Making Rose Wine

Riecine Rose Tuscany

First, read the section “Making Red and White Still Wine” which’ll give you a good grounding about winemaking in general.  Then read the bit below about Rosé wines.

A lot of people believe Rosés are made by mixing a bit of red wine with a white wine. Generally, nope, with the exception of some Champagnes. Most Rosés begin life just like red wines; red grapes are de-stemmed, crushed and then placed in the fermenter. But instead of spending two or three weeks with the grapes skins, pulp and seeds in contact with the juice, that “cap” is removed after a brief period, a few hours to maybe a day, depending on the type of grape and the style the winemaker’s going for. This relatively brief skin contact allows just enough color to turn the wine pink (or salmon or orange or coral). It also adds a little tannin, and a tiny bit of the phenols and flavors of red wines, though not nearly as much.

Another popular and interesting method is to drain off some of the juice from a red wine during its very early stages of fermentation, then place it into own fermenter and finish the process. The process is called saignee (“to bleed”) and it also nicely concentrates the original red wine. The fabulous wines from the Cotes de Provence, like the one shown here are mostly made this way.

The third way to make a particular kind of Rosé, Vin Gris (literally, gray wine) is not really a method, it just the use of certain grapes that have a very pale pink hue such as Cinsaut Rose, Cinsaut Gris or Gamay.

Here, the fully pressed juice has just the slightest hint of color, thus the term “gray.”  If you’re looking for the full-on strawberry burst that some Rosés provide, a Vin Gris isn’t what you’re looking for.  They’re a lot more subtle and much closer to whites than reds, but still something you should try.

Rosés are wonderful food wines, great for warm weather drinking, and can often “bridge” tough choices when one diner wants a red and the other a white, or when a white isn’t “enough” but a red “too much.” They tend to be crisply acidic and obviously much less astringent than reds, and contrary to popular belief the vast majority are dry table wines. However, the generally don’t age well and shuold be drunk within a couple years of release.

I’m a great fan of dry Rosés, and urge you to get past those old and out-of-date notions about “pink” or “blush” wines.  If not, you’re missing a lot.

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