What Is Rosé?

It’s synonymous with summer.  It’s fashionable.  It’s crisp.  It’s light.  It’s not just your grandmother’s White Zinfandel anymore.  But what, exactly is Rosé?

Speaking in broad general stokes, Rosé is not red wine mixed with white wine – The majority of France actually makes it illegal to do so.  The exception to that rule is Champagne.  Rosé is wine made from red grapes that see minimal contact with the skins, which nonetheless tints the wine, but not enough to classify as a red wine.  Rosé ranges in styles from the dry Provençal expressions all the way up to those sweet White Zin stylings.  There are two main ways to make rosé: skin maceration (contact) & saignée.

When a winemaker sets out to intentionally produce a rosé, they will generally use the skin maceration (contact) method by where the grapes are pressed, and the skins are allowed to be in contact anywhere from a few hours upwards of a day or three.  The skins are pulled from the juice, then the tinted juice goes into fermentation.

The other method (which is not necessarily frowned upon, nor is it the preferred method) is the saignée method which sees juice from a red wine pressing removed early so the remaining red wine becomes more concentrated. This wine is a by-product of red wine and usually makes up less than 10% of the production of a red wine producer.  It too is fermented and tinted, and such classifies as a rosé.

As we stated earlier, Champagne is the only place in the world where you can “legally” blend white and red to make rosé.  Still red wine is produced from Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier on the side of the white colored Champagne, then mixed back in to tint to a pink color, usually up to 15% of the red wine.  This allows for complex, explosive flavors from the introduction of the red wine.  The saignée method is also used in the Champagne region, but less favored than the blending method.

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