It’s Rosé season. Well at least in my humble opinion. Rosé season starts for me when the first of the spring vegetables arrive and ends when the last watermelons of the season are gone, although I have been known to dip into rosés outside of that time.
It’s “cool” again to drink rosé. There was a time when it wasn’t, when pink was not as cool. It was the time after Sutter Home made everyone think that “White Zinfandel” was rosé, which it is…but it’s just one type of rosé, and a sweeter style. But now…rosé with bubbles are all the rage at the clubs and even those of us who are not quite that cool are diving back into the pink. This year rosés are lining the shelves at stores.
There is a wide range of rosés from those that are delicately pink like tree blossoms in early spring, to those that lean more toward the tones of smoked salmon, or the desert tones of red rocks. Some lend themselves more richly to the color of strawberries. Regardless, there is a wide variety and lots to cover.
So this year, with all the Rosé hype, I thought I would delve deep into Rosé. And as I delve, I will share my insights and discoveries. For today, we will start out with a little history and the basics of what Rosé is. Let’s start with what Rosé is, because that is going to play into the history.
How Rosé is made
A Rosé is a wine made from red grapes where the skin does not stay in contact with the juice for very long, so it is “pink” or “rose” in color.
There are a couple of different ways to do this:
Limited Skin Maceration
The grapes are crushed and left in contact with the skin for a short time. This is called “maceration”. The longer the juice is left on the skin, the darker the color. Then the juice is drained from the skins or the “must” and begins the fermentation process.
Saignée is “bleeding” in French. This is the efficient wine makers method of making a rose. Here some of the juice is bled off of the tank as the wine begins to macerate. This allows the wine that is macerating to be more concentrated and the juice that has been “bled off” to become rosé.
This is the method used to make most rosé Champagne. In this method a still white wine is blended with 5% to 20% red Champagne wine. The red wine will be made in a way that minimizes tannins.
A little Rosé history
So most early wines were rosés. Early wines were made by squishing the grapes and draining the juice. “Maceration” was not really thought of. So if any of the grapes were red, you ended up with a rosé. These wines of course had fewer tannins so they were very pleasant. Into the middle ages they enjoyed a light pink claret and thought color to be significant to quality. The darker the wine the lower the quality, and the more tannins which would impart that dryness and bitterness to the wines.
Early Champagne was also rosé, since is was mostly made from Pinot Noir and would have been lightly colored by the skins. It was much later that “Blanc de Blancs” became the norm for Champagne.
We are just getting started. Come back for more conversations on the different grapes for rosé and how the variety and length of maceration can influence the flavors of rosé. And then of course, we will talk about what to pair with your rosé.