February 16, 2008 |
The Joys of Pink Wine
A Rosé (From French: "Rosé", Pinkish) is a type of wine that has some of the color typical of a red wine, but only enough to turn it pink. The pink color can range from a pale orange to a vivid near-purple, depending on the grapes and wine making techniques. They are very light-bodied red wines that can be considered something of a hybrid between white and red, borrowing some of their winemaking techniques from standard red winemaking, and part from white. Basically, in terms of style, they are typically more like white wines than reds.
At the risk of sounding like an elitist wanker (a good example of which can be found in the shape of Russel Crowe in the tragic film ‘A Good Year'), there are few greater pleasures in life than a long afternoon in the sun of southern France eating your body weight in cheese and washing it down with a delicious and refreshing glass of Rosé.
In France, Rosés are found particularly in warmer, southern regions where there is strong local demand for a dry wine refreshing enough to be drunk on a hot summer’s day but which still bears some relation to the red wine so revered by the French. Provence is the region most famous for Rosé, although the greater southern Rhone (especially Tavel), the Languedoc, and Rousillon, roses are at least as common as white wines. Grenache and Cinsaut are two of the grapes commonly used for rosé in the south of France.
As far as winemaking goes, there are three major ways to produce rosé wine:
The first is used when rosé wine is the primary product. Red-skinned grapes are crushed and the skins are allowed to remain in contact with the juice for a short period, typically one to three days. The grapes are then pressed, and the skins are discarded rather than left in contact throughout fermentation as with red wine making. Because the skins contain much of the strongly flavored tannin and other compounds, this leaves the wine tasting more similar to a white wine. The longer that the skins are left in contact with the juice, the more intense the color of the final wine.
The second way called saignée, or bleeding, is used when the winemaker wants to extract more tannin and color to a red wine, and removes some pink juice from the must
at an early stage, in a process known as bleeding the vats. The removed juice is then fermented separately, producing the rosé as a by-product of the red wine, which is intensified as a result of the bleeding, because the volume of juice in the must is reduced, and the must involved in the maceration is concentrated.
The third (and most ghetto) method is the simple adding of red wine to a white to impart color. This is discouraged in most wine growing regions now except for Champagne. Even in Champagne many producers do not use this method.
Historically rosé was quite a delicate, dry wine. In fact the original claret (a generic term for Cab Sav blends) was a pale ('clairet') wine from Bordeaux that would probably now be described as a rosé.
After the Second World War, there was a fashion for medium-sweet rosés for mass-market consumption, the classic examples being Mateus Rosé and American "blush" wines.
The pendulum now seems to be swinging back towards a drier, 'bigger' style. These wines are made from Rhone grapes like Syrah, in hotter regions such as the Languedoc and Australia. In France, rosé has now exceeded white wines in sales. In the United States a record 2005 California crop has resulted in an increased production and proliferation of varietals used for rosés, as winemakers chose to make rosé rather than leave their reds unsold. U.S. consumers are also becoming more open to the wine, despite a stigma which resulted from the ubiquity of punchy White Zinfandels.
Tavel in the Southern Rhone Valley is arguably still the best known specialist in rosé, but increasingly lives on the strength of its reputation. The Municipal Winemakers' Pale Pink Rosé, was made in a style borrowed from Tavel. Using Rhone grapes of Cinsault and Grenache, the juice was soaked on the red skins for a little less than a day, to pull out just a little bit of color. The photo above shows how the juice was tested again and again throughout the day until the color and tannins were right. When it was just right, the juice was drained away to a stainless steel tank where it was treated like a white wine for the rest of the process. It was fermented in old french oak barrels.
Rose or ‘blush’ wines as most americans know them are bland, quite sweet, slightly carbonated at bottling to make them a little more refreshing. These wines should not be subjected to critical sensory analysis - if they are the conclusions will not be flattering.