Summer Time Wine
As we reach for the nearest bottle of chilled bottle of rosé this Summer, we pause and wonder, why is this so delicious? It’s not a white wine nor a red wine, it’s something unique, and getting more popular every year! Did you know there are three different ways to make Rose wine?
A big misconception arises from the color, which ranges from onion-skin orange to vibrant red, depending on the varietal of grape used in its production. Rosé wine is not, in fact, created by mixing bottled red and white wines – an act that would no doubt shock and appall the wine community. Instead, it is elaborated using one of three primary techniques: maceration, saignée or blending.
The Maceration Method of Making Rosé
The maceration method is perhaps the most common and especially popular in the Languedoc-Roussillon and Provence regions of France, best known for their rosé wines. Grapes normally used to produce red wine (like Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Mourvedre, Tibouren, Cabernet Sauvignon and Carignan, for example, in Provence) are left to macerate in the juice for just 2-24 hours. This is a fraction of how long maceration requires for red wine production, usually taking up days or weeks. During this process, the anthocyanins and tannins, which contribute to color and flavors features of the wine, are released into the must from the skins, seeds and stems. The must receives color, flavor and antioxidants but, because of the shorter maceration period, significantly less than a red wine.
Saignée (Bleeding) Method of Making Rosé
This is a bit rarer, usually accounting for at most 10 percent of a winery’s production. In this method, the juice from the production of red wine is “bled off” from the must and stored into a new vat to produce rosé. The Saignée method has the advantage for winemakers of increasing profit through the creation of a second wine which can be finished and released on the market much earlier than the red wines. As this method is, in a way, a bit like an “afterthought,” it is often criticized as not resulting in “true rosés.”
Blending Method of Making Rosé
This method is more popular in the production of sparkling rosé wines, for example in the Champagne region. A bit of red wine (Pinot Noir, in Champagne) is added to vat of white wine (primarily Chardonnay, in Champagne) to make a blend of 95% white and 5% red.
A still rarer way to produce rosé is by pressing red wine grapes immediately, without any maceration time. This produces a wine very pale pink in colour, referred to as “vin gris.” This kind of rosé is a specialty of the Lorraine AOC, where it is made with Gamay grapes. Sometimes red wine is decolorized with charcoal, which absorbs color compounds and phenolics (sometimes even too much!) in the wine.
Rosé in the Summertime
This style of wine has become especially popular to consume chilled in the summertime. Rosé is generally an easy-drinking wine, lower in tannins than red wines due to short maceration time. These wines range from bone-dry Provence varieties to medium-dry Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon rosés of the Loire Valley to the sweet American White Zinfandel blushes. Rosé wines tend to pair especially well to summertime dishes, including Salade Nicoise (with tuna and anchovies), grilled and fried fish, lobster, quiche and grilled chicken. They tend to pair very well with warm-climate cuisines, including Mexican, Greek and Indian food!