Rosé is rapidly becoming the tipple of choice for many wine drinkers, shaking off its frivolous associations and for-the-girls reputation. As noted by The Drinks Business: “Rosé wine has undergone a consumer revolution over the past decade”, stating that, while it accounted for just 7% of sales in 2017, “value sales of rosé are growing faster (+5%) than volume (+4%) – a trend that has continued for the past five years.” Reasons for the summer-centric beverage’s change in fortunes include a rise in better quality, “Provence-style”rosé, widespread celebrity endorsements from likes of Sarah Jessica Parker, and an increasing level of public knowledge about wine in general.
But while many Brits love a glass of the pink stuff, and are better-versed about rosé than ever before, there is still a lot that people don’t know about the drink. This includes what exactly the beverage is and how it is made, which we’ve sought to clarify in this piece. And if reading all about rosé works up a thirst, be sure to check out our rosé collection, and get a bottle delivered to your door within 30 minutes.
All wine gets its colour from the skins of the grapes it is made from. However, unlike white wine, which is made from white grapes, and red wine, which is made from red grapes, there is no such thing as a pink grape. Rather, like red wine, rosé almost always comes from red grapes, incorporating enough of their colour to make it pink, but not enough to qualify it as red wine.
Wine is generally made by crushing grapes to release their juices, then placing them in a tank for fermentation, which involves adding yeast to convert the fruit’s sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. The grapes’ skins, which impart flavour and tannins into the wine, may be left on or taken off at this point, depending on the type of wine being made, and the method used. The length of the fermentation period is also contingent on the kind of wