Grape of the Week: Rose
By: Jeff S Cameron
Posted: Jun. 17, 2013


[Magnums of Classic Rosé / jamesonf]


Rosé wines are the perfect wines for spring and summer. They range from sweet to dry, from the palest pink to eye-catching bright strawberry and cherry colors, but they are almost invariably refreshing. Most commonly made with the same grapes that make up your favorite reds, they offer fresher flavors and balance that make them a great match with most foods or just ideal for cooling down on a hot day.


The grape used, the technique and time of maceration used and even the addition of coloring agents and/or already finished wine all directly affect the resulting color, and of course, flavor of the wine. Even tannin levels affect the coloration of the pigment and may be manipulated by more or less gentle pressing of the grape and the selection of oak, stainless steel or stone. There are some grapes, known as teinturiers, that actually contain pigment in the pulp and juice as well as the skin and seeds, but they are rare and only add a little color. Most Rosé wines take anywhere from two hours to several days macerating or soaking in the juice to create the winemaker’s desired color and flavor profile.



There are four main ways to make Rosé wine. Some consider one style or method better than the others, but depending on the grape and the winemaker’s goal, any of the following procedures can great enjoyable wine. The first is Saignée or bleeding. This describes the process of piling the grapes atop one another and let the juice run free from their own weight. Wines made with this process tend to be fresh, fruity and very pale in color. The second method is pressing. This is much the same as the first, except that external pressure is added to achieve a certain volume or color of juice.


[Pushing down the cap to encourage maceration / Ian Brown]


Third and most common is maceration, this allows the juice to remain in contact with the grapes, seed and stems for a period of time until the desired amount of tannins, color, and flavor is achieved. Finally is the runoff method, where the winemaker takes a percentage of another tank of fermenting red wine and adds it to a base of juice to achieve a desired color and/or flavor. This is often considered to allow for an exceptional concentrated red wine in the first barrel and an often less than stellar Rosé from the blending.


Rosé wines are most likely the oldest style of wines in the world. Early winemakers did not have the experience and techniques available to make palatable dark red wines. It was known that allowing the juice to sit with the skins and stems would produce darker, more powerful wines, but those wines were also considered harsher and often undrinkable. As a result, short maceration periods and soft pressing resulted in fruit forward and more approachable wines that would have appeared similar to a Rosé. 


Even into the Middle Ages and modern times, wines we would consider Rosé were the favored expressions of the claret wines of Bordeaux and even the sparkling wines of Champagne. By the end of the twentieth century pure red and white expressions of wine were more popular, but Rosé is coming back. The flexibility and approachability of the wine style, its ability to match an amazing range of foods and tastes and the quick production and turnaround for winemakers have all contributed to its resurgence. 


In France, Rosé takes on a wide variety of expressions. It is produced in almost all of the major winemaking regions from the cooler climes of Bordeaux and Champagne to the hot Mediterranean regions of the Southern Rhone and Provence.



[A Selection of Provence and Rhone Rosé / nadia & Massimo]


In Provence, where 60% to 80% of the wine produced is in Rosé styles, it is classified into one of six colors and made using various combinations of up to nine different grapes.  Most commonly used are Mouvedre, Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault. Some of the most famous and celebrated Rosé s from Provence are from the Bandol and the Cotes de Provence AOCs.


In the Rhone and Loire regions, Tavel holds perhaps the most famous position. Made primarily with the Grenache and Cinsault grapes, these are spicy wines with robust berry notes. Also of note are the Rosé wine of Anjou and Lirac, which both tend towards the lighter side. 


In addition to the Rosé wines of France, Rosato is the term for the style made in Italy, which include sweet and dry as well as still and sparkling wines. In Spain and Portugal the style is known as Rosado. In the United States, alternate terms of Rosé include blush, blanc and white, along with the varietals such as White Zinfandel or Cabernet Blanc.  Most of the rest of the world simply refers to it as the almost universal Rosé. It is made from grapes as varied as Tempranillo, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Carignan, Grenache, Mouvedre, Pinot Noir, Graciano, Merlot, Dornfelder, Blauer Wildbacher, Pinot Gris, Trebbiano, Sangiovese and no doubt many others.


Try a Rosé from your favorite wine producing region and you just might find a new favorite summer wine. They can be refreshing, refined, fruity and sparkling – whatever fits your mood or your food.

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