What you Need to Know about Rosé

Rosé on the beach

The sunshine is still upon us in Paris. Time to linger on a terrace or along the Seine, watching the people (or boats) pass by while indulging in a glass or two of rosé wine. But what is this wine? Diluted red wine? A mix of reds and whites? Is it a trend, or can this be real wine?

Let’s start by first discussing how rosé is made so we can dispel any myths you may have heard. Here is a little introduction to rosé wine.

Rosé Wine Production Methods:

Direct Pressing

Grapes are pressed immediately after being picked, no time is given for the red skins to color the juice. This gives us a vin gris or gris de gris which is very pale in color.

Maceration

Dark skinned grapes are crushed and the skins are allowed to macerate with the juice from anywhere from 1 hour to 1-2 days, allowing for the extraction of color from the skins. Grapes are pressed or the juice is drained and the wine is fermented like a white wine.  This is the most common method and can produce very pale to very pink, almost red rosés, depending on the timing of the removal of the skins.

 

rosé wine

Saignée or bleeding of the vats

We start with option 2, maceration, and macerate the crushed black skinned grapes with the juice in the fermentation tank. At the desired point, a certain amount of juice is allowed to be bled out of the vat is made into rosé wine. The remaining skins and wine are used to make red wine, thus concentrated the end result as we’ve already drawn off some of the juice. This method is often used in Bordeaux rosés and was a way of beefing up the red wines.

Blending

Allowed only in the production of rosé Champagne. A small percentage (usually between 5-15%) of still red wine made in the Champagne region is blended into the clear base wine before bottled and the second fermentation. A few rosés de saignée Champagnes exist but are quite rare and expensive. This method cannot be used for still rosé in France or anywhere else in the EU.
The sales figures of rosé wines have skyrocketed throughout the world. In the beginning, rosés were cheap and cheerful wines meant to go with the French on holiday in the South of France. Due to the festive pink color and some good marketing, these wines have started to grace some of the best tables in the world and have also begun to command some high prices.  But are they worth it?

 

rosé wine

You get what you pay for

As with any wine, you do get what you pay for. The typical 3 Euro rosé is pretty dreadful stuff, pink colored alcohol and won’t have much flavor. But if you opt for the better quality rosés from places in Bandol or Tavel, in the South of France and places where rosés have been made for centuries, these can offer wonderful spicy and fuller bodied flavors.
These wines go with the savory and flavored foods of the South of France.  These wines will set you back 15-20 Euros per bottle in France. For this price, you often already have a decent white or red wine and often the rosés are not up to snuff for this price. But people are willing to pay for the experience and glamour of this pink drink. There are a few, such as the Bandols from Château St. Anne, Pibarnon, and Domaine Tempier, that are excellent and can even show better after a few years of bottle age. But for the most part, you should drink your rosé within 1-2 years of the harvest.

 

rosé wine

 

But remember that rosé is always a fun and convivial wine, meant for summertime beach parties, picnics, and barbecues. It tastes best outdoors with simple yet flavorful food.  There are very few rosés that have blown me away with their complexity, but I do often indulge in a case or two for summer entertaining. I usually opt for the pleasant fruity and floral wines from Domaine Saint André Figuière in the Côtes de Provence area. Their vines are farmed and, to me, offer the exact flavor that I’d like to find in a summer rosé: crunchy red berry fruit, assertive and refreshing acidity and clean mineral finish. Of course, the pink color always helps!

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