If white wine comes from white grapes and red wine comes from red grapes, where does pink wine come from?
Red grapes, mostly. But since red grapes have mostly white juice, pink, or rosé, wines are made in one of three ways.
First is skin contact. You crush the grapes, then let the juice sit on the skins to soak up color. If you soak them a short time, you get rosé.
The second way is rather indelicately called saignee, or “bleeding.” Sometimes a winemaker who wants mostly red wine will drain off some of the juice from the red skins after a short time. That juice, which is pink, is turned into rosé. The rest, left to sit on the skins in a higher skin-to-juice concentration, produces extra-red wine. Win-win.
Finally, some rosé makers simply pour a little red wine into wine. That explains “pink moscato,” since the muscat canelli grape is white.
Once cloyingly sweet and bland, most rosés today have the crisp, refreshing acid to be bright, light and lively — fruity summer wines meant to be drunk, chilled, with picnic fare — salads, sandwiches, quiches, tuna or salmon, sushi — or simply sipped on the back porch at dusk.
And they’re relatively cheap — mostly less than $20.
Sometimes the labels tell you whether they’re dry or sweet, sometimes they don’t. Here’s a rule of thumb: Check the alcohol level. Generally, the lower the alcohol — 8 percent to 11 percent — the sweeter the wine, and the higher the drier.
2010 Holman Ranch Rosé of Pinot Noir, Carmel Valley, Calif. (100 percent pinot noir): dark rose color, floral aromas, black cherry and strawberry flavors, light body, crisp and dry; $22.
2012 Las Rocas Rosé, Calatayud DO, Spain (100 percent garnacha): light rose color, aromas and flavors of strawberries and red raspberries, crisp and dry; $14.
2012 Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé, Coastal Region, South Africa (100 percent cabernet sauvignon): transparent, light pink color, fairly sweet, flavors of cassis, black cherries and minerals; $12.
2012 Hecht & Bannier Languedoc Rosé, Languedoc-Roussillon, France (34 percent Grenache, 33 percent syrah, 33 percent syrah): floral aromas, intense tart cherry and spice flavors, crisp and lively; $15.
2012 El Coto de Rioja Rosado, Rioja, Spain (50 percent termpranillo, 50 percent garnacha): pale cherry color, ripe sweet cherry flavors, crisp and lively; $11.
2012 Luigi Bosca Finca La Linda Malbec Rosé, Mendoza, Argentina (100 percent malbec): pale violet color, lightly sweet strawberry and spice aromas and flavors; $13.
2012 Marc Roman Rosé, Languedoc-Roussillon, France (100 percent syrah): medium rose color, aromas and flavors of ripe strawberries and red raspberries, crisp; $10.
2012 Castello Monaci Kreos Rosato, Puglia, Italy (90 percent negroamaro, 10 percent malvasia nera di lecce): transparent rose color, full-bodied, aromas and flavors of black cherries and spice; $16.
2011 Martin Weyrich Allegro Pink Rosato (muscat canelli plus small dose of red wine): pale rose color, floral aromas, lightly fizzy, quite sweet, flavors of ripe strawberries and apricots; $12.
2012 Tower 15 Winery Sunset Rosé, Paso Robles, Calif. (60 percent Grenache, 40 percent mourvedre): transparent salmon color, floral aromas, aromas and flavors of black cherries and minerals; $18.
2012 Vera Vinho Verde Rosé, Vinho Verde DOC, Basto, Portugal (60 percent vinhao, 40 percent rabo de anho): dark, transparent rose color, sweet flavors of strawberries and pink grapefruit; $11.
2011 Herade do Esporao “Vinha da Defesa” Rosé, Alentejo, Portugal (syrah and aragones): dark rosé, lightly sweet, aromas and flavors of black cherries and apricots; $13.
Fred Tasker writes about wine for the McClatchy News Service. Contact him at email@example.com.