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The difference in rose, blush and white zinfandel is a common question from Uncorked readers. The term “rose” has been used for centuries for the French rose, along with Italy’s rosato and Spain’s rosado wines. White zinfandel and the term “blush” are 20th-century American creations. They are all essentially the same, with only very minor variations.

Most wine grapes have clear juice regardless of the skin color. Each style is made by removing the skins from the juice after the grapes are pressed. The winemaker watches for the shade of pink he wants, then quickly drains the juice from the skins. This stops the transfer of tannin and pigment from the skin. After this the wine is made like most white wines – with cool fermentation, no oak – and traditionally ends up dry or off-dry.

White zinfandel started as a wine making mishap but turned into an American phenomenon. In 1972 Bob Trinchero of California’s Sutter Home Winery salvaged a stuck fermentation (the yeast died before all the sugar could turn to alcohol) of his red zinfandel. He bottled a sweet, pale rose-colored wine he labeled “white zinfandel.” In the late ’80s Sutter Home was selling about 20,000 cases a year of that mistake and today that number is well into the millions. White zinfandel is generally pale pink, sweet and often given a touch of gas and blended with more obviously aromatic grapes such as Muscat or Riesling.

Blush wine has been heralded a “marketing triumph.” In the 1970s the term “blush” wine was born. Wine writer Jerry Mead was visiting the California Sonoma County winery Mill Creek Vineyards. He was offered a sample of a pale, pinkish wine made from cabernet sauvignon grapes. Lots of names were being thrown around but Mead suggested “blush.” The term stuck and the rest of the story is anardor relationship with the American wine drinker. Blush wines are made with a wide variety of red grapes and are generally lighter in color than traditional rose and most likely sweet. They may be labeled vin gris, cabernet blanc, blanc de pinot noir or white zinfandel, depending on the grape.


  • 2010 La Vieille Ferme Rose, France (about $12 retail)
  • 2012 La Remise de la Mordoree Rose, France (about $16 retail)


  • 2011 Blackbird Vineyards Arriviste Rose, California (about $28 retail)
  • 2011 Turkey Flat Rose, Australia (about $22 retail)