The next time you reach for a glass of rosé, it just might be Italian. Often when we think of the pink-hued wine, we imagine south of France, blue and white umbrellas overlooking the Med, the aromas of lavender fields nearby. These are beautiful wines that have been made for centuries. But just on the other side of the Alps, Italy has been making rosé (rosato) all along. And more and more, they are joining today’s lineup of crush-worthy pink wines.
Rosato is an Italian specialty that has its own icons and hidden gems up and down the boot. In addition to the common association with picnics, backyard gatherings, and warm weather sipping, among its virtues is its cunning ability to pair with all types of food.
Styles range from light, dry, and delicately aromatic, to bright and fruity, through to medium-bodied and even slightly tannic. Italian rosés can also offer structure, ageability, and expressions of some of Italy’s most coveted native grapes. Expect colors ranging from pale pink tourmaline, peachy-pink to translucent bing cherry.
We’ll start with Franciacorta Rosé, as we should always start with bubbles. Franciacorta is a world-class sparkler, boasting pedigree and style, yet remains largely unknown outside of Italy.
It is made in the Franciacorta territory, an area just south of Lake Iseo in the Lombardy region of northern Italy. For years, Franciacorta has been compared to Champagne because the two wines undergo bottle-fermentation and share primary grape varieties, such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (Nero), but the comparisons end there. The best Franciacortas have their own identity, as it relates to the unique terroir, climate, and philosophy of winemakers.
What you will enjoy from Franciacorta is the dedication to quality, focus on organic viticulture, secondary fermentation in the bottle, vintage and non-vintage options, and pearly-soft effervescence.
Producers to look for: Ca’ del Bosco, Monte Rossa, Bellavista, La Marchesine, Contadi Castaldi.
We are familiar with Prosecco, the cheerful, easy-drinking white bubbly. Now, the pink version was introduced last year and has entered the U.S. market for those who want a casual and fresh daily sparkler. Prosecco Rosé is still produced from a majority of white Glera grapes, but to achieve its color, it also includes 10 to 15 percent of Pinot Nero (aka Pinot Noir).
Ranging in sweetness levels from Brut Nature (no residual sugar) to Extra Dry (some sweetness), there is a style for everyone. All labels have the word “Millesimato” (which means “vintage”) and the vintage itself, with a requirement that at least 85 percent of the grapes must have been harvested from that year.
Crisp and fresh, Prosecco Rosé recalls youth and springtime-although like any rosé, it should be enjoyed year-round. Expect aromas and flavors such as acacia, wisteria, violet and berries, green apple, citrus & exotic fruits. It’s already making a splash in the U.S., and come summer, it may be the pink fizz of choice.
Producers to look for: Valdo, Ruggeri, Villa Sandi, Gancia.
Earlier I mentioned the other side of the Alps from the French rosé growing region. In Italy, this is where you will find Chiaretto wines around Lake Garda, centered around the town of Bardolino. The wines are light in color and are made from grapes that grow on soils from the last ice age. This area is actually the furthest north-pushing into the Alps-yet still is considered a Mediterranean climate.
The mountains and lake lend to the character of wine, which generally speaking, belongs to the category of fresh, light, and dry. Chiaretto is distinctively red berry and citrus-driven, reminiscent of grapefruit, delicately floral, often minerally, and salty, (in a good way).
Producers to look for: Le Fraghe, Cavalchina, Zenato, Le Morette, Gentili, Villa Calicantus, Villa Bella, Gorgo, Pratello
Further south in the mountainous central region of Abruzzo is where Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo is produced. Cersuolo means “cherry,” and it matches the deep and gorgeous hue of this wine. With more color, you’d expect a little more grip in this complex “rosato”-something that comes much closer to a light red wine in profile. It takes its character from the native thick-skinned Montepulciano grape. Aromas and flavors typically include cherry, wild strawberry, herbs, and mineral. The wine has structure and depth with the fresh, mouthwatering juiciness we all crave.
Producer to look for: Tiberio, Valentini, Cataldi Madonna, Valori
From Piedmont to the Veneto, and Tuscany to Sicily, producers are making pink wines from native grapes – many of which are familiar in their red forms. The Brunello di Montalcino that you love? The same grape (Sangiovese) is used to make rosés that come out of Tuscany. Same goes for the rosés of Nebbiolo, which is used in Barolo and Barbaresco. And we mustn’t overlook rosati (plural for rosato) coming out of all the regions of Italy, particularly Sicily and Puglia. These are some of the most characterful wines in the country.
Where To Buy
Ferraro’s Italian Restaurant & Wine Bar, Carbone inside Aria, La Strega, Ada’s Wine Bar, Esther’s Kitchen, Locale, Garagiste Wine Bar & Merchant, Matteo’s inside Venetian Las Vegas, Al Solito Posto, and Total Wine & More.
Feature photo courtesy of Consorzio Chiaretto/Studio Cru.