“Pink? I don’t drink pink.” Sound familiar?
Many people still are apprehensive when it comes to rosé wines. Many so-called ‘serious’ wine-drinkers even consider rosé insipid, but there are many characterful rosés—it just takes a little looking and tasting.
Maybe it is partly a carry-over from the world of blush and white zinfandel, sweeter wines that usually lack depth and complexity. In the ‘80s, many Americans cut their teeth on white zinfandel, making in one of the top-selling wines in the U.S. during that decade. Although some wine enthusiasts like to criticize white zinfandel, we should be thankful that this wine helped propel wine appreciation in the American consumer.
With spring finally here and summer just on the cusp of our heels, many good wine shops and restaurants offer a selection of rosé. Rosé sends a unique message to a wine drinker’s palate: It is subtle and flirtatious, and is easily sipped, but can be both complex and refreshing.
Rosé wine truly is diverse and is good to sip on as a cocktail, on the patio or with dinner. But how is rosé made? What grapes are used and how can you tell what you will like?
First, let’s get a glimpse of how rosé is produced:
1) Traditional Skin Contact – A red grape like pinot noir is crushed and pressed; then during maceration, the grapes are only allowed to be in contact with the juice for a short period (‘the must’), to extract the desired color. Remember color comes from the skin, so the longer one leaves the skins in contact, the darker wine becomes, but also the higher the tannins.
2) Saignée or Bleeding-Off. During the early part of skin and juice contact (maceration), a winemaker can intensify a red wine by bleeding off juice from the skins to produce a separate wine—rosé. What remains is a lesser juice-to-skin ratio and more intensified red wine, commonly done with pinot noir. Vin gris is a similar style, but spends no time for maceration and is pressed right away without leaving the juice in skin contact time. Gris, which means grey, results in a very pale-colored rosé.
3) Blending – Although not used often, this is taking a white wine and adding some red wine for desired color and flavor.
Another benefit of saignée for traditional red wines is—after they bleed off juice—the increased skin (seed and stems) ratio provides more color and tannins, but also more phenolics and antioxidant qualities. This will help stabilize and protect the wine from deteriorating. On the flip side, this means rosés have very little of these qualities. This is why they must be consumed while young, generally within one or two years.
When it comes to production, rosé can be made out of most red grapes. Many different red grapes have their own flavor and characteristics, yielding rosés ranging from very light and subtle flavors to darker and bolder flavors.
As the popularity of rosé has grown, we are seeing rosés from all over the world from all different grapes: tannat rosé from Uruguay, malbec rosé from Argentina, cerasuolo rosato from Italy and garnacha rosado from Spain. The classic style is regarded a Provence-style, dry and pale, from the south of France.
Rosés currently account for about half of wines produced in Provence. They are usually a blend of red grapes from the region: grenache, syrah, cinsault, mourvedre and carignan are the main ones. Just north of Provence, in Rhône, is an appellation called Tavel that produces only rosé. What is interesting with most Tavel producers is they make their rosés by co-fermenting both red and white grape together. Both of these French rosés are nice, clean, elegant wines, subtle and refreshing.
So go ahead, drink pink and sip into the world of rosés. They are pleasant, lovely and perfect sipping for the season. Rosé can be a worthy wine, and sometimes not thinking too hard about it is the best way to enjoy it.
Tasting Tip: Chill your rosés to correct temperature, about 45°F to 50°F. See if you can find aromas such as melon and strawberries, or plum and currants.
Wine Recommendation: Find your style of rosé quickly by having your wine shop recommend three to four different styles. What you like may be a few different grapes and regions/countries. My favorite style of rosé usually is one with cleaner, fresh aromas, and generally lighter in color. If this is your style, try Azur Rosé or Robert Sinskey Vin Gris.