Finally understood as more than just a frivolity, rosé has the American palate spellbound, from the pool to the patio to the dining room. Pink wine’s newfound preeminence is no mere summer fling, it would seem, but a renaissance—a fundamental shift in the habits and interests of drinkers, from the newly-wine-curious up to the seasoned oenophile and collector.
Rosé’s ascendancy is also a moment of exceptional visibility for Spanish winemakers, as the nation’s rosés, experiencing increased demand in the American marketplace, find themselves taking their rightful place alongside their more widely-exported counterparts from Provence, the Loire, Italy, and Long Island.
So what, exactly, makes the rosés of Spain so unique? Let’s take a deeper look at the nation’s unique local grapes, distinctive winemaking styles, and wildly diverse terroirs to discover what makes these wines far from ordinary.
Home to over 400 autochthonous varietals, Spain lays claim to grapes that are quite literally not planted anywhere else in the world. Even stalwart international varietals like Grenache and Carignan—known locally as Garnacha and Cariñena—originated in Spain before making their way to France and then the world at large.
As a rosé, Garnacha yields a fruit-driven wine with elevated body and deeper color, showing notes of ripe strawberry, orange peel, and spice. Look for bottles from Navarra in Northern Spain’s Ebro River Valley, a region hailed for its traditionally-made, fuller-bodied styles—called Rosado—that can stand up to main courses just as well as they can work as an aperitif.
Native favorite Tempranillo often leans in a savory direction, packing juicy watermelon and red berry fruit together with rich herbaceous notes seemingly belied by its pale hue. Traditional barrel-aged Tempranillo rosés from Rioja, Navarra’s neighboring region, are a must-try—and often more readily available in the American marketplace.
Basque standouts Hondarrabi Zuri and Hondarrabi Beltza—white and red grapes, respectively, which make up the wine Txakoli—may be sparsely planted and until recently only rarely exported, but their popularity in America has surged. It’s easy to see why. Blended together they produce a salmon-hued rosé defined by tart red berry fruit, lime, elevated acidity, and a slight carbonic spritz; on its own, red grape Hondarrabi Beltza also produces a distinctive, fuschia-tinted example. Bright, fresh, tangy, and low alcohol, Txakoli is the perfect candidate for all-day sipping—not to mention the perfect pairing for the region’s famed seafood.
Sparkling rosé is also found here in abundance, with native grapes Xarel-lo, Macabeo, and Parellada coming together in Cava, Spain’s sparkling wine made in the traditional method. Rosé examples may range stylistically, but floral and slightly earthy notes help distinguish this wine from sparklers made elsewhere from international varietals. Look for examples from Catalonia and pair with light appetizers, or pour as a refreshing aperitif.