Suddenly it is ok to drink pink! Americans are rediscovering Rosé wines and they seem more and more popular every day. What are they? What are they made of? Which ones are the good ones? These are all common emails I am receiving every day. When a wine isn’t quite red, it’s rosé. Technically speaking, this pinkish beverage is produced differently than red wine but with the same grapes. For example, White Zinfandel is produced with the same grapes as Red Zinfandel but the two wines are stunningly different. The development of Rosé wine perhaps started with the popularity of Claret (“klar- ETT”)–a common style of red Bordeaux during the 1800s. Back then the Brits fawned over pale wines made with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Nowadays, Bordeaux wines have become bolder and darker to fit today’s red wine flavor profile. Rosé has earned a category of its own. There are two major differences between making white wine and Rosé wine. First, Rosé wines use both white and red grape varieties. Second, standard Rosé winemaking looks a lot more like how white wine is made with an additional maceration time added in the beginning.
The maceration method is most commonly used for commercial Rosé. Maceration is when the grapes are pressed and sit in their skins. In red wine making, maceration usually lasts throughout the fermentation. For Rosé, the juice is separated from the skins before it gets too dark. For lighter varieties, like Grenache, it can take 24 hours. For darker red wine variatials like Mourvedre, the process sometimes only lasts a few hours.
Vin Gris, translates to “Gray Wine” and is when red grapes are used to make a nearly-white wine. Vin Gris uses an extremely short maceration time. This style of Rosé winemaking is popular for the lighter red wine varieties such as Pinot Noir in the United States and Gamay or Cinsault in France. The Saignée method is capable of producing some of the longest lasting Rosé wines. It is actually a by-product of red winemaking. During the fermentation of a red wine about 10% of the juice is bled off. This process leaves a higher ratio of skin contact on the remaining juice, making the resulting red wine richer and bolder. The leftover bled wine or “Saignée” is then fermented into Rosé. Wines made from the Saignée method are typically much darker than Maceration Method wines and also much more savory. Many Cabernet Sauvignon producers in Napa valley use the Saignée method to increase the richness of their red wines. If you travel there, you’ll find an abundance of Rosé wines available at wineries, but usually nowhere else. A Napa Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé is very rich, almost like a Pinot Noir, but with more savory notes of bell pepper, black pepper and cherry.
Some Roses include granache Rosé which is fruity. Tasting Notes: Usually has a brilliant ruby red hue with notes of ripe strawberry, orange, hibiscus and sometimes with a hint of allspice. You’ll find wines of Grenache to have moderately high acidity, but since most have q with this wine would be a summer evening and takeout Greek Gyros with dill tzatziki. Sangiovese Rosé which is a bright copper red color that sparkles in the light, Sangiovese seems like it was made to be a rosé wine. Notes of fresh strawberries, green melon, roses and yellow peach are complimented with mouth quenching acidity. A few Sangiovese rosé have a feint bitter note on the finish, which makes this fruity wine taste pleasantly dry. Definitely serve cold in a white wine glass, perhaps with a bowl of Moroccan couscous and chicken.
Tempranillo rosé is growing in popularity from the Rioja region and other parts of Spain. With this style of rosé you can expect a pale pink hue and herbaceous notes of green peppercorn, watermelon, strawberry and meaty notes reminiscent of fried chicken. Many Tempranillo rosé from this area also blend a bit of Graciano and Grenache to add floral notes to the flavor. A glass of Rioja rosé will class up any taco truck experience. American Syrah rosé is typically made in the Sangee method which usually means it will have deeper colors of ruby and notes of white pepper, green olive, strawberry, cherry and peach skin — definitely on the funky side. Rosé of Syrah tend to be more on the bolder end of the spectrum and are best served slightly warmer than fridge temperatures in a regular red wine glass. This is a surprisingly good wine with pepperoni pizza or a bowl of chili. This type of rosé wine is nearly exclusively made in the Sangee Method. Cabernet rosé are a deep ruby red color with red wine-like flavors of green bell pepper, cherry sauce, black currant and pepper spice. The only big difference is that Cabernet rosé wines usually have heightened acidity because they aren’t typically aged in oak. Possibly the most popular rosé (in terms of volume but not necessarily for quality) sold in the United States and also 85% of Zinfandel production! Most ‘white’ Zinfandel is made deliberately to an ‘off-dry’ style with about 3-5 grams of residual sugar making it moderately sweet. It offers flavors of strawberry, cotton candy, lemon and green melon with moderately high acidity. You’ll want to serve it ice cold perhaps with Thai food.
Said to be a favorite of writer and man’s man, Earnest Hemingway, Tavel is an unusually dry Rosé. It has more body and structure than most pink wines and is considered to have all the character of a good red wine, just less color. It is made primarily with Grenache and Cinsault, but nine varieties are allowed in the blend. Usually high in alcohol and low in acid, this salmon-pink wine ages well and its nose of summer fruits can turn to rich, nutty notes over time. Throw some brisket on the barbecue, grab your dog-eared copy of “The Old Man and The Sea”, and sit back and enjoy a glass of this earthy treat. unite a bit of color and body, typically you’ll want to serve them cold to keep them zesty. Perfect pairing
Ray Spaziani is the Chapter Director of the New Haven Chapter of the American Wine Society. He teaches wine appreciation classes at Gateway Community College,The Milford Board of Ed and at Moltose Wine and Beer supply and is a member of the International Tasting Panel of Amenti Del Vino and Wine Maker Magazine. He is an award winning home wine maker. Email Ray with your wine questions and wine events at firstname.lastname@example.org.