Rosé, Brosé, Summer Water, whatever you like to call it, we all know and love a good rosé, particularly now that it’s no longer associated with the overly sweet strawberry wines of our college years. That being said, a lot of people don’t actually know all that much about what is going into their favorite pink tinged vintages. If you ask around for an explanation about what rosé is you’ll get descriptions from “white grapes with a little dye or fruit juice for color” to “a blend of red and white grapes” to “red wine they’ve watered down or something.” So, in honor of rosé season, let’s delve into what exactly is in your summer wine bottles.
To settle the first question right off the bat, rosé is made with red grapes. The specific varietals involved depend on the region so a good rose from Cotes du Rhone is likely to involve Syrah and Grenache, and a rosé made from pinot noir is likely to be a tasty option in the Willamette Valley. Whatever red grapes a vintner is growing, and whatever combinations of varietals strike their fancy are options to be turned into a rose essentially.
So why is the wine a beautiful blush or sometimes bright pink instead of red? In order to make a red wine, the grapes undergo a process called maceration where the juices are left to ferment with the grape must, a combination of the skins, crushed grapes, stem, and seeds. This extracts their color, aroma, and tannic compounds into the wine. Maceration can take place either before or during fermentation and the process begins the moment the grape skins are opened and stops the moment the must is removed from the liquid. Most rosés are made by simply removing the must early in the the maceration process.They then finish their fermentation without the must, stabilize for a period of time, get blended with other batches to get the exact right color and flavor profile and finally are bottled. The darker pink or more tannic a rosé is, the longer it has remained in contact with the grape must during the maceration process.
There are two other less common methods of making rose, the Saignee (or bled) method, and the blending method. Saignee occurs when during the making of a batch of red wine, a small amount of the liquid is “bled” off into a different vat in order to make rose while the rest continues to macerate with the must. The blending method is in fact quite literally blending a small amount of red wine into a white, generally at a ratio of 95% white to 5% red. This is primarily a technique for creating sparkling pink wines.
No matter which production method or varietal blends you choose, you can’t go wrong with a good rosé!