“If drinking rosé is wrong, I don’t want to be right!” and you can quote me on that!
Over the last several years I have turned a number of folks into rosé drinkers. Most will say when first offered, “no thanks, I do not like White Zinfandel” or “I do not like sweet wine.” I then pour them a small taste and faster than you can say “France” their arm is extended and they want more. There is always a look of surprise on their face and the next time we meet that is all they are drinking.
The rosé trend in the US started in 2014, but this wine has been a popular choice in France specifically and most of Europe for centuries. In Portugal and Spain, it is called Rosado, and in Italy, it is called Rosa. Regardless of where it is made rosé wines are here to stay, and I for one, am thrilled. Living in the Southeast means I can drink this wine all year long if I stock well or as long as the stores keep it on the shelves.
But all rosés, like all wine, are not created equal.
How is Rosé made, you ask?
At a dinner party not long ago, I was asked how rosé is made. As I explained the process to my friends, who were intently listening, one of them said, “That is fascinating you need to share this on the blog, I had no idea.” So here I go, I hope you are as interested as they were.
The classic and traditional French Rosé is a blend using three red grape varieties; Mourvèdre, Grenache, and Cinsault. You may also see Carignan or Syrah used in place of one of the three or in addition to the three. In reality, rosé can be made with any red variety, and in California, many rosés are made from a single variety, i.e., Rosé of Grenache or Rosé of Pinot Noir.
There are three ways that rosé wines are made: the maceration method aka direct press method, the saignée (pronounced “sohn-yay”) method, and the blending method. The direct press method being the most common.
The Color of Grapes Versus Wine
If you had to describe the colors of grapes and the wine those grapes make to an alien from outer space, I imagine that they would be perplexed. What we call white grapes are actually a light green. What we call red grapes can range in color from copper to orange and from lavender purple to black purple. Only a few varieties resemble the color red, and even those are a purplish red or orange-ish red; not the Pantone, true red. To further complicate the issue regardless of the color of the grape skin the pure juice extracted from any grape will always be clear-ish.
To get a “clearer” picture, you first must know that all red wines get their color by allowing the juice to soak with the must (must is the skins, seeds, and stems of the pressed grapes), and this is called maceration. White wines, in general, are direct pressed then the must is removed immediately.
Direct Press / Maceration Method
The ultimate color of wine comes from several factors depending on if it is a red, white or rosé. However, maceration is the primary method to achieve the color for all red wines and the majority of rosé wines. The difference in color comes from the amount of time the juice will spend with the must. Rosé wines are limiting the amount of time the juice remains in contact with the red grape skins. Generally, this can last for as little as two hours to two days. To compare; red wines generally will macerate for as few as three days or up to three plus months depending on the grape variety.
Saignée (pronounced “sohn-yay”) means “to bleed.” With this method, a winemaker making a red wine may choose to bleed off some of the juice after a few hours of skin contact. The bled off juice is then used to make a rosé. These wines tend to be a bit bigger and bolder with more intense flavors. Are you looking for a robust rosé? These wines may be right up your alley. In addition to the bigger rosé, the remaining juice for the red wine will continue to macerate with a higher must to juice ratio which will then concentrate elements such as flavor, pigment, texture, and structure.
The final method is blending. It seems obvious that if you mix red wine and white wine you can get a rosé. While this method is viable, winemaking traditions are important in France. Therefore, it is against the law to use this method for Protected Designation of Origin wines. Except in the Champagne region but that is a whole other tradition. I would try at home because there is a great deal of finesse and chemistry used to blend wine.
What is Next?
Cooler temperature fermentation is next with a commercial yeast versus a wild, native yeast. This makes the process quicker and more reliable. It is aged for a short time in steel vats and then bottled. Picked in the fall and ready to drink the following spring and summer. The wine is expected to be lively, fruity, fresh. It is not in the vast majority of situations age-worthy. For maximum freshness, you want to drink the 2017 vintage in 2018. There is a whole lot of details or processes that may be done, but this is basically it. So there you have it.
