Rose Wine vs. White Zinfandel (*Hint: There’s Only One You Should Drink )

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Confession: I drank $5 sparkling wine from United Dairy Farmers throughout college. It was the pre-party drink of choice for the girls in my sorority, and we drank it chilled, straight from the bottle. We thought we were so glamorous. Take that, beer pong-playing frat guys! The summer after college, I graduated to sweet pink wine from a box.

Maybe this “confession” seems a little dramatic to you, but it’s kind of a big deal for me: Seven years after my box-wine drinking days I became a travel editor at a major wine magazine in New York City. Imagine if I had mentioned a mini-mart sparkler during my interview!

Of course, I learned a lot between my box-wine drinking days and the day I got hired at the wine mag. An editor at my first magazine job out of college was a wine collector, and she sparked my interest in good food in wine. She gave me assignments about the culinary delights of Perigord and Alsace, and she told me what to drink. Before long, I was smitten…and a little obsessed.

Back then I couldn’t afford to spend much on wine, but that didn’t matter. I quickly learned the difference between high-quality inexpensive wine and low-quality cheap wine. And I discovered that I could find excellent bottles for $12–I just had to do my homework.

So the whole rose vs. White Zinfandel thing? It’s an important lesson, and it’s one you should know. There’s a major difference between the two, and it’s all about quality.

According to Wine Spectator, White Zin is often made with relatively low-quality grapes and blended into a consistent house style that give it a fruit-punch flavor profile and sweet finish. Rose, on the other hand, is made from higher- to very high-quality red wine grapes (Cabernet and Pinot Noir, for example), and it can be very nuanced and even complex. It gets its lighter color because of the way it’s made; the juice has less contact with the grape skin.

So, please, when you’re reaching for that rosy-hued wine this summer, make sure it’s a rose–not the other stuff. (One to try is my all-time favorite rose by Wolffer Estate on Long Island; at $16, it’s a steal!) You’re an adult now, and it’s time to drink like one!

What’s your favorite summer wine?