Once considered a simple summer swill, rosé has finally evolved into a serious, food-friendly wine that’s seen as a staple on the table worldwide. By now, almost all wine-producing countries make some form of rosé, stamping their own unique styles on viticulture, vinification methods, and grape varieties.
When it comes to rosé, Provence is the “king of pink”. Revered worldwide, Provençal rosés are known for their pale hues, bright acidity and elegant but easy drinkability.
Rosé season is here again, which means a slew of pink wines will be overwhelming wine displays before long. But not all rosés are created equally, quite literally, actually: There are several different ways to make rosé wine. While the production methods aren’t typically listed on the label, knowing a bit about how rosé is made can make a huge difference when it comes to selecting your preferred style of rosé. Bring on the warm weather — you’ll be a rosé expert in no time.
By far the most popular method of making quality rosé, this process is essentially exactly what the name describes. Since colour is held in a grape’s skins, the grapes are crushed and the juice is left in contact with the skins, just like a red wine would be made. However, the skins are left to soak only for a limited amount of time; depending on the desired style of rosé, this can last anywhere from six to 48 hours (as opposed to weeks or months for a red). The longer the maceration, the darker and more richly flavoured the rosé. The juice is then racked, or drawn off of the skins, and the rose-tinted wine begins fermentation. This method can make many styles of rosé depending on grape variety and length of maceration.
Very similar to limited skin maceration, direct pressing involves allowing the grape juice to have contact with the skins for an extremely short period of time. Instead of allowing the juice much time to soak and gain colour, the grapes are pressed right away to remove the skins, as a white wine would be vinified. Because of the pigment in the skins, there will still be a hint of colour in the juice — it’s impossible for the juice to have no contact with the skins, after all — so this process tends to produce the lightest-coloured rosés of all. Expect more citrus and hints of strawberry in these rosés, though the flavours can vary by grape variety.
The saignée, or “bleeding,” method produces not just a rosé, but a red wine as well. In fact, the process started not as a way to make rosé wines, but to concentrate reds. In this process, a winemaker will vinify a red wine according to standard methods but will, early in the maceration process, remove or “bleed” some of the juice from the tank. This is then vinified separately as a rosé, and the rest of the juice is left to continue vinifying into a more concentrated red since the juice-to-skins ratio is now higher. This method can be variable, particularly if the rosé is seen by the vintner as merely a by-product of red wine production, but some can be quite good. Saignée method rosés are likely to be richer in style.
While this might seem like the most obvious method of making rosé – white + red = rosé, right? — the practice of blending white and red wines post-fermentation is actually prohibited for PDO wines in Europe — save for one. Because Champagne likes to do everything a little bit backward, blending is not only allowed but favoured for the making of rosé Champagne. Some New World regions — which have less-strict vinification rules — use blending to make rosé as well. These wines can vary in style from light to heavy depending on the amount and type of red wine used in the blend.