Sipping from a glass of rosé may take an amateur wine enthusiast by surprise — it is either dry or quite sweet, and does not carry that certain punch red wine has. Rosé is as delicate and refreshing as white wine without the same amount of complexity and depth. However, this is not to say that rosé wine — also known as blush wine — is not a serious drink. It is a great accompaniment to a relaxing Sunday afternoon light snack such as cheese, crackers and olives.
What makes rosé distinct is the process this wine is made. Many may assume that rosé is merely a combination of red and white wine (except for Champagne Rosé) but a bottle of rosé may come from any of the three methods in producing this light refreshment: skin contact, saignée and blending. Although blending is only acceptable for Champagne Rosé, a good rosé is made by skin contact or bleeding (saignée).
Skin contact is the most common method in producing rosé wine. This process can produce either a gray or pale rosé wine or colored pink wine. The principle behind skin contact is to let the skins of the crushed grapes in contact with the juice that can range from two to three days. Eventually, the grapes are pressed and the skins are discarded thus fermenting the wine minus the skin.
When making a pale rosé, the process begins with the immediate pressing of the grapes when they get to the cellar. This method ensures that the color of the grapes will be diffused faster in the must (a must is the freshly pressed juice from the grape that contains the skin, seeds, and stems). The skin is then left in contact with the juice for a few hours in order to achieve a delicate color. The juice is then fermented from the filtered must.
Colored pink wine is produced when the crushed grapes are fermented in a tank. The juice then develops its color while in contact with the skin. The wine maker tests this process every hour and then stops the contact when the desired color is achieved. After discarding the skins and other solids, the juice is transferred to another vessel to continue the fermentation process.
The saignée process is used for making the deeper-colored rosé. Also known as bleeding, this method initially ferments the crushed grapes. The winemaker then takes out a certain amount of the juice from the vat during the early stage. This causes the grapes to bleed more and to produce deeper colors because of the maceration. Once the target redness is achieved, the winemaker stops the “bleeding” and lets the juice to continue to ferment similar to the fermentation process of white wine. The Rosé de Provence is made with the saignée method.
Next time you try a glass of rosé, try experimenting with the different makers from Europe and the United States. You’ll be surprised that for such a less exciting drink, rosé can also give you many options in flavor, in texture, and yes, the varying shades of blushing rose.