There’s a quiet, pink revolution that is steadily sweeping across the wine horizon. And, it’s all happening in Italy.
Sandwiched between the reds and whites, the Italian rosati have always been there. However, long overlooked, they’re here to claim their pride of place, giving a fair fight to their French counterparts.
More from the rose-tinted world
The rosé world has long been dominated by a cache of pale pink French rosé from Provence. Crisp, dry and mineral driven, these pinks that wine enthusiasts know as Provencal rosé, have established themselves firmly over the years. Primarily made out of grapes like Grenache, Cinsault and Mourvedre, these delicate pinks were usually associated with summertime drinking.
The Italian rosato
Rosato has been produced and drunk in Italy for hundreds of years. But these wines never really commanded great importance and, to be true, have always remained unexplored. Unlike the palest of pale, shell-pink Provencal rosé, Italianrosati come in a full spectrum of pantone shades. Ranging from rose quartz, flamingo, salmon to an intense cherry pink, these wines are made from native or autochthonous grapes. While Abruzzo and Puglia in the South are joined by Ciro in Calabria, the surrounding areas around Lake Garda in Veneto and Lombardy, known to be cradled by several passing winds, are the focal points of the rosé wines.
Rosautoctono: Keeping it pink, native and real
A large part of the renaissance of Italian rosé is being engineered by the Rosautoctono Italian Wine Institute. Six Italian consorzi created this nationwide organisation powered with aid from the European Union. The aim of Rosautoctono is to promote the culture and knowledge of Italian rosé wine, by shining the spotlight on the vast scale of Italian native grapes.
The founding members of Rosautoctono include Puglia’s Salice Salentino and Castel del Monte, Cerasuolo from Abruzzo, Veneto’s Bardolino Chiaretto, Lombardia’s Valtènesi Chiaretto and Cirò from Calabria.
A closer look
Six different wine territories comprise the Rosautoctono and are spread from North to South. Known for their calcareous soils and vecchie viti or ancient vines, these have been the torch-bearing rosas.
Appellation: Chiaretto di Bardolino DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata or Denomination of Controlled Origin)
Bottles produced: 10 million
The name Chiaretto derives itself from the Italian term chiaro, meaning light or pale and Bardolino is one of the oldest regions producing these pinks. However, as recently as 2014 the Bardolino consortium revolutionised and revived the Chiaretto, encouraging producers to make a few tweaks here and there to achieve a cache of wines that were paler and boasted of delicate florals, citrus and spice hints. They were able to attain this by treating the wines as one would a white wine, and aim for an earlier harvest so the wines were crisper and had more acidity. The Corvina is a juicy grape and lends itself beautifully to these pink wines, sometimes blended with the herbaceous Rondinella.
Valtenesi Chiaretto Wines
Appellation: Valtènesi Chiaretto DOC
Bottles produced: 2 million
Rosati producers on the western side of Lake Garda, in Lombardy, use the native Groppello grape, which has pronounced black-cherry notes. They may have a saturated colour, floral aroma with strawberry and cherry notes.
Appellation: Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo DOC
Bottles produced: 8 million
In most cases, these are 100 percent Montepulciano, a deeply hued native grape, rich in anthocyanins. These lend themselves to the rather darkish hue, in contrast to the fashionable pale pinks. Because of this intense structure, tannic quality and racy acidity, these wines tend to go best with food, not just with the prosciutto or antipasti, but also hearty, tomato-based pasta dishes.
Castel del Monte Bombino Nero
Appellations: Castel del Monte Rosato DOC, Castel del Monte Bombino Nero DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita or Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin, the highest quality level)
Bottles produced: 5 million
Grape: Bombino Nero
One of the rare DOCGs, which are committed to the production of rosé. These wines must have a minimum of 90 percent Bombino Nero. They thrive on the sun-filled vineyards of Puglia and are loved for their unique flavours of sour cherries, laced with liquorice and coffee.
Salice Salentino Rosato wines
Appellation: Salice Salentino Rosato DOC
Bottles produced: 5 million
Another gem in Puglia is the sun-baked Salentino Peninsula. Salice Salentino is a small DOC appellation that was born in 1976 within the provinces of Lecce and Brindisi, including the town of Salice Salentino. The Negroamaro grapes rule here. With spicy and earthy notes, these wines have a good structure and are pleasantly persistent.
Appellation: Cirò Rosato DOC
Bottles produced: 1.5 million
The quintessential Cirò grape is the Gaglioppo, and they thrive in Calabria, off the Ionian coast. With their orangish-pink tint, they typically have chunky tannins and a flavour profile characterised by berries, ripe cherries and dried flowers.
Rosautoctono is a forum for promotion and storytelling around rosé wines as a narrative of cultural heritage. Let’s keep it pink, shall we?
Gargi Guha is a hotelier, communications professional and writer. She takes a keen interest in the food, wine and culture of Italy, especially its 500-plus indigenous grape varieties.