Rosé or Rosato? Is there a difference?

In this story we discover that flavor is more than color-deep by learning about pink wines from Italy: Rosato.


Photo Credit: Amastuola Vineyards

This will not be a post about Provençal rosé.

It won’t.

I promise.

This is a post about Italian Rosato wine. It’s pink too. Seriously, it is. Let me finish.

It’s pink and it’s Rosato and it’s from Italy!

You only drink French rosé, you say? Come on, try it. You’ll like it. Is there a difference? Of course there’s a difference, this is from Italy! But wait…is there a difference?

rosato from puglia

Rosé VS Rosato

Language is a delicate thing. There may be a lovely word to describe a subject or object in one language (privacy, for example, in English), but in another language a word simply doesn’t exist (in Italian, I’ve read, there is no word for personal privacy…you are on your own with a lock in Florence). We can’t always assume direct translations accept the nuances of culture. Language evolves to describe the world of the people, and those those that interact in their space.

Color descriptors actually present an educationally relevant arena for this topic. When researching for this piece, I found an incredible site by Muyueh Lee, adapted from his talk “Green Honey”, which deftly compares the terms for colors in the Chinese language in comparison with those in the English language. (If all you do is click that link, you’ll have benefited greatly from this article.) He displays how much perception, both sensory and mental, impact language…and thus, communication.

In the wine world, this is hugely significant. In fact, a very weighty chunk of our information about the wine we buy, drink (and especially the ones we store) derives soley from the perception of others.

Do we take for granted that pink means pink, when it comes to wine? Is a rosé wine (in French) the same essential product as a rosato wine (in Italian)?

We Must Ask the French

I promised this wasn’t going to be about French wine, but we must deflect a moment to their expertise in pink wines. Here’s why: they have a research center dedicated to rosé. “The Center for Rosé Research (Centre de Recherche et d’Expérimentation sur le Vin Rosé) was established in 1999 in the village of Vidauban in Provence. A collaborative effort of professionals in the Provence wine industry, the Center is the world’s only research institute dedicated to rosé wine.”

One of the meaningful outputs of the center’s work has been to create a rosé color scale, thus pinpointing the range of colors that can be found in a bottle of rosé wine blend. “This scale displays the top six Provence rosé colors and serves as an objective reference for professionals and consumers. The colors bear the official names of Red Currant, Peach, Grapefruit, Melon, Mango, and Tangerine”, according to Vins de Provence.

pinks for rosato

This leaves me with the question: do the Italians (and others) even have the same color perceptions as the French? But the names leave me with an answer, an answer found in nature. Each of the top six colors listed above are organic, well-known fruits. A grapefruit, for example, probably appears very similarly to all humans on the planet. Not like that color in the crayon box, burnt sienna, which bears a decidedly Italian name that doesn’t have much relevancy for a third-grade Midwest girl. (Blame my formative years for still wondering how to use that particular color!)

What Makes A Rosato?

Besides shade, what else makes a bottle of pink Italian wine a rosato? There are, in fact, other pink Italian wines that aren’t specifically labeled rosato. I read on Vinous that “Each type of pink wine characterizes, and is strongly associated with, specific regions of the country: Chiaretto is typical of Lombardy and Veneto, Ramato of Friuli Venezia Giulia, and Cerasuolo of Abruzzo. Rosatos are made all over the country but are especially associated with Puglia.”

puglia blues

Whew. So let’s sit a bit in Puglia and discover what they do there, in particular, to make their pink wine.  Puglia is the sort of place you dream about, loads of natural beauty, appealing coastline, delicious food, outstanding wine…I hear the people are friendly too. Puglia is located on the back of the “heel” of Italy…picture a woman gripping the back of her stocking and pulling it upwards; there you’ll find the delights of Puglia. According to Decanter, “Puglia is best known for three red grapes: Nero di Troia (also called Uva di Troia), grown primarily in the north around Bari; Primitivo, from two main areas in the centre; and Negroamaro, in the south, on the Salento peninsula (the real heel).”  The rosatos that I studied are interesting, exciting and varied. Let’s examine a few:

The Gift of Puglia: Wrapped in Pink
Masseria Li Veli

Rosato liThis bottle from Masseria Li Veli, Salento IGT, is  crafted from Negroamaro grapes. The makers call it a ‘one night wine’, not because it won’t last in your memory, but because of the short maceration time on the skins.

The estate describes the Negroamaro vineyards: “The origin of this variety is unknown but it was probably introduced in the Ionic area by the Greeks. Its production is steady and high yielding, it adapts to different types of soil – although it prefers chalky- clayey soil – and to hot, dry climates and different training systems.”

And they offer this about local atmosphere: “The climate of this area is ideal for the cultivation of the vine: the mild winter and hot and dry summer, the great temperature ranges, with the cool night breezes mitigating the heat of the day, make of this small peninsula the perfect place for the production of great wines.”


Feudi di Guagnano

bottrosaroThis wine is actually named “Rosarò”, according to the winery this is “the combination between the words “rosato” and “rosso”, even though its colour is becoming more and more evanescent recalling those rosè produced in Provence. ” This leads me to understand that the color of this wine leans toward the jewel red tones of a rosso, or red wine but in recent vintages, consumers will find this bottle exhibiting a tendency to pale.

This wine is made of 100% Negroamaro grapes, and the winery discusses their approach when making it, “After the crushing of the grapes, the must is left with the skins for about 15-18 hours. This process allows obtaining the original colour and keeping the typical flavours. The wine ages for 3 months in stainless steel tanks.”  (Must is Latin for “young wine”, in wine making this means the early liquid of grape juice, in this case along with the skins for 15-18 hours.)

The winery welcomes visitors and features a Negroamaro museum as well as tastings.




Pungirosa comes from 100% Bombino Nero grapes from Castel del Monte D.O.C.G. According to the estate, “It is the black grape varieties more typical of the DOC Castel del Monte so that in 2011 it was recognized as a specific DOCG It is particularly suitable for the production of rose wines because it and his late-ripening grapes certain berries are bitter and maintain the high acidity and low alcohol content.” I find this very interesting, as designations continue to change and adapt over time.

The winemaker shares more about this grape, “A red grape variety grown exclusively in this area. It is not suitable for producing a full red wine because of its thin skin, the uneven ripening of its bunches, and the grape’s high juice content. It produces lovely rosé wines, however, very fresh and fruity. This unique
grape allows the winemaker to vinify the natural free-run juice, without any pressing.” The vineyards are 25-30 years old head trained and planted on the rocky Murgia hills (altitude of 320 metres).


Drinking Rosato

I have a bit of trouble getting bottles from Puglia locally. I have enjoyed a rich red Negroamaro blend, prepared with a meal for L’occasion, but I haven’t tasted any of these bottles. All of the estates suggest that these wines are food-friendly but of course lovely on their own. I’m certain that any light seafood or balanced pasta will be an easy treat with this Mediterranean region’s wines.


Each month a group of wine, food and travel experts gather on blogs and on Twitter to discuss a topic related to Italian Food, Wine and Travel. This month, we place our rosy focus on Italian pink wines. Join us this Saturday, August 6 at 11am EST on Twitter at ‪#‎ItalianFWT‬‬ to chat about rosé wines from Italy.

Check out what our Italian blogging group has lined up for you:

25 thoughts on “Rosé or Rosato? Is there a difference?

    1. Thanks for your comment! We’ve got high summer here in the US. Was just chatting with a visiting Australian & she said she was ready to shed her “winter skin” while she was here! Everyone wants to welcome that warm sun!

      Thanks for reading and commenting!


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