The 3 factors making rose wine aromas hard to describe

Rosé wine aromas are challenging to describe compared to those of white or red wines. Here's why.

Rosé wine aromas are versatile and pair well with French summer food and gatherings. I would go to the wine coop with my dad and buy a jug of the local rose wine. 

We would then bottle it, store the bottles in the fridge, and serve it as a table wine every day. Nothing fancy. 

Dad would cook merguez sausages on the barbecue, and we would eat them sipping on rosé. 

A French summer staple expanding beyond its borders

According to Lorey (1), Rosé wine consumption in France has tripled since 1992. It now accounts for a third of the national wine consumption. A similar trend happens in North America. Rosé sales grow by double digits every year, according to Nielsen (2). 

So you too may have embraced this light still flavor full wine style.

Up to now, we rarely see wine reviews dedicated to rosé wines. It could be a lack of interest from the wine critics. But also because describing rosé wine aromas is trickier than it sounds.

Three factors can explain the challenge you have when describing rose wine aromas:

  1. A lack of aromatic typicity
  2. A wide range of aromatic styles
  3. Ingrained consumption and storage habits

Let's dive in.

The three factors making rose wine aromas complex to describe

A lack of aromatic typicity

Rosé wine aromas are not as typical as varietal whites or red wine aromas are.

A study published in 2009 investigated if people could differentiate by smell only red wines from white wines and rosé wines (3). 
They invited two groups to take part in this research: experts and newbie wine enthusiasts.
All participants had to smell 18 wines served in black glasses and presented in random order. 
The task was to categorize each wine in a color group: white, red, or rosé.

To the researchers' surprise, the two groups performed in the same way. 

  • They both identified the red wines with ease (about 80% of correct associations). 
  • They struggled a bit with white wines (65 % of correct associations). 
  • And they had challenged with rosé wines (only 45% of correct associations). 

I thought wine experts would have advantages through their training to outperform the newbie group. But they weren't. My hypothesis is that rosé wines are not a topic taught in-depth when people learn about wine. I haven't yet seen a Certificate of wine dedicated to rosé wine, have you? 

So, as a wine trainee, you spend less time training your nose on rosé wine aromas.

Rosé wine aromas lack distinct typicity compared to white and red wines.

A wide range of aromatic styles

Rosé wine aromas are diverse in type and intensity ranges. Indeed, they derive from the red grape varieties used to make them.

The Wine Folly group reported 7 different rosé wine styles based on the red grape variety used to make them (4).

  1. Fruity: Grenache and Sangiovese grape varieties
  2. Savory: Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah
  3. Sweet: White Zinfandel
  4. Savory and rich: wines from the Tavel appellation made of Grenache and Cinsault, 
  5. Fruity and Lean: Provence style, typically a blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, and Mourvèdre, 
  6. Fruity and Floral: Mourvèdre, 
  7. Delicately fruity: Pinot Noir.
It might be easier to learn aroma descriptions on varietal rosé wines if you're familiar with the red wine variety typical aromas. It becomes more challenging with the blends, like any blends.

Ingrained consumption and storage habits

As mentioned before, rosé wines have always been refreshing wine during summer. Thus we chilled the bottles before consumption, as we would for whites.

But, the serving temperature is too cold for us to appreciate the aromatic nuances of the wine. I tend to wait about 15 min after taking the rosé bottle from the fridge before pouring the wine into glasses.

Like for other wine styles, you might be used to cellar wines before drinking them. 

One downer with rosé wines is that they don't age well. They tend to oxidize after two years in bottles. 
==> Bruised apple or nutty aromas replace the fresh fruity aromas. 

I had experiences where the fruit aromas were gone, leaving the wine incomplete, dry, and bitter. If the rosé color turned orange, then it's a sign that the wine has turned. I always look for the most recent vintage when I buy.

So let's keep drinking the rosés fresh, temperature and age-wise.

What to remember about rosé wine aromas

You will see more and more rosé bottles on the shelves as this trend seems here to stay. Millennials have adopted this friendly and approachable wine style.

If Rosé wine aromas intrigue you, here are the three factors to work on and sharpen your nose at describing them.

  1. Train your nose to distinguish rose wine aromas from white and red wines in a blind tasting (use black glasses or mask the color of the wines)

  2. Learn to identify the varietal aromas first in red wine and check if they are present in the rose style.

  3. Drink roses at a cool temperature (10 C, 50 F), not chilled, and don't cellar them.



1. Lorey T. The Success of Rosé Wine in France: The Millennial Revolution. Cornell Hospitality Quarterly. February 2021. doi:10.1177/1938965521993135  

2- Predicting the Future of Rosé Wine, Seven Fifty Daily

3- Ballester, J., Abdi, H., Langlois, J. et al. The Odor of Colors: Can Wine Experts and Novices Distinguish the Odors of White, Red, and Rosé Wines?. Chem. Percept. 2, 203 (2009).

4- What Rosé Should I Drink? A Guide to Styles of Rosé Wine

Categories: wine aroma wheel, wine style

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