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noun. any light pink wine, coloured by only brief contact with red grape skins.

As some friends glugged back a rather nice pale pink bottle over Easter they surprised me by professing that they “much preferred blush to rosé as it was less sweet.” An argument I had heard many times before, but in complete reverse, where blush is the sweeter option.

So what is the difference between blush and rose? Let’s put this to bed.

The terms ‘blush’ and ‘rosé’ both refer to wines that are neither red nor white, but somewhere in between.

There are essentially three ways of making a pink coloured wine, but however you go about it, juice is always clear, whatever the grape, it’s the skin that creates colour:

Vin Gris - Grey Wine

Very pale rosé wine. Red grapes are lightly pressed and that pressed juice is fermented (without skins) just like making white wine. The result is a very lightly coloured wine with an almost greyish hue and light flavours.

Saignée - the bleed method

Red wine grapes are crushed, but the juice and the skins remain together for a short time (2 hours to 2 days) until the desired shade of pink is achieved. A portion of the juice is “bled off” the skins. That juice is then fermented on its own and this becomes rosé. Side note – the juice that remains with the skins goes on to make a red wine.

Blending white wine and red wine together

Some people may consider this cheating but it is a method used for making the Champagne rosé and many new world rosé wines. You take a ready made white wine and you pour in a few splashes of red.


The term blush first showed up in the 80s when the Californians started making White Zinfandel. It’s thought that blush referred to the fact that as Zinfandel is such a dark red grape, the wine really did just get the slightest whiff, or ‘blush’ of contact with the skins. So as not to over flavour and colour them.

Like the Vin Gris method the juice would then be fermented away from the skins. This is probably where the reputation for blush being sweeter came from. Big red grapes like Zinfandel or Grenache get very ripe in the hot sun, producing more sugar, if not fully fermented to red wine ABVs like 14-15%, sugar would be left behind, making the wine sweet.

Today though blush can turn up next to the lightest and driest of grapes (like Pinot Grigio) and now more likely refers to the pale colour than the style of wine. Making blush & rosé basically interchangeable. (Sorry)

Like any wine, if you're unsure if it’s for you the colour will only help you so far. Take a look at the grapes and the region. Have a think about past pinks you’ve enjoyed and what the weather was likely to be in those regions. Pinks from similar climates are far more likely to deliver your preferred style than similar colours.

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