A newbie to wine may assume that a rosé wine is simply a blend of red and white wine. The colour is in the middle of those two wines, so why not? We’re here to tell you how it’s really made, and why rosé is just as prestigious and serious of a wine as traditional whites and reds.
How rosé is made
Rosé is typically made from red grapes. The blending of red wine into white wine is uncommon, though can be found in sparkling wines in regions such as Champagne. So why is the wine pink instead of red?
The pink colour means that red grapes, such as Grenache or Cabernet Franc, are crushed and the skins remain in contact with the wine juice (a.k.a. maceration) for a short period of time, from two hours to 24. The longer the skins are in contact with the juice, the deeper the colour will be. But, unlike red wine, the skins are removed rather than left in contact with the juice during fermentation. This allows the wine to get a range of pink colours, depending on how long the juice is in contact with the skins, rather than going all the way to red. Following this, the wine goes through the same process as reds and whites, either aged in tanks, concrete eggs, or amphorae (clay pots), or barrel aged, then bottled.
History of rosé wine
Many of the first recorded wines in history were actually rosé! In times as early as Ancient Rome, workers would crush red and white grapes together with their feet, holding onto suspended ropes for balance. The juice would then be placed into large ceramic containers, for fermentation. This pink juice was slightly sweet and tannic from contact with all parts of the grape - skins, seeds, and stems.
Eventually, the Greeks and Romans explored separating grapes by color, and red and (mostly) white wines were born. However, these early red wines were often too hard to drink. For a long time, the popular choice was for less harsh, lighter-colored wines. And thus, rosé remained the beverage of choice for centuries. Learn more about the history of rosé.
Rosé has increased in popularity dramatically over the past three years, and is the
fastest growing wine trend in the United States market. The leader of this increased desire for rosé is Provence, whose dry, pale-hued style of wine has infiltrated the global winemaking world.
There’s a misconception that rosé wine is off-dry or sweet, but that is a leftover of the days of American white zinfandel. Most quality-driven rosés from Europe and even some from the New World are dry. And given the youth of the wines, it’s very easy to find a super tasty rosé in the $20-$30 price range.
Typically you’ll see more rosé wines in store in summertime, but they can be found and consumed year-round.
Most rosé wines you see in the average wine store today are meant for immediate consumption and not aging. The short skin contact and extraction times lead to low phenolic levels (which protects a wine from oxidation) gives them a short shelf life. While these young wines are certainly enjoyable and perfect for summertime, the capacity to age is often the distinguishing characteristic between a good wine and a great one. Enter the world of prestige rosés.
Just like the biggest Bordeauxs and high end Champagnes, you can also find high-end, prestige rosés. Out of the sea of pink juice, several wineries release rosé wines that transcend the average rosé, whether by age-worthiness, price, or other attributes that lead to the wine’s complexity. Most importantly, unlike the youthful rosés that are bottled and released into the market quite quickly every summer, prestige rosés take their time.