Summer is almost here and that means it is time to break out the Rosé! Rosé is that lovely pink-coloured wine that is served cold and seems to be the perfect aperitif to enjoy on a sunny deck. Ever wonder what sort of grapes are used to make Rosé? Or how it gets its colour? This article will shine some light on what goes in the world of Rosé.
How is Rosé made?
There are actually 3 methods for making Rosé wine. The first thing you need to understand is that all grape juice is essentially “clear”. If you were to squeeze the juice of a red grape into a glass it would look the same as juice squeezed from a white grape. The colour of red wine comes not from the juice, but from the skins. Red grape skins have a compound in them called “anthocyanins” which actually occur in lots of foods: blueberries, blackberries, black rice, and soya beans to name a few. They are water soluble pigments that exist in the red grape skins. When the skins break, those anthocyanins are released. If the broken skins are left in contact with the grape juice, the anthocyanins will be released into the juice and gradually turn the colour of the juice from clear to red. If, after crushing the grapes, you immediately remove the broken skins from the juice, the juice will remain clear. To make red wine you will leave the skins in contact with the juice for several days and up to several weeks to gradually extract the colour (anthocyanins) from the grape skins. That process is called maceration. Maceration is the main method for making Rosés. The difference is that the maceration for a Rosé typically lasts for a few hours to a day as opposed to several weeks. A few hours maceration will produce a light copper to pink colour, a day or longer will bring the colour up dark pink or light red.
The other primary method is Saignée (pronounced “sohn-yay”), which comes from the French word meaning to bleed. Sometimes when making red wine the winemaker will want to achieve extra colour. To do that, at the beginning of the fermentation he will bleed off some of the juice form the tank, leaving less juice to macerate with the fixed amount of skins, thereby extracting more colour. The juice that has been bled off will have a light red colour.
The final way of making Rosé is to simply add a little red wine to white wine. This last method is not really used in the making of fine still Rosé, thought it can be use to make fine Rosé Champagne.
What grapes are made to make Rosé?
Virtually any red grape can be made into a Rosé. Depending on how dark the skin of the grape used, the colour of the resulting Rosé will be lighter or darker. Pinot Noir will generally make a lighter Rosé than Syrah.
Southern France seems to be the home of Rosé and while they are made all over the world, it is the Provence region more than any other that has put a focus on Rosé. That hot Mediterranean climate is a natural for enjoying a refreshing Rosé and Provençal cuisine with its spicy fish stews and garlicky aioli and pairs well with spicy wines. Grapes such as Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre, Merlot, Tempranillo, Zinfandel and Pinot Noir have an inherent spicy character and make a spicy Rosé.
What types of Rosé are there?
Rosé wines can be broken down into four broad categories: still, sparkling, dry and sweet. Still wines refer to any wine that is not bubbly and is the most common Rosé. Champagne produces some sensational Rosé sparklers; in fact the top Cuvées of many of the Champagne Houses are Rosé. Dry wines have no residual sugar (meaning that the fermentation process has converted all of the grapes natural sugars into alcohol) and, as a result, they do not taste sweet. Sweet wines have some residual sugar and therefore can taste a little sweet. Rosé wines can be fermented dry or sweet.
What makes a good Rosé?
As the title of our article says, Rosés are the wines of summer. They are best enjoyed out on a deck on a hot summer’s day, so the main quality you want from your Rosé is for it to be refreshing. Serve it cold (we tend to serve it straight from the fridge) and keep it on ice. Refreshing wines are often slightly higher in acidity and frequently have a spicy character. The better Rosé producers will start with spicier grapes (as listed above) and perhaps pick them a bit earlier so as to preserve some extra acidity. One thing to keep in mind is that you do not have to spend a lot of money for a good Rosé! Rosé wines seldom use new oak, nor are they stored for long periods of time at the winery. This lowers their production cost and therefore their price on the shelf. Rosé Champagne is a much different story, and will usually sell at a premium to white Champagne. But value conscious shoppers that want a sparkling Rosé need not worry, as there are many good options coming out of Spain, Australia and even some from other regions in France.
Some recommendations are:
Domaine Houchart Cotes de Provence (France)
Placido del Camino Real Rosado (Spain)
2016 Laurel Glen Rosella (Sonoma)
Gorgeous pink with slight orange hue. Big, intense flavours of strawberry and rhubarb rest on a medium body. We pick up notes of grapefruit on the juicy finish. There is real excitement and vivacity to this Rosé. While it is delicious on its own, this is serious wine and would be a wonderful compliment to ceviche or spicy paella. Made from 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% of a field blend of old vine plantings that not even the winery is certain as to what variety they are!
2016 Enkidu Shamhat Rosé (Sonoma)
A blend of 50% Syrah, 35% Grenache and 15% Mouvedre. Complex and spicy, whole clusters are fermented until completely dry. Very refreshing, a worthy homage to the tavel style.
2016 Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas Rosé (Paso Robles)
Made up of 73% Grenache, 17% Mourvèdre, 6% Counoise & 4% Syrah, this is a new world Rosé made in the Provence tradition. Light pink in colour with a floral nose, there is a lovely acidity to this wine giving it a refreshing and bright finish. Stawberry, raspberry and lemon backed with a little kick of spice, it made the perfect accompaniment to fresh oysters on a warm day.
2016 Domaine Drouhin Oregon Rosé
Copper/orange in colour. The nose shows strawberry and cranberry, which follow on to the palate. There they are joined by flavours of cantaloupe and slight citrus notes on the juicy finish. Zero residual sugar, but a nice fruit-driven flavour experience, makes for a perfect summer aperitif.
2016 Benton-Lane Rosé (Willamette Valley, Oregon)
100% Pinot Noir, it has a lovely pink colour with a spicy, strawberry scent. The palate shows a medium body redolent of cherry and cranberry punctuated with hints of baking spices. The finish is juicy and mineral infused. More than just a summer sipper, this will go great with food (think white meats from turkey to fish!).
Very Good +
2015 Lauren Ashton Rosé (Washington State)
As we’ve come to expect with winemaker Kit Singh, a beautifully balanced and elegant wine that has the right amount of acidity to be perfectly refreshing. A 50/50 blend of Grenache and Mourvedre, it has notes of strawberry, raspberry and pomegranate backed with a little spice on the finish.
2015 Obelisco Rosé (Washington State)
100% Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine spends 21 hours on the skins to give it a translucent crimson colour. Spicy strawberry and pomegranate come through on a broad-shouldered frame. Ken told us of a story of a rather large football player who came to the tasting room and was not a Rosé fan, as he found them too light. Ken thought he might change his mind if he tried the Obelisco Rosé. The football player did and said he wished more Rosés were made in this bigger style and purchased several bottles to take away. Ken packaged them up and handed them to him saying “here is your rosé”. The footballer said “No. This is bro-sé”.
2013 EFESTĒ Bobbitt Rosé (Washington State)
This delicious rosé is made from 89% Cabernet Sauvignon and 11% Mouvedre. Notes of strawberries and spice combined with a juicy acidity make this a delightful rose, perfect for summer sipping or pairing with seafood. There is an intensity to the flavours in this wine that we seldom encounter in a rose.