The One Word to Avoid When Buying Cheap Rosé

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Diana Liang)

The one word you should avoid when buying cheap rosé is not Franzia or boxed — it’s domestic! For all you U.S.-based readers, rosé shopping is one time when you don’t want to buy local. This is not to say there aren’t good American rosés, it’s just that most of the good ones start at just under $20 and go up from there.

Go too cheap with domestic rosé and you risk ending up with something heavy, cloying, and weirdly sweet and bitter.

Keep reading to learn what you should buy instead.

Picking Out an Inexpensive Bottle of Rosé

Instead of an American rosé, look to Europe, where the wine regions have been churning out inexpensive rosé for centuries. When it comes to layering and cheap rosé, they’ve got it all figured out.

So if you’re looking to save money because you’re buying the pink stuff for a party or because your friends chug it like water while watching Summer House (these people all seem to hate each other — why are they renting a house together?), here are my top three recommended countries and regions.

1. France’s Languedoc-Roussillon

Look for a pale color and if you can find the grape varieties on the label, Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, or Carignan in some combination are good signs. My all-time favorite value is the Moulin de Gassac Guilhem Rosé. Its flavors always remind me of farmers market strawberries, and it’s my house rosé every summer.

2. Spain

Cheap, cheerful, and usually made from Garnacha and/or Tempranillo, Spanish rosado is more for sloppy burger moments than delicate finger food. Spanish rosé tends to be darker in color and have stronger flavors that will remind you more of ripe berries and cherries than the citrus, melon, and peach profile of classic Provençal-style rosés. There are lots available in the $7 to $12 range like this Tempranillo rosé.

3. Austria

I know, I know. The names are in German. The bottles have that long, skinny shape reminiscent of bad hangovers from cheap, sweet Riesling. Well, swallow your fear and buy one anyway! Often made from unusual grapes — like Zweigelt — Austrian rosés are dry and have a light, refreshing texture and punchy, tart flavors that are great with rich foods like fried chicken or charcuterie (or a Wendy’s crispy chicken sandwich). This rosé from Schloss Gobelsburg is a crisp, sophisticated delight.

One more piece of rosé advice: Watch your vintages as you stroll the wine aisles. Sure, somms at intimidating restaurants will go on and on about how some rosé fermented in an amphora on a yurt on the moon will age for decades, but here in the real world most rosés are a little worn around the eyes after a year. Unless you’re being guided by one of these forearm-tatted somms, stick to the most recent vintage (so, as of today, 2017) for the brightest, freshest flavors.

Have a rosé-related question? Leave it in the comments, and happy rosé season!