It’s ok, I’m not afraid to say it.
It’s not that big a deal.
I don’t care what people will think of me.
I love rosé.
And what’s not to love? It lays claim to the holy trinity of wine drinking: it looks great, tastes great, and it’s originally from southern France which means it’s fancy.
But there’s a lot more than meets the eye when it comes to the pink stuff. Let’s take a deep dive into the wonderfully interesting world of a variety that was once considered the wine of choice for nobles and aristocrats alike.
To borrow a poorly translated euphemism, there’s more than one way to crush a grape.
The oldest method - although rarely used these days - is to literally mix some red wine with some white wine. This is now largely considered barbaric, poor practise and not a very good way to make rosé. It’s also illegal in France, so if you’re ever double parked with a red and a white at a bar then instead of thinking you’re a smooth criminal by blending them just remember that it’s illegal and you shouldn’t do it. Monster.
Limited Skin Maceration
The most common method of making high-quality pink juice is limited skin maceration. Individually breaking these words down gives you an idea of what happens here. The grapes are pressed and the skin of the grapes are left to soak (or macerate) with the juice for a limited amount of time. This is where the rosé gets its colour and extra flavour from. The longer the skins are left to soak, the more intense the colour and flavour.
Another very similar method is direct pressing but there is even less time on skins (#winelingo) during this method than there is with limited skin maceration. The skins are removed almost immediately leaving generally the lightest coloured rosé of all the methods, although it’s extremely difficult to get a rosé with no colour as it is a natural process of once being a grape with red skins. Soz. This is basically like making a white wine from red grapes. Never let go of your dreams.
A much more divisive method is known as saignée (san-yay) or bleeding. This method is used to create two wines and was originally employed to make a red wine more intense. Essentially juice is bled off red must (unfermented grapes) pressed to allow more skin contact for less juice, extracting more of the colour and flavour from the skins for the resultant red wine. The juice that was bled off would often be enough to make a small batch of another wine, ending up as rosé.
This method has historically been looked down upon as a way to make rosé since the main focus is not on the quality of the rosé but the primary red wine (for example, you might pick grapes earlier if they were only destined for rosé). This, however, is slowly starting to change as winemakers attempt new ways to differentiate themselves from the competition as rosé’s popularity again increases.
A final method is one that should be known only for trivia purposes and never actually employed. Decolorisation is to take red wine and remove the colour using adsorbent charcoal. This strips colour from the wine but will also strip other important things from the wine. Like structure, or flavour, or anything remotely positive about the wine. Just forget I ever told you about this. I don’t know why this isn’t illegal as well.
That’s five different methods to make one of wine’s most versatile wines and it’s time for the prodigal wine varietal to return atop hashtag mountain, lauded by modern day nobles and aristocrats.