Pink wine production is nothing new in Italy—in some cases it dates to the Middle Ages. But as global drinkers continue their infatuation with all things rosé, it’s useful to take a closer look at the differences among Italy’s pink wines, or rosatos.
Of the hundreds of grape varieties produced in Italy, a handful of them are used in rosato production, which result in very different wines. Many are the same grapes used in well-known exports like Chianti, Amarone and Barolo. Others are a bit more esoteric, but worth the discovery.
Here’s a list of some of the major rosato-producing grapes of Italy with Mediterranean origins.
The thick-skinned grape behind such structured, ageworthy reds as Campania’s Taurasi and Aglianico del Vulture in Basilicata also produces approachable, ready-to-drink pink wine. These bold rosatos are rife with bright berry tones and can display floral or mineral nuances, depending on their region of origin.
Recently reviewed Agliancio rosatos are here.
Found mostly in the Castel del Monte region of northern Puglia, the bunches of this thin-skinned grape ripen unevenly. This results in juice that is high in acidity and low in sugar, welcome attributes for a zesty, light-bodied rosato. These fruit-forward wines have a wealth of watermelon and citrus tones.
Recently reviewed Bombino Nero rosatos are here.
Though not native to Italy, Cannonau, also known as Grenache in France and Garnacha in Spain, is one of Sardinia’s top red varieties. Rosatos labeled under the Cannonau di Sardegna Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) must include at least 85% of the grape. Those labeled under the island-wide Isola dei Nuraghi Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) can contain an assortment of regional grapes like Bovale, Carignano and Monica. A strawberry-pink hue is common in these wines, as is a rounded body with flavors of juicy red berries, crushed flowers and herbs.
Recently reviewed Cannonau rosatos are here.
The main component in Valpolicella and Amarone, the name for this grape translates to “little raven” in Italian, perhaps for its deep-purple-hued skins. Since the late 1800s, in Bardolino, on the eastern edge of Lake Garda, it has also been used to create rosatos known locally as Chiaretto. Historically, they were made using the saignée or salasso method, which bleeds off a portion of red wine juice after short contact with the skins to produce a bold rosato. However, many wineries create a pale pink style via earlier harvests and shorter skin contact. These are fresh, zesty and light-bodied, with crisp red berry tones and delicate floral and spice nuances.
Recently reviewed Corvina rosatos are here.
This southern Italian variety is likely the crossing of Sangiovese and Mantonico, the latter native to Calabria. Gaglioppo is prominent in the rosato wines of the Cirò appellation, which are typically light burnt-orange in color and offer flavors of tart red berries and herbal spices. The proximity to the sea is important in such a warm region. The moderating effect of the water keeps summer temperatures at bay, which helps to maintain bright, refreshing acidity in the wines.
Recently reviewed Gaglioppo rosatos are here.
On the west side of Lake Garda in Lombardy, the compact Gropello grape is used in the delicate pink wines of Riviera del Garda Classico. These rosatos are zesty and crisp, with ample herbal and floral tones alongside crunchy red berry and orchard fruit flavors.
Recently reviewed Gropello rosatos are here.
Still or sparkling, red or rosato, sweet or dry, wines made from the family of Lambrusco grapes grown in Emilia-Romagna are used in a range of styles. The rosato offerings are typically on the bolder end of the spectrum. Rich cherry, plum and violet tones are balanced out by racy acidity and in some cases, bubbles, which are achieved usually through the Charmat method.
Recently reviewed Lambrusco rosatos are here.
This northern Italian grape finds its home in Alto Adige and Trentino, where it’s commonly made into single-variety red wines that are inky and bold. Its rosato production, sometimes labeled Lagrein Kretzer, dates back centuries, and the grape’s rich skin yields a bolder style. The ever-present Alpine sun is key to ripen this later-harvesting grape. The gravelly soils soak up its heat and provide warmth against the cool mountain air.
Recently reviewed Lagrein rosatos are here.
As the most widely planted grape in Abruzzo, Montepulciano is no one-trick pony. While it makes a range of red wine styles, it’s also is the driving force behind Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo DOC, the region’s deep cherry-hued pink wine offering. The uniquely dark color is a result of the grape’s rich pigments found in the skins that yield a bold, structured rosato, but all the while maintaining the juicy berry and herb flavors of the variety.
Recently reviewed Montepulciano rosatos are here.
One of Italy’s greatest red grapes, Nebbiolo is the sole variety behind ageworthy Barolo and Barbaresco. In the Alto Piemonte regions of Coste della Sesia DOC and Colline Novaresi DOC, the grape is known locally as Spanna, and it’s the main component in the regions’ rosato offerings. Winemakers can also bottle pink wine under the wide-reaching Langhe DOC region, where Nebbiolo gets blended with other local varieties like Barbera and Dolcetto.
Recently reviewed Nebbiolo rosatos are here.
Mostly grown in Puglia, this dark purple variety catches its stride in the warm flatlands of the Salento Peninsula. The area’s constant sea breezes keep summer temperatures at bay, and the grape’s high levels of acidity make it a perfect candidate for rosato. While not uncommon to find examples made solely from the variety, it can be blended with other red grapes like Malvasia Nera or Susumaniello for balance. These rosatos are zesty and crisp, with boisterous tones of grapefruit, melon and spice.
Recently reviewed Negroamaro rosatos are here.
Best known as the backbone of Etna Rosso, this purple-hued grape also makes savory, racy rosatos. The region’s high-altitude vineyards and volcanic soils yield rosatos that walk a fine line between ripeness and tension. The best examples express a unique salinity unlike any other.
Recently reviewed Nerello Mascalese rosatos are here.
While the grape likely originated in Calabria, and is officially called Calabrese in Italy’s national registry of grape varieties, this dark purple variety is grown throughout Sicily to yield a host of easy-drinking red and rosato wines. Many rosatos are blended with other varieties like Frappato, Nerello Mascalese, Perricone or Syrah and labeled typically under Sicilia DOC.
Recently reviewed Nero d’Avola rosatos are here.
Known for jammy, dark-berry-inflected red wines, this purple grape also lends well to pink wine production. Single-variety rosato bottlings can be found throughout Puglia, from the inland Murgia region to the Salento Peninsula. These wines often display bombastic berry, spice and floral tones.
Recently reviewed Primitivo rosatos are here.
This popular Tuscan grape of Chianti and Brunello fame is prized for its bright acidity, which lends elegance and lift to red wines. That zest also lends well to rosato production. Many of these wines are commonly labeled under Toscana IGT. Some producers choose to solely highlight Sangiovese in their rosatos, while others blend with international grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon.
Recently reviewed Sangiovese rosatos are here.