Myriad Sources of Rosato Wines in Italy

By Jack Brostrom
May 21, 2021
Updated May 21, 2021

As we approach summer in this year of vaccinations and reemergence, we’re well into 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 pink wines. The picture of a lazy afternoon by the lake or a summer picnic is not complete without a chilled bottle of rosé.

Rosato glass and Italy mapItaly is a great source for pink wine—rosato in Italian—if for no other reason than they make so many different kinds, drawing on Italy’s unparalleled wealth of grape varieties. Important areas of rosato winemaking include Tuscany, the Salento area in Puglia, and around Lake Garda in Veneto and Lombardy. But production of rosato is widespread throughout Italy, with one or more pink wines authorized in 139 of the 408 DOPs and 104 of the 118 IGPs—not even counting rosato sparkling and dessert wines.

There are only two DOCGs that make rosato, though: Aglianico del Taburno and Castel del Monte Bombino Nero in Campania and Puglia, respectively. And there are only two denominations that make nothing but rosato: Castel del Monte Bombino Nero again, and Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo in, of course, Abruzzo.

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. Though a few DOPs require the rosato wine to be a varietal (i.e., 85 percent or more of a single variety), most allow blending of numerous varieties if desired. In general, the IGPs allow rosatos 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. Which one will you go for next?

Still reading? Well, for dessert, how about some nice savory statistics?

According to figures from the Observatoire Mondial du Rosé, which pays attention to these things, production of pink wine in 2019 worldwide amounted to some 23 million hectoliters (mhl), or roughly 255 million cases. As it has been for many years, France was the leading producer, its 7.1 mhl accounting for more than 30% of the global total.

Rosato wine production in Italy, which had been a strong growth category for several years, took a nosedive between 2010 and 2013 and dropped by more than half in volume (mainly at the low-price end of the spectrum). It has remained at that level since, producing about 2.2 mhl, placing Italy fourth in volume behind France, Spain, and the U.S. With rosato consumption in Italy around 1.1 mhl, Italy is a significant exporter of pink wine—second to Spain by volume and second to France by value.

In terms of consumption, France also leads in that category by a long shot, drinking 8.1 mhl in 2019 (35% of the world total)—meaning that France is a net importer of rosé. Only the United States comes anywhere close to that volume, consuming 3.5 mhl with a population five times that of France. Germany and the United Kingdom are also major importers of the pink.

Thirsty yet?

Photo of swirling glass by from Pexels
Photo of table setting by Maria Orlova from Pexels

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