lazy afternoon by the lake or a summer picnic is not complete without a chilled bottle of rosé.
According to figures from FranceAgriMer, the world leader in the production of pink wine is France, with about 27 percent of the global total, 6.5 million out of 24.1 million hectoliters. The French are crazy for rosé, in fact, and consume far more than any other country: 7.6 million hectoliters—meaning that France is a net importer of rosé. Italy is the second largest producer of pink wine (4.7 million hl, 20% of world total)—rosato in Italian—but just fourth in consumption, after the United States and Germany. That combination leads to Italy’s position as the number one exporter of this category, with more than 40 percent of the world market.
Rosato wine production has been a growth category in Italy for several years. In a period of general decline of production in Italy, rosato production increased by about 25 percent between 2005 and 2011 and now accounts for more than 11 percent of Italian wine production. Important areas of rosato winemaking include Toscana, the Salento area in Puglia, and around Lake Garda in Veneto and Lombardia; Puglia produces 40 percent of Italy’s rosato.
Production of rosato is widespread throughout Italy, however, with one or more pink wines authorized in 140 of the 405 DOPs and 104 of the 118 IGPs—not even counting rosato sparkling and dessert wines. There are only two DOCGs for rosato, though: Aglianico del Taburno and the rosato-only Castel del Monte Bombino Nero in Campania and Puglia, respectively.
As you might expect, winemakers primarily use the typical red grape varieties of the local area in making rosati—Barbera or Nebbiolo in the northwest, Sangiovese or Montepulciano in the center, Nero d’Avola or Negroamaro in the south, to name a few examples. A few DOP disciplinari require the rosato wine to be a varietal (i.e., 85 percent or more of a single variety), but most set a minimum proportion of 50 percent or less of one variety, so the winemaker can mix in other available varieties if desired. Some disciplinari avoid setting any minimums or maximums at all, giving the winemaker free rein to produce a varietal or a kitchen-sink blend. In general, the IGPs allow rosati made from any proportions and combination of grape varieties that are authorized for the production region.
The most prevalent grape variety in the rosato wines of Italy is Sangiovese, which is required as the leading component in 26 DOPs and can be included in at least 19 others. Among the other grape varieties that feature in several DOPs’ blends as a major or minor component are Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Negroamaro, Montepulciano, Aglianico, Nebbiolo, and Pinot Nero. For a complete list of DOPs that make rosato wines and the predominant grape varieties, click here.