Rosé wines are affordable.
Our “Tuesday” wine (aka everyday wine) sells for $10.99 and by the case just $9.89. I would not spend any less than that on a bottle. And I highly recommend trying it with a single bottle purchase before you commit to a case. Wines at this price point will more than likely come from France, Spain or Portugal. California rosé of similar quality is going to be more. There is no need to spend more than $20 -ish a bottle.
That said after spending time in California, we have discovered many small-batch California producers making delicious rosé in the $25 to $35 range. At least to us, it is worth every penny.
Rosé We Love
We have tried 30-40 rosés this year but these are some of our favorites that I had to tell you about. I hope you enjoy and make every day a rosé day.
Chateau Puech-Haut Prestige Rosé 2017 Languedoc France
This is one of my all-time favorites from Languedoc in southern France. It is hand harvested, direct press, fermentation in tank and aged four months. It is a blend of Grenache and Cinsault. You can find this wine at Edmunds Oast Exchange for $21.00
Ehlers Estate Sylviane 2017, St. Helena, Napa Valley
This gem was a discovery on the most recent trip to Napa Valley. Ehlers Estate makes phenomenal wines and has an incredible story. This is a Rosé of Cabernet Franc. It is highly sought after and only available direct from the winery. This wine ranks as an all-time great. There is a very limited quantity produced and sells out every year. This wine is $36.00 a bottle. It is sold out for this vintage, but you will want to mark your calendars for next year.
Moulin de Gassac Guilhem Rosé 2017, Languedoc France
This is our “Tuesday” wine year after year. For the price of $10.99 per bottle, you can not go wrong. It is a Languedoc wine made from 50% Syrah, 50% Carignan. It is 100% de-stemmed with direct pressing followed by 5-6 months in stainless steel tanks maturing. We pick up this wine at The Wine Shop on Lockwood, have seen it at Bottles in Mount Pleasant and Glass Half Full in Provincetown, MA. This is a large production wine with national distribution.
La Galoche Rosé of Gamay 2017, Beaujolais, France
I drink this wine and sing … Strawberry fields forever… by The Beatles because that is the flavor that I find most predominate. It is superb. But to drink this wine, it is only served in the restaurant at goat.sheep.cow.north. It is $13.00 a glass or $48.00 for the bottle. Remember this is restaurant pricing. There is always Happy Hour from 3pm to 6 pm Monday to Saturday when it sells for $8.00 a glass.
2017 Paraduxx Napa Valley Rosé, California
Our friends Bryan and Craig are members of the Paraduxx wine club in Napa Valley, and they receive an allocation of this wine each year. They generally share the allocation with us. But anyone can go online and buy the big rosé direct from the winery. It is 88% Syrah, 12% Grenache in 100% Stainless Steel Tanks. This wine sells for $32.00 a bottle, although club members are afforded a discount of 10-20%.
Lorenza California Rosé 2017
This wine is for those like a light touch of fruit and more earthy mineral flavors. It is 40% Grenache, 30% Carignan, 25% Mourvèdre & 5% Cinsault. It sells for $20.00 a bottle and can be found at Edmunds Oast Exchange.
I have so many more rosés that I want to tell you about, but I do not want to overwhelm. So stay tuned for another post with more great rosés for the 2017 vintage year.
Other posts about Rosé: Think Pink, Rosé by Any Other Name, or search for “rosé” using our search function.
For the History of Rosé check this out.
That is all for now.
Thank you for this great article. I discovered rosé wines several years ago travelling in Europe. And then when I came back everyone was serving Zinfandel which I find far too sweet. But slowly we are find a great supply of good rosé wines. I learned a lot reading this.
Cheer, Linda! Thanks for sharing your comment.
I can NOT wait to try some of these after this baby is born! I love learning how it’s been made, too. I had no idea there were different ways to make it!