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Everything about Roscato wine explained in the first-ever ultimate guide

Roscato wine was launched in 2011 to cater to the growing demand for sweet, slightly sparkling red wines from Italy. In fact, less than a decade after its launch, Roscato made it to the #1 Sweet Wine in America, according to the wine importer Palm Bay International

However, unlike most Italian wines with deep roots in ancient vineyards, the Roscato does not carry the label of a vintner. It was simply created to please wine drinkers, not win stuffy wine awards.

Perhaps for that reason, it is nearly impossible to find information about the production or history of Roscato wine, but that didn’t deter the tenacious researchers at Explore with Tess. 

So, we’re stepping in to fill that information gap with our Ultimate Guide to Roscato Wine.

roscato wine vineyards in Lombardy Italy
Vineyards in Italy’s Lombardy wine region

What kind of wine is Roscato?

Roscato is a red wine (or rosé) that is sweet and slightly sparkling. To get technical, a Roscato is referred to as a frizzante wine, which denotes the level of effervescence or amount of bubbles. According to strict wine regulations, a Roscato is a semi-sparkling wine with a low alcohol content, often at around 7% to 8% ABV. 

The grapes for a Roscato wine come from Italy’s Lombardy region in northern Italy. The main grapes include 3 varietals that are indigenous to northern Italy: Croatina, Teroldego, and Lagrein. Sometimes other grapes, such as Pinot Noir, are used for blending the wine. 

Croatina grapes

Croatina grapes are mildew-resistant, high-yielding fruit typically used to make fruity varietal wines meant for young or blending. These types of grapes have characteristics similar to Dolcetto that tend to produce deeply colored wines with a slightly tannic flavor profile.

Croatina grapes in northern Italy used in Roscato wine
Croatina grapes growing in the Oltrepò Pavese region of Lombardy.
Image by Luigi Rosa, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Teroldego grapes

Terolego is a deep, dark red grape that thrives in the mountainous region of Trentino. This variety produces intensely fruity wines with distinctive flavors and aromas to match its vibrant coloration.

Although most of the world’s Terolego production (97%) comes from Italy, this red grape varietal is also grown in California, Australia, and Brazil. 

Lagrein grapes

The Lagrein grape produces strong, full-bodied, ruby-red wines with flavors of blackberry, plum, and wild cherry emerging from them. 

Thought to be the oldest grape variety in northern Italy, the Lagrein is only planted on about 1,000 acres in the world, according to Crush Wine Experience.

clusters of Lagrein grapes in New Zealand
Clusters of Lagrein grapes
Image by Nathan Jones, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Types of Roscato wine

Roscato Rosso Dolce

This classic, semi-sparkling red wine blend is the flagship of the Roscato line. As such, the alcohol content is at the lower end at 7%. The Roscato Rosso Dolce is what made this ruby-red brand #1 in America for sweet wines. 

Taste 

Fresh, lively with a soft finish

Nose

Known for its black fruit flavors, you will be able to smell the strong aromas of wild berries. 

How to pair it

Originally, the Rosso Dolce was considered an aperitif, but this blend is food-friendly. You really can’t go wrong in pairing it with about anything, including desserts!

Gold bottle of Roscato wine

Roscato Gold

Roscato Gold arrived on the American market in 2021 where it joined a lineup of classic Roscatos. The Roscato Gold is slightly paler ruby red compared to the Rosso Dolce, but it maintains the slight fizz and low alcohol levels.

Taste

A fruit-forward taste of dark stone fruits – black cherry and plums. Persistent, smooth aftertaste.

Nose

Fruity with spicy aromas and hints of violet.

How to pair it

Feel free to experiment as this wine goes with about anything and everything, including spicy cuisines, BBQ, and other savory dishes.

Roscato Dark

The Roscato Dark is one of the newest additions to the Roscato range. Note that this blend of Roscato is still, not sparkling, and at 13% ABV, it is at the high end of alcohol content for a Roscato.

Taste

Soft, smooth tannins with flavors of blackberry, plum, and dark cherries enhanced by exotic spices, vanilla.

Nose

Hints of coffee and chocolate

How to pair it

Roscato Dark can still be enjoyed on its own; however, with the boldness of this red blend, consider pairing with rich meats, such as a Beef Wellington, and spicy foods.

bottle of Roscato wine Smooth label

Roscato Smooth

The Dark and Smooth Roscatos were introduced to the market at the same time. Like its name would suggest, Roscato Smooth is a silky drink with a creamy finish. Also like the Roscato Dark, it has a higher ABV (13%) than the classic Roscatos.

Taste 

Silky, smooth tannins that are described as velvety. On the palate, you will experience notes of cherry and raspberry.

Nose

Hints of vanilla with fruity fragrances.

How to pair it

For the first time, try it on its own. The sweetness and higher ABV make it ideal to pair with savory, fatty foods, like a classic Italian Osso Bucco or a pork roast.

bottle of Roscato wine rose

Roscato Rosé Dolce

This is my favorite in the Roscato line. Why? Because it’s a semi-sparkling, sweet Rosé with a beautiful color. Seriously, my vote goes to pretty!

Taste

Refreshing and lingering on the palate with sweet red fruit flavors.

Nose

Aromas of red berries and cotton candy.

How to pair it

Use as an aperitif or for a refreshing beverage to energize you! I love to use it at a tea party beverage!

Moscato vs Roscato wine

Are Moscato and Roscato wines the same thing? No, not at all. 

But they are alike in some respects. Both Moscato and Roscato are sweet, semi-sparkling wines made from Italian grapes. Roscato is a red wine. Moscato is a white wine. Both have “pink” versions. 

But Moscato is made from different grapes – the Muscat grapes, which are one of the world’s oldest grape varieties. Although the original Moscato comes from Italy, the grapes are grown all over the world. 

Now, you can find Moscato wines from around the globe, including from Portugal, Spain, Australia, South Africa, and California.

Lombardy wines

Italy’s Lombardy region is bordered by Switzerland on its northern border, Piedmont on the west, Emilia-Romagna on the south, and Trentino-Alto Adige in the south, known as the Tyrol region, which also extends into Switzerland and Austria.

Milan is the regional capital.

Lombardy is known as the Lakes region of Italy with the most famous lakes that attract millions of tourists a year. The best known of the lakes is Lake Como (Lago di  Como) but experienced travelers know that Lake Garda (Lago di Garda), the largest of the lakes, is not to be missed.

Other lakes include Lake Maggiore with it’s incredible views and the smallest lake, Lake Iseo, which surrounds Europe’s largest lake island – Montisola. 

Lombardy’s wine regions are designated as DOC or DOCG. The difference is one of quality. To carry the DOCG title, a winery must receive from the Italian government a guarantee as being a wine of exceptional quality. Whereas, a DOC, which is still held to strict regulatory guidelines, must be grown and produced to meet appellation rules. 

Lombardy consists of a total of 26 DOCs and 5 DOCGs. Some of the more interesting or popular wine regions in Lombardy include:

Valtellina wine region

Looking up from this alpine valley in northern Italy, the nearly impossibly steep slopes and tiny terraces of the Valtellina vineyards make for an extravagant site, reminding me of the Douro Valley vineyards in Portugal, where most of the world’s port originates.

Leonardo Da Vinci described the region as “a valley surrounded by tall and fearsome mountains.”

Valtellina is one of Italy’s smallest wine producing areas (around 2,000 acres) and little known in the world. Wines from this region were typically sold to the Swiss market.

Wine production here predates the Romans. The stone walls that hold Italy’s largest terraced vineyards in place can date back to the Middle Ages. If lined up, the walls would stretch more than 1,000 miles long. Maintenance is critical but presents worrisome problems given the shortage of stone masons in modern times. 

Nebbiolo, known as Chiavennasca, is the main grape cultivar.

4 Valtellina wines to try

Lugana wine region

The vineyards of this picturesque countryside and seaside villages have one starring grape to feature in their refreshing white wines with aromas of citrus, peach, and white flowers. The lively wines from this region must contain a minimum of 90% Trebbiano di Lugana grapes.

Try it out yourself with a bottle of Zeni Vignealte Lugana 2020.

Valcalepio wine region

Located in the Bergama province between lakes Como and Iseo, the Valcalepio wine region produces Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blends and white wines from the Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco grapes.

The Valcalepio DOC was officially recognized in 1977, representing a renewal of wine production that dates back to Medieval times.  

Franciacorta wine region

As the Italian answer to champagne, Franciacorta’s sparkling wines are widely regarded by Italians but mostly unknown around the world. But given that the French have had centuries to perfect and promote their Champagnes, the Franciacorta’s 50 years of history gives it time to catch up!

The principal grapes are Chardonnay, Pinot Nero, and Pinot Bianco. You can purchase both vintage and non vintage bottles. 

Here are 3 bottles to get you started on your Franciacorta taste testing:

Bellavista Franciacorta Alma Cuvée Brut

This cuvée embodies the quintessence of Franciacorta. Biscuity, lemon and apple notes are on full display with a lively freshness that’s always an outstanding sparkler!

Ferghettina Franciacorta Rosé 2017

The 2017 Ferghettina Franciacorta sparkling Rosé has an elegant pink color. Fine and persistent perlage give this wine its character, with aromas of blackberry for added complexity in addition to raspberry notes that make it ultra-refreshing on your afternoon refreshment break.

Bellavista Franciacorta Teatro La Scala Brut 2015

The bright, youthful Bellavista Franciacorta Teatro La Scala Brut 2015 has a deep yellow hue with green highlights that make this wine more elegant than powerful but still full-bodied in flavor profiles, which include hints of white almonds or pastry as well as candied citrus fruit from hilltops near the Italian Alps where it’s grown on fertile hillsides! 

The supple texture will give you ample time to enjoy every sip while experiencing complex multifaceted aromas descriptive enough only an expert could appreciate them all at once (which might be why we love drinking such delicious brilliance).

Oltrepò Pavese wine region

About 50 miles south of Milan lies the Oltrepò Pavese wine region, which produces the pinot nero grape. 

The Oltrepò Pavese wine region, just south of Milan is home to one of Italy’s most distinctive wines. The pinot nero grape produces an earthy flavor that has made this particular variety highly sought after in the world over recent times despite its relative obscurity when compared with other more commercial appellations like Chianti or Barbera.

Try a well-priced bottle of Castello di Luzzano Carlino Oltrepo Pavese Bonarda 2017.

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What the reviews say about Roscato wine

Reading the hundreds of reviews for Roscato wine reminds me a bit about the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. But instead of porridge, she is sampling sweet wines. I can hear her say “Ahhh, this wine is just right” and she promptly finishes the bottle of Roscato!

That is what first-time Roscato drinkers tend to say as well: “This wine is not too sweet – it’s just right. It’s not too fizzy, it’s just the right amount of bubbles.”

Roscato is a very inexpensive and a popular choice for an introductory wine for beginners.

Cocktails you can make with Roscato wine

Cranberry sauced

Start with the classic Rosso Dolce in a highball glass and add a splash of cranberry juice and lemon-lime soda then drop in a few frozen cranberries. Garnish with an orange slice. For the full recipe, see Roscato Wine cocktails.

Red Sangria

Video host and home chef Karly Gomez is the founder of A Simple Pantry where you can find scrumptious recipes like The Best Damn Bacon Jam.

The developed her Best Ever Red Sangria recipe as a refreshing treat for parties and family gatherings in the summer heat of South Texas.

“I also love to add fresh cut limes and blackberries, because they complement the flavors of the Roscato and are, of course, delicious to munch on as you’re drinking,” Karly says on her blog. 

Roscato Rouge Mule

Kroger foods suggests using the Rosso Dolce and a couple of ounces of ginger beer with a splash of maraschino cherry juice to create a Roscato Rouge Mule. Don’t forget the ice cubes!

Olive Garden’s Roscato Berry cocktail

The Olive Garden helped put Roscato on the American map with this signature cocktail that features the wine.

The Roscato is served chilled in a highball glass with lime, pure cane sugar and mint.

Final thoughts about Roscato wine

We’ve written this guide to fill the knowledge gap on Roscato wine. Now we have a few questions for you because we always love to hear your thoughts.

  • What has your experience been with it?
  • Where did you first try a bottle of Roscato wine?

Let us know in the comments below!

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