Rethink Pink!

by Monica Bennion on March 19, 2012

Over the last 20 years, rosé wines have received a bad reputation, and have unfortunately been lumped in the same category as blush wines.  The stereotype is that this “style” of wine is a mass-produced, overly sweet and unbalanced wine, and while that may hold true for some blush style wines, rosé is slowly gaining notoriety around the world.

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 that have a slight hint of refreshing sweetness.  One thing is for sure, the rosés you will find today are not your average “pink” wines.

There are many ways to make pink wine, however only one (skin contact) is considered the true method of making a rosé.

Skin Contact
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 the third most popular selling wine in America.  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, the Rosado wines tend to be more deeply colored than that of France, making them slightly more tannic with more intense flavors.

Rosé is a very versatile wine, and can be enjoyed alone or with a variety of foods.  On those hot summer days, a nice chilled glass of rosé is the perfect way to cool off.  Rosé wines also make great picnic wines, and pair well with roast chicken, potato and macaroni salads and the classic chips and dip.  Rosé is a good choice to pair with a traditional Easter dinner of glazed ham and vegetables.

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