Thinking Pink: The Intricacies of Making Rosé

It’s summer. The weather is warm and if you are like me, your thoughts are turning to more white wines rather than the hearty reds of winter. There is one style which is making a statement this season however and that is Rosé. It’s a beautiful mix of the lightness of a white wine with a bit of classy structure hinting of its origins as red wine grapes. In Provence, one of the world’s foremost Rosé producing regions, exports to the US have risen for 12 straight years with rapid growth in 2015 according to the Wines of Provence organization. The sales data from Nielsen also confirms that rose sales have risen not only in volume by over 50% but value as well over 60% for imported Roses. However, the love of Rose is not just a US phenomenon. Approximately 9% of all wine sold in the UK are rosé wines as well, surprisingly over half of which originate from the US! According to the Drinks Business, over the past 12 years global rosé consumption has increased 20%!Much of this increase arises from rosé’s easy to drink style and ability to so seamlessly pair with foods which require more structure than whites but a lighter body than a red would provide. It also stems from the “pink is for women” stigma finally being shed as dry rosés are being seen as serious wines beyond the sweeter blush styles popular in the 1980s and 90s. So how does Rosé manage to bridge the worlds between white and red so successfully? The answer lies in several different winemaking techniques, each with their own result which can be used independently or together to achieve a desired style of Rosé. There are three main ways to make rosé; Skin Contact and Pressing, Saignée, and Blending.  

 

Skin Contact and Pressing

 

This method is unique because the sole purpose of this method is to make rosé. Unlike Saignée which has some side benefits, this method is employed when a winemaker wants to completely control the amount of structure and color in the rosé to the fullest. It starts by selecting the desired grape variety. In the south of France, such as Tavel this would be Cinsaut or Grenache. In Spain, it would be Garnacha perhaps with some Tempranillo. In the Loire, Cabernet Franc or Pinot Noir may be employed while in the New World, the entire world of reds are open for experimentation. The next step would be to decide how much color and structure to extract from the skins once the fruit is crushed. Often, this is done right in the press with the skins remaining in contact with the juice from 4 hours to as much as 48. Winemakers then sample the juice to determine the color extraction and texture of the tannins before making a pressing decision. After pressing, the juice is treated like a white wine, meaning that it is settled and racked clean of solids at which point it is put into fermentation. Usually the fermentation temperature is on the cooler side to keep the bright fruity aromas from escaping out of the tank during the process. After that, the wine is stabilized, clarified and put to bottle usually quite early in the year.  

 

Saignée

 

Saignée (pronounced Sin-yay) is French meaning “Bleeding”. In this method, rosé is usually a side benefit of making a red wine. Many winemakers use the process of Saignée to concentrate color, flavor, and tannins in a red wine by bleeding off juice. This reduces the skin to juice ratio in the fermentor and allows for a more intense and robust red. The resulting rosé can be quite light in color and it usually has minimal tannin extract from the skins since it is completed so early in the process, within a few hours of crushing the fruit. Because of this, blending different saignee wines is very important to create a final and holistic rosé which will stand on its own.  

 

Blending

 

Blending to make a rosé is when a white and a red wine are blended together to make a rosé wine. The resulting wine can be made in many different styles to suit many tastes and can be combined with the techniques above to layer in complexity and balance in the finished wine. It should be noted, however that blending to make rosé is not allowed in Europe outside of Rosé Champagne so this method is primarily employed in New World regions. Blending in additional red wine with skin contact or saignee rose would add additional structure, body, and color while blending in a white wine will reduce color and structure while adding aromatic fruit lift and palate freshness.  

 

By using one or more of these techniques, winemakers can change the style of their rosé to create their own unique statement. From pale salmon to deep rose and light and fresh to serious and structured, there is a rosé style for every occasion and particular palate. Luckily for all of us, we are just now entering the rosé season and there are plenty to choose from.
Originally written for and posted on Snooth.com. 

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