Choosing the “right” bottle from a store shelf’s assorted pink hues and prices presents a challenge. Compound that by many drinkers’ distrust of rosé wines. “Egads, what if I/everybody hates it?!” Tricky, true, but a few rules of thumb can help guide the hand hovering over those bottles.

Fact is, you likely want to spend less than a minute deciding and the bottles and shelf provide only a few visual clues:

  • Different pinkish colors
  • Various prices and, if you really squint at the shelf tags,
  • A country (maybe more info too, but at this moment all you understand and/or care about is the country)

So how to take your best guess from that limited information?

 Tip 1. Rosé wines behave mostly like whites

The first “aha” realization! Although rosé wines come from red grapes, their style generally extends the white wine range. Which means that despite some pinkish-reddish color making them look heavier than whites, rosés still remain lighter, fresher, more “summery” than full red wines. But based on personal preference you can steer “more white” or “more red”…

Tip 2. Color depth = strength

Rather than just color hues—grey-ish, pink, coral, ruby red—also note the color depth or deepness. Rosé wines are produced by soaking red grape skins in clear grape juice for a short time. Stronger-flavored grapes and/or longer soaks both increase color depth and impart heavier flavor

Tip 3. Hot regions, heavier styles

Winemakers hugely influence rosé style as mentioned above but climate actually has first say. As with all white and reds wines in general, colder countries generally make lighter styles. For example, cool northerly Switzerland makes delicate, light white-wine-like rosés. Northern Spain and Tuscany often produce middleweight versions. Hot locales like southern Italy (Puglia), Argentina and parts of southern France can forge deeply extracted, dark pink-red “construction workers’” rosés.

Interestingly the world’s most famous rosé region, France’s Mediterranean Provence, provides a wide range of light- to medium- to fuller styles. So while most rosé shelves offer one or many Provençal options, don’t generalize — “I love/hate all rosés from Provence” — use the color and price clues here to guide your expectations accordingly.

Tip 4. Medium prices = best value

Ah, the price question. Regardless of color, the cheapest rosé wines may taste flat (no “brightness”), one-dimensional (one simple flavor) and unexciting. That’s what happens when less-than-top-quality producers use red grapes to make a “white-like” wine: mediocrity comes easily.

Expensive examples feature the opposite: delicate aroma & flavor complexity which, while perhaps exquisite, goes lost on most drinkers. Scan the shelves for a medium price–most often the best balance of flavor and brightness–and follow the other color & regional style tips.

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