Luma Monteiro explores appellations and producers making deep-coloured rosé – and those breaking tradition through innovative styles of packaging

We’re all familiar with Provence rosés, their pale pink salmon hue swirling in the glass, but what lies beyond? Not too long ago, White Zinfandel from California stained the reputation of darker rosés, leading deep-coloured styles to become associated with overly sweet, boiled-candy wines. This stigma prompted many regions to follow Provence’s lead and produce paler versions. However, some wine regions defied the trend, viewing colour as secondary to flavour, in homage to their terroir, grapes and regional styles. 

A couple of years ago, I ventured to two remarkable regions: Cigales in Spain and Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo in Italy. Both have one thing in common – rosés with abundant colour extracted from their grapes. In Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo – one of the newest DOCs of central Italy, created in 2010 – they are made mainly from Montepulciano, a deep-coloured, thick-skinned red grape. In Cataldi Madonna, I also recall a very pale red Pinot Noir-like wine and questioning whether it was rosé. 

One of our hosts said: “This wine goes through a very short maceration. We cannot leave more than three or four hours in contact with the skins, otherwise it gets darker than that.” This technique of very short contact time between the fermenting juice and the red grape skins, just enough to extract enough colour to make a bright pink wine, but not enough to make a wine considered red, is part of what makes Cerasuolo (cherry in Italian) unique. It brings a lot of flavours to the wines, which are delicious red cherry bombs with a savoury finish – juicy, fruity and rich, all characteristic of this lovely indigenous Italian grape. 

The same applies to the rosés of Cigales DO, north of Valladolid, the main city in Castilla y Leon, between Ribera del Duero and Rueda. Here, rosés are known for their structure and deep colour, made predominantly from a blend of Tempranillo and Garnacha, or as a single varietal of one or the other. The region’s bold, fruit-forward wines are testament to its winemaking prowess. 

Numerous producers offer a range from light, fruity, deep-coloured rosés to more robust, barrel-fermented options. Even a sweet version, or dulce, is allowed by the region and is popular with the locals. Cigales boasts an array of old vine Garnacha that produces concentrated rosés that shouldn’t be overlooked. 

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More countries and regions are now fearlessly producing stunning deep-coloured rosés. Chateau Ksara, Lebanon’s largest and oldest “modern” winery, situated in the Bekaa Valley, is known for its flagship rosé named Sunset, made from Cabernet Franc and Syrah. 

Co-owner George Sara says: “It’s not uncommon to see darker styles of rosé from Lebanon. In fact, the consumer prefers them. Deeper-coloured rosés challenge the perception of quality by offering a different dimension of taste and complexity.” 

At the Lyme Bay winery in Devon, head winemaker Sarah Massey employs deeper colour extraction from the skins, resulting in an intense hue in its still rosés. “It’s rare to see darker styles of rosé in England,” she says, “particularly from the Pinot Noir grape. I believe we are among the few exceptions, creating wines with such intense colour, which sets us apart as notable innovators in this region.” 

Massey thinks that the future of rosé is taking an exciting turn, with a notable surge in interest in darker-hued varieties and innovative packaging approaches. Some producers are actively exploring different bottle formats and employing textured packaging to enhance the shelf presence of their rosé offerings. 

In a bold move, Château Galoupet in Provence released its first vintage of a super-premium Grand Cru rosé in 2022, in a strikingly dark bottle. Managing director Nadine Fau emphasises the producer’s focus on quality over appearance and on pushing boundaries. The pack also supports Galoupet’s commitment to regenerative and organic viticulture, as the dark bottles are made of recycled glass, which is not possible with clear bottles. “We wanted to showcase our meticulous approach to winemaking and our dedication to producing exceptional wines that stand out from the crowd,” she says. 

“[The choice of a dark bottle] not only protects the wine from light exposure but also aligns with our commitment to sustainable practices. “Yes, of course I was afraid, but we chose the dark bottle to ensure our focus remains on the liquid itself, allowing us to highlight our careful grape selection and the blending of 40 vineyard plots without the distraction of the wine’s shade of pink.” Once poured, the wine is revealed as pale in colour, but the point is that the emphasis lies more on how the wine tastes rather than its appearance. 

Another noteworthy mention is rosé Champagne, the only AOC in France permitted to blend red wines with white to create rosé. While they could opt for a much lighter shade, many prestigious houses, including Ruinart, Krug and Pol Roger, choose to embrace darker colour, producing beautiful, serious and complex sparkling rosés. Presented in clear bottles, these wines demonstrate how colour needn’t determine the premium quality of a wine. 

Luke Spalding, general manager at the Everflyht Estate in East Sussex, notes a broad recognition among consumers of the depth, complexity, and gastronomic potential inherent in darker-hued offerings, a trend exemplified by the rising popularity of styles such as rosé de saignée, which Everflyht makes, in the sparkling category. 

An important note about these wines is their incredible ability to pair with food. They are bold expressions, full-bodied and capable of matching more complex, intricate dishes, proving that rosés can be stunning food wines. 

The allure of dark rosé lies not only in its rich colour but also in its depth and complexity. As producers push boundaries and consumers seek new experiences, the future of rosé looks promising, with darker styles playing a significant role in shaping the evolving landscape. It’s never been cooler to embrace the darker side of rosé.