Well before the arrival of the Summer Solstice, wine palates begin to shift their seasonal preferences from heavier full-bodied red wines to lighter wines, i.e. those “summer sippers” that we all love! Prominent among these delightful, refreshing offerings are many wonderful Rosé wines. But, beyond the enjoyment of a cool, thirst-quenching glass of delicious Rosé, have you ever given thought to how that Rosé wine was made?
Many Customers in the Fine Wine & Good Spirits store where I work have asked me how one makes a Rosé wine. Some Customers intuitively think that Rosé wines are simply a blend of red and white wines combined in the proportions necessary to reach a Rosé-like color. While it is true that this type of blending is one way in which Rosé wines can be made (although the use of this method to make a Rosé wine is prohibited in some countries, most notably France), it may come as a surprise that there are two other approaches to making Rosé wines! I have also heard Customers speculate that Rosé wines (and, particularly, wines made by blending) are lesser wines. Nothing could be further from the truth!
As for the sometimes-maligned general practice of blending wines, it is axiomatic among winemakers that blending a good wine with a lesser wine will only produce an inferior wine. That is why the true art of blending good wines is an effort (indeed, a skill) to combine two or more good wines and blend them in such a fashion as to produce a very good wine that reflects the finest qualities of every constituent wine that went into its final blend!
Aside from blending, the two other approaches to making Rosé wine are: skin contact and saignée (from French for “bleeding”). Skin contact refers to the length of time before fermentation during which the crushed grape clusters (or, the must, which includes grape pulp, skins, seeds, and possibly stems) stay in contact with the juice. The length of time can be as brief as a scant few or as long as 24 hours. The juice, once separated from the skins, retains a pink color and that varies in intensity according to the length of time during which the must was in contact with the juice. Saignée, on the other hand, refers to a method in which grapes are lightly pressed and the initial resultant juice that “bleeds” off from the light pressing retains a pink color from its brief exposure to the grapes during this light pressing.
Rosé wines may be made in various shades of pink, owing to the technique employed during their production. They may also be “still” or “sparkling”. The amount of residual sugar can also vary across the spectrum of sweetness to dryness, although my favorite Rosé wines are in the medium-dry to dry range and come from Provence, France. In addition, all Rosé wines are generally served chilled and are meant to be consumed while they are young and at their freshest. And, best of all, Rosé wine pairs well with virtually any food! So, enjoy a wonderful Rosé “summer sipper” soon!