For more than 20 years, rosé wines have received a bad reputation, and have unfortunately been lumped in the same category as blush and “pink” wines. The stereotype is that this “style” of wine is a mass-produced, overly sweet and unbalanced wine. While that may hold true for some blush style wines, which still certainly have their place in the wine world, rosé is rapidly gaining momentum around the world as winemakers start producing well-balanced, dry and high quality “pink” wines. Rosé wines are made in a wide variety of styles, from nearly red to the faintest of pink. Some are as dry as the Sahara, and others have a slight hint of refreshing sweetness, and maybe even a little effervescence. One thing is for sure, the rosés that are being made today are not your “pink” wines from 20+ years ago.
There are many ways to make “pink” wine, however only one (skin contact) is considered the true method of making a rosé.
When rosé is the primary goal, it is produced in the “Skin Contact” method. Black-skinned grapes, such as Grenache, Syrah and Pinot Noir, to name a few, are crushed and the skins are allowed to remain in contact with the juice for a short period. This can range from a few hours to 3 days. The longer the skins remain in contact with the juice, the more intense the color will be.
From French for “bleeding”, the Saignée method of creating rosé is a by-product of the winemakers’ desire for a dryer, more tannic red wine. During the early stages of red wine fermentation, the winemaker will remove some of the pink juice from the must and ferment this separately to create a rosé.
Just as it sounds, blending is the process of combining a white wine and a red wine to create a pink wine. This method is quite uncommon, and in some parts of the world, including France, is forbidden by law. Champagne stands to be the only exception to the rule, although the blending method is still frowned upon.
In the early 1970’s the demand for white wine exceeded the actual availability and production, therefore leading winemakers to make a “white” wine from red grapes. Through supply and demand, rosé wines jumped into the market. In the mid 70’s, after a “stuck fermentation” one winemaker ended up with a pinker, sweeter wine, and thus was born White Zinfandel. Even though White Zinfandel is the product of the skin contact method, it is considered a “blush” wine rather than a “rosé”. Although White Zinfandel is often seen as the “non-wine drinkers wine,” it is still a very popular selling wine in America, with Sutter Home making over 4 million cases annually. Today, American winemakers are reviving the production of rosé wines, making them in a dry style with low residual sugar.
The current commercial trend for rosé wines is geared toward a light, fresh, summer style wine. The rosés of France are dry, but not tannic, and are often very light and delicate in color. In Spain and Argentina, the rosé wines from those regions tend to be more deeply colored, making them slightly more tannic with more intense flavors.
With some help from our friends at Fix.com, we’ve compiled a great guide to rose styles.
Rosé Grape Varieties
While rosé can be made from nearly any red wine grape variety, there are some red wine grapes that are preferred among winemakers and wine consumers. In Franch, popular varieites include Mouvedre, Grenache and Cinsault, producing some lighter style wines, while other French regions use Syrah to produce a more full-bodied style. In Argentina and Spain, Malbec, Tempranillo and Garnacha are popular grape varieites for rosé, and usually produce medium-bodied and darker style rosé. Scott Harvey enjoys making our Jana Napa Valley Rosé from Pinot Noir or Grenache varieites, thus making a delicate and dry rose wine. We found this handy guide to shades of rosé from Vinepair.com
WHEN TO DRINK PINK?
Rosé is a very versatile wine, and can be enjoyed alone or with a variety of foods. While most people consider rosé to be a summer wine, and perfect on those hot summer days, it is also a great wine to serve with light appetizers at a dinner party, alongside a bruch buffet of eggs, scones and pastries, or with a traditional Easter and Thanksgiving dinner. Visit our Rose Recipes page for great recipes to pair with our Jana Winery Napa Valley Rose of Pinot Noir