Rosé Primer: All the Things
Updated: Jun 30, 2022
Okay it’s officially beach weather (where I live) – time to talk about the big, pink elephant in the room…ROSÉ!
Yes way? No way? Either way…there still seems to be some confusion over the pink juice that bears addressing.
First of all, most rosé is pink-ish wine made from red grapes. Sometimes it’s a blend of red grapes; sometimes it’s made from one variety – like Pinot Noir. Yes, you can make rosé from blending red and white wines together, but in Europe that’s mostly illegal. I say mostly because the one very famous exception to this no-blending rule would be Champagne. Most rosé Champagne is actually made as a white wine and then given a bit of color by adding still red wine.
But back to most rosé…the majority of rosé is made from red grapes by allowing limited skin contact (sounds racy I know!) And this brings us to two different techniques. Firstly, let’s discuss the saignée method where you run pink juice from a tank of red grapes and let it ferment away from the skins. The red grapes continue on their own fermentation path to make a red wine – so you are getting two wines from one batch of grapes. Now that’s a good deal!
Second method, maceration where you decide from the beginning that your red grapes are destined to be rosé and nothing else (no side project!) This is a bit more serious take on the wine as you are harvesting with this intention. The process would still be much the same as the saignée method described above. You would bring your grapes in and allow them to sit in your fermentation vessel releasing juices that are developing color from the grape skins. Once the juice is your desired color you press the grapes (you can use some of the free run juice and some of the pressed juice as part of your recipe!)
So what does all of this mean when you are at your local wine shop sorting through the myriad of pretty pink bottles. Firstly, there is delicious wine made from all methods. However, you will certainly find some more “serious” rosés made from the final method. There are many examples of this, but a famous example that I love would be the Bandol rosé from Chateau Pradeaux. This is made from Mourvedre and Cinsault and comes from a historic family estate in the Bandol region of Provence, France. It is almost orange in color and really tastes better with a year of age on it. This is the type of rosé that could be paired with a serious meal – think rack of lamb and spring veggies. Of course, it has the price tag to match this fanciness – around $35 retail. But I promise it’s worth the splurge!
Another "serious" rosé that I love is Clos Cibonne's Cuvée Tradition, which is also from Provence. It is made from the native and rarely seen Tibouren grape, and it is actually aged for a year in oak barrels prior to release. During this year of aging, the wine develops a thin, yeast veil on the surface that adds layers to its complexity. I would also pair this with a full meal.
However, if you are simply looking for your next porch sipper then sure grab a well-priced bottle and don’t worry about the method. My one major point of advice would be to stick with smaller, family owned wineries that are really putting some care into their wine. There are plenty of these for around $20, and they will taste significantly better than that $10 bottle at the grocery store.
A few final points that I see come up in my shop all the time:
· Yes, most rosé is dry (meaning there is no discernible sweetness) – be gone any distant memories of White Zinfandel (which is a whole other story!)
· No, darker colored rosés do not indicate sweetness.
· There is great rosé made from around the world. Sure, southern France is romantic but don’t get stuck in one region. See the myriad of regions in the top photo – Oregon, Germany, central France, and southern France.
Lastly, don’t get caught up in hype or trends – is rosé out and orange wine in? Beautiful, well-made rosé will always have a place at the table (or the pool!)