Rosé, it’s a pink wine. We talked about how you make it in Rosé Season – Rosé Basics. But there is so much more to it. Rosé is a color of wine, just like red wine and white wine. So what about the difference in the grapes that you use to make it and where you grow those grapes?
Rosé can be made from any red grape, and while the intensity of the flavor differs from red wine, as the juice does not spend as much time on the skins or “must”, different grape varieties do impart different flavors and of course the terroir (soil and climate) affects flavor also.
On a simple level a Grenache rosé will be typically bright and fruity, a Syrah rosé will be more savory and a Mourvedre rosé will be fruity and floral. Of course that is just dipping into the differences in Rhone variety rosés. Rosés are as diverse as the grapes, areas and winemakers who make them. Let’s delve a little deeper.
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.
Sometimes you will hear Rosé referred to as “Vin Gris”. This translate as “grey wine” which is not very sexy. The idea here is that you are using a red grape to make a white wine. In this case there is VERY little contact with the skins so that often the juice comes out clear. (this of Blanc de Noir Champagne, made with pinot noir, but without any pink tint). There is also “Gris de Gris” which is made only from the lighter colored red grapes Cinsault, Gamay & Grenache.
Dry Rosés will not have that sweetness. In these wines all of the sugar has been eaten off by the yeast. These wines typically fall into two camps flavor wise: Fruit/Floral and Herbal/Savory
Fruit and/or Floral Rosé
These include: Tavel, Rosado, Sangiovese Rosé, Provençe Rosé, Grenache Rosé and Pinot Noir Rosé. Rosado is a Spanish Rose, Grenache, Sangiovese and Pinot Noir Rosés are pretty self explanatory.
Off Dry Rosé
We mentioned before “white zinfandel” which gave rosé a bad name for a while. White Zin is an off dry style of rosé. Off dry indicates that there is residual sugar (rs). So when the wine is fermented, fermentation is stopped before the yeast has eaten off all of the sugar, so there are “residual sugars” left in the wine. This is where you get all sweet wines. You see this term “Off dry” often used in Champagnes or sparkling wines. If you enjoy a little sweetness in your wine, or have a pairing that calls for it, you can go with an “off dry” rosé, these include: blush wine, white merlot, white zinfandel, Rosé D’Anjou and Garnacha Rosado.
If there is one region more known for rosé than any other, it would be Provençe. They are serious about their rosé here. Half of the production in Provençe is Rosé. These rosés are typically Grenache and cinsault, but with a little mourvèdre and syrah.
Provençe conjures up visions of fields of lavender and sunflowers. Sitting on the Mediterranean coast, the area is sundrenched with warm days and cool evenings. The “Mistral” winds which top at over 90 kilometers an hour are certainly not a breeze, but are credited with making these wines so delicious, by keeping away cloud cover, keeping temperatures from shifting to hot or too cold and preventing grape rot.
The largest AOC in this region is the Côtes de Provençe. It produces 75% of the wine in the region of which a whopping 89% is Rosé.
For more on the wines of Provençe visit Provencewineusa.com
This is an Off Dry Rosé from the Loire Valley made primarily from Grolleau. “Grolle” means “crow” in french and this grape is said to be named for it’s deep dark color. This wine has it’s own AOC, Rosé D’Anjou AOC in the Anjou district of the Loire Valley. Small percentages of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Gamay, Malbec and Pineau d”Aunis are allowed. Close by you will also find Cabernet D’Anjou & Cabernet de Saumur which are also slightly sweet rosés. These wines while slightly sweet have bright acids which makes them refreshing and have aromas of strawberry, gooseberry, white pepper and roses with mint.
Tavel Rosé was Hemingway’s wine of choice often drinking it exclusively on trips in France. This has been called “the thinking drinkers rosé”. The Rosés are darker and higher in alcohol (so little wonder that Hemingway liked it!). They must be between 11% and 13.5% alcohol and most typically bump up against that upper limit.
Tavel is a region in Rhone, that only makes Rosé. Grenache is the base for all Tavel wine. Grenache, Cinsault, Bourboulenc, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Picpoul and Clairette are the main grape varieties but no single variety can be more than 60% of a vineyard. Carignan and Calitor Noir may also be planted but cannot make up more than 10% of the planting.
This area is on the right-bank of the Rhone around the city of Tavel.
For more info on Tavel visit rhone-wines.com
Garnacha is the Spanish version of Grenache, a well known grape in France for Rosé. Of course it’s warmer in Spain than in France so the fruit tends to be a little riper and you often a deeper color in these wines. They are often a little sweet, but can also be found in a drier style.
Herbal or Savory Rosé
These include: Bandol Rosé, Cabernet Franc Rosé, Syrah Rosé, and Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé. Again, the varietal Rosés are self explanatory and we will delve more into the flavors in our next post. But lets talk a little about Bandol.
Bandol is located on the southern coast of France. Here they grow Mourvèdre. This is within the larger region of Provençe, but is tucked on the coast between Maseille and Toulon. The warm climate is perfect for the late harvesting Mourvèdre. While other varieties are allowed Mourvèdre must account for 50% of the Rosé, although most producers use significantly more. In addition Grenache and Cinsault are also used with Syrah and Carignan limited to 10% each.
Of course this is just the tip of the iceberg! Just searching store shelves the other day we found Rosés from Italy, France, Oregon, Chile, Spain and California and we just picked up one from Virginia on a recent trip. The changes in soil and climate and wine making styles make for an overwhelming variety of wines.
But now that we have a little of the lay of the land, stick with us as we get into the tasty stuff and start to explore the different aroma’s and flavors in Rosé and then delve into what to pair with them!
Pairing with cheese
Soft – Semi Soft Cow’s Milk Cheese and Goat Cheese.
How to serve
how to serve
try serving at 55 degrees
warming it slightly will release more aromas
no need to decant
pair with food
Pair with food
principally light salads, light pasta and rice dishes, especially with seafood, raw and lightly cooked shellfish and grilled fish