Pale pink in color, rosé looks pretty divine submerged in a half-melted ice bucket drenched by sunlight, which is why regardless of whether you drink it from a magnum at brunch or pound it on your porch, it’s undisputedly your summertime staple when it comes to wine. But, like, how’s this glorious vin actually produced and where does it get that distinct pink color from in the first place? And why’s there so much variation on the hues when it comes to rosés? There’s more to it than a red wine and a white wine making a baby—here’s the fascinating explanation behind how rosé wines are made.
What’s the difference between making rosé and white or red wine?
“The biggest difference between rosé and other types of wine is the amount of time the grape juice spends in contact with the skins of the grape,” says Tim Wallace, Head Sommelier for Stowe Mountain Lodge.
For example, red wine grapes are picked from the vine, put into large tanks and crushed to separate the grape juice from the skins. Red wine grapes have a thicker outer skin than white wine grapes and red wine is left on the skin for much longer than white wine; in some cases up to weeks at a time to gain the dark red color that people look for in some big-body grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah, Wallace explains.
With rosé wines, however, those same grapes are pressed and left with skin contact for only a few hours at a time. The exact amount of time the juice is left in contact with the skins is up to the winemaker and ultimately determines the shade of pink of the rosé. This shortened time that red wine grapes spend on the skins slightly alters their flavor profiles too, he adds.
After this process, the wines are then aged—or not—in a wood cask, says Jerome Pernot, Head of Sales and Marketing at Château Léoube, an artisan family owned winery in Provence, which is the undisputed home of the pink stuff. “A rosé wine is made specially, with close attention given at every moment in its development, to the color, aromas, and taste that have made it such a success. Because of the precision and the attention to detail that it demands, of all the three colors, rosé wine is probably the most complicated to produce,” he says.
Are there different methods for making your rosé?
“Rosé is essentially a white wine made from red grapes that have been stained a bit by contact with the grape skins,” says Gérard Bertrand, who makes several different rosés and recently partnered with Jon Bon Jovi and his son, Jesse Bongiovi, to create Diving into Hampton Water. “I feel that the finest rosés are made using the ‘direct press method,’ that is by lightly crushing red grapes and allowing juice and skins to macerate together long enough to tint the otherwise white juice.”
There is, however, another method known as “pre-fermentation cold skin maceration,” explains Arthur Hon, a sommelier who works with Vins de Provence.
In this method, he explains, “The stripped and stomped grapes macerate in a vat between 2-20 hours at a controlled temperature of 50°F to 57°F. That temperature regulation during maceration both serves to delay the beginning of fermentation—or how wine turns into alcohol—and it encourages the enzymes in the skin to release the pigments and flavor precursors and to transmit them to the juice.”
So can you really drink #roseallday?
“A good deal of rosé is for easy drinking, like our Gris Blanc or Hédonisme wines, perfect for poolside or the beach, alone, with snacks, or raw oysters,” says Bertrand. But, he also suggests that there are rosés that should be viewed as gastronomic and worthy of serving with a great meal. “Our Ballerine Brut and La Sauvageonne rosés are certainly that,” he says.
Since Provence is famed and celebrated for its pink wine, it’s also important to understand how you can take geography: “Rosés from the seaside of Provence with their subtle minerality are just perfect with seafood, and the ones from the western part of the region offer a well-balanced acidity, perfect on their own or paired with summer salads or BBQ,” says Hon.
But despite their freshness and essence of vacation or relaxation, Wallace argues that you should really be drinking rosé year-round (#guilty). “I most certainly do not consider rosé a ‘summer wine’—I am drinking it all year round. I think it’s just as delicious with your Thanksgiving turkey as it is with your 4th of July hamburger and I can’t think of a better beverage at a wedding than a bright, crisp, low alcohol rosé.”
Here are some of Wallace’s rosé favorites right now:
Chateau Peyrassol Cotes de Provence, Provence, France: $25
“Founded by the Knights Templar, the Commanderie de Peyrassol has been making rosé since the 13th century. The grapes grown on this beautiful Mediterranean estate have been planted in the same vineyards for over 700 years and this blend takes the best Syrah, Cinsault and Grenache grapes and blends them to perfection. This is about as benchmark as rosé gets and is a pretty perfect starting point. Just be sure to get the magnum, not the bottle. You’ll thank me later.”
A Tribute to Grace Rosé of Grenache, Santa Barbara, California: $26
“Winemaker Angela Osborne named her winery after her Grandmother Grace and I think this rosé exemplifies the elegance and finesse in all of her wines. This Grenache is grown in the Santa Barbara highlands and you can taste the light salinity from the ocean breeze [in] every sip. This is a beautiful wine that goes as perfectly with oysters on the beach as it does watching the sunset over the mountains.”
Inconnu “Lalalu” Rosé, Contra Costa, California: $21
“Winemaker Laura Bissell describes her wines as “wine of thirst” and this is about as thirst quenching a wine as I’ve ever had. This wine is single vineyard, organically grown Mourvedre and has a distinct sense of place. This delicious thirst quencher has hints of melon and almost savory qualities that make it a perfect pair to a lamb chop or hot dog off the grill.”
Scribe Rosé of Pinot Noir, Napa, California: $38
“Scribe is doing something that just about no other California wine grower is doing by taking their incredibly beautiful estate grown Pinot Noir and turning it into rosé instead of leaving it on the skins and putting out delicious, though far more expensive, Pinot Noir. This decision is perfect for anyone who gets their hands on this wine. This wine has more seriousness than other rosés. There is a sense of richness in addition to the traditional playfulness found in other rosés. This is wine is a show stopper. Scribe is the rosé that you want to impress your friends with; that pairs as well with your passed steak tartare toasts as it does with roasted salmon as it does with your first dance.”
Related Video: How to Make Rosé Sangria
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