Today, my son asked me, “What are rose wines and how are they made?” I realized that this would make a worthy subject to discuss in this wine blog especially as it is during the summer months that we enjoy rose wines the most.
Rose wines are made of red grapes or red grape varietals. Rose champagne or rose sparkling wines are exceptions because they are also made with white grapes or white grape varietals (I say varietals because Chardonnay is not the only white grape used to make sparkling wines). There are some winemakers who add a little white wine to their own blend of still rose wine, but this is not common practice.
About Rose Wines
There’s a difference between old-world rose and new-world rose wines. Old-world rose wines tend to be more bone-dry than new-world rose wines. Californian rose wines, for instance, can be almost sweet; they also have very similar characteristics to white wines. It should be noted, however, that there are now some Californian rose winemakers who make fruity, elegant and almost bone-dry rose wines that resemble old-world roses. Sophia by Coppola is just such a wine.
Tip: You should drink still rose wines when they are young or are 1-3 years old. Good rose champagnes with some age can be a real delight.
How Are Rose Wines Made?
There are several ways to make rose wines and you can find a lot of information about them online. You should be aware, however, that the four most commonly used methods of rose winemaking are often explained erroneously in the internet. The errors persist even in some of the top-ranked sites!
I love the internet, but I believe it has become as much of a misinformation highway as an information highway. I wanted to set the record straight and give you the correct information about wines and wine making, so I started this wine education and wine review blog. But that’s neither here nor there. Let’s go back to the topic: rose wine making.
The four approaches to making rose wines are bleeding, pressing, limited maceration, and run off.
- Saignée or bleeding is used to make the best quality roses. Juice is obtained by stacking up the wine grapes in a tank and letting the grapes’ weight do the crushing. Since the juice is in contact with the grape skins only for a very short time, the rose wine obtained through this technique has a very pale color – e.g. Gris de Bourgogne, a rose wine from the Loire Valley. Rose wines made through bleeding are rich, fruity and have great freshness.
- Pressé or pressing is the technique of pressing the red grapes until the juice has the desired color. Once the desired color has been attained, the winemaker stops pressing. Only the pressed juice is used to make the rose wine.
- Limited maceration is the most commonly used technique for making rose wines. The grapes or, to be more precise, the skins are left in contact with the juice until the winemaker decides that he is happy with its color. The “wine” (or the juice) minus the skins is then transferred to another tank to finish the fermentation process.
- Run off is the process involved when the winemaker removes juice from the tank of fermenting red wine; this juice is used to make the rose wine. The run off process results in a darker/more intense red wine (the wine left in the fermentation vat) and, in my opinion, a so-so rose wine.
On Provence Rose Wines
Provence rose wines are usually made using the same local blends used in making red wines. Most rose wines from Provence are made using the Grenache and Cinsault grapes or varietals, but some have been made using Mourvèdre.
For the wine aroma hunters: The following are the typical aromas found in rose wines from the Provence region (Côtes de Provence, Côteaux d’Aix-en-Provence, les Baux-de Provence, Bandol, Cassis, Bellet, and Palette):
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If you want to try a typical rose wine from Provence, I recommend Mas du Fadan Côte de Ventoux 2007. Oh, and by the way, a great bottle of rose wine should not cost you more than $20-$25 unless it is rose champagne!