This week’s question via email from Samantha in Concord, CA
What is Rosé? How is it made?
Rosé has risen in popularity over the last two years appearing on Instagram accounts everywhere. Much like the trendy photos of macaroons, peonies, and donuts; snapping a photo of a pretty pink wine in your glass has become the “thing” to do. Merchandisers have even taken notice, profiting off this trend with apparel, bags, and phone cases with “Rosé” on it. This represents a huge accomplishment in the wine industry, people are no longer looking down their nose at rosé as the cheap white zinfandels of yesterday, instead there is a new found appreciation for this delicious beverage. This style of wine isn’t just for the ladies, men have made it into their own with canned rosé like Brosé and "Real Men Drink Pink" events.
Rosé is made from red grapes but produced in a white wine method. We do not get rosé from mixing a white wine with a red wine nor is color added. Rosé gets its beautiful color from skin contact with the juice. All wines get their color from the grape skins, so the longer the juice sits with the skins, the more pigmented the wine will be. Depending on the producer, some winemakers let the juice sit with the skins for an hour while others leave it for five hours or more. Pale pink wines see very little time on the skins and deep magenta toned wines have developed due to longer time on the skins.
There are a couple different ways to make rosé; some producers grow or buy grapes specifically for making rosé. These grapes are usually harvested earlier to retain their natural acidity. The grapes are then pressed and macerated (juice is left on the skins) and then removed so that the juice does not extract too much color or tannins. The other method is called Saignee, which means to bleed in French. Rosé that is made in the saignee method is a by product of a red wine fermentation. When a winemaker wants to bulk up a red wine and increase tannins they bleed off a small amount of juice from the fermenting lot. This increases the juice to skin ratio, further extracting color and tannin. The juice that has been bled off will then be used as a rosé. Basically, with the saignee method you start out with one red wine and before the end of fermentation you have a more tannic red and a portion of rosé. To saignee or not to saignee is a controversial question among rosé aficionados. There is something special about harvesting grapes with the intention of using the grapes only for rosé production, instead of it being a by product of another fermentation. However, some people prefer the saignee method because it tends to be more tannic.
Rosés comes in many different styles ranging from delicate, light styles from Provence to meatier, tannic versions from Bandol. Here is a list of great examples of the varying styles of rosé.
Château Léoube, Secret de Leoube 2015 $29.99
Blend of Grenache 40%, Cinsault 40%, Cabernet Sauvignon 20%
The color is delicate and clear with a nose of subtle floral and spicy flavors and minerality.
Domaine des Carteresses Tavel 2015 $17
Blend of 50% Grenache, 35% Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Carignan, 15% Clairette, Picpoul and Bourboulenc
Bright ruby pink with flavors of cherry, cinnamon, and pepper.
Eleven Eleven Estate Rosé 2015 $28
Maraschino cherry hue with flavors of rosewater, strawberry, faint black cherry and watermelon.
Herman Story After Hours Rosé 2015 $24.99
Dark ruby pink color wine with notes of rose petals, strawberry daiquiri, mint, maraschino cherries, and raspberry sorbet.
Pinot Noir Rosé
Sokol Blosser Estate Cuvée Rosé 2015 $18.99
100% Pinot Noir
Clear and pale pink color with hints of pink lady apple, watermelon, and balanced minerality.
Niner Wine Estates Rosato 2014 $20
69% Sangiovese, 29% Barbera, 2% Cabernet Franc
Salmon color with fresh watermelon and bright cherry.
Marques de Caceres Rioja Rosado 2015 $8.99
Blend of 96% Tempranillo, 4% Garnacha tinta
Vibrant coral red color with flavors of fruit loops, strawberry, stone fruit, and anise.