Why is rosé pink?
Rosé is always made from at least one black grape variety. Common examples are Pinot Noir, Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah. The coloured skins of these varieties allow the wine to gain a touch of colour when treated in specific ways.
There are three main ways of making a rosé wine; blending, bleeding off and direct pressing.
The simplest method to understand is blending, however this method is not permitted for typical still wines in the EU. Therefore, it may only be used in the creation of sparkling wines such as Champagne. Blending is simply adding parcels of white and red wines to achieve the desired colour and flavour. In the production of Champagne three varieties are allowed. These grapes are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier the latter two being black grapes. The method for producing rosé champagne in this manner is also known as Rosé d'assemblage. The still white wine (Chardonnay) is blended with typically between 5% and 20% still red wine. The wine is yet to go through its second fermentation meaning that the wine is classed as a still wine. Blending in this way means that the wine maker can produce a consistent colour of champagne year upon year. The method of blending is also occasionally used in cheaper, new world rosé however it is becoming less and less fashionable to produce wine this way.
The second method used for many still rosé wines and occasionally some sparkling wines is the saignée method. This is basically ‘bleeding’ the wine off from the skins when they have only had a short amount of contact time. This method gets mixed reviews with some people stating that ‘saigńee rosé is not a true rosé’. This is because producing a wine this way actually results in two styles of wine, rosé and red. The wine starts its journey in the traditional way of making red wine, the grapes are crushed and left to macerate. Shortly after, usually under 24 hours, a proportion of the wine is drawn off. The rosé wine is therefore typically darker in colour. Negatively some people believe the rosé wine is an after thought. It allows the wine maker to produce a red wine that has a higher skin to juice ratio therefore deeper in colour and potentially more tannic.
Finally, there is the direct press method. This is the most highly regarded way of producing rosé and the typical method for most Provence rosé producers. This technique uses a press to gently squeeze the black grapes. This pressure releases the grapes juice as well as small amounts of colour from the skins. The harder the press is the more colour and quantity of juice is extracted. However the bitter compounds contained in the grapes pips will also be released and ruin the gentle flavours of the wine.
Once the juice has been pressed it will follow a similar fermentation pattern seen with white wines. The emphasis is on retaining the gentle, fresh aromas and flavours therefore cooler temperatures and stainless steel are most commonly used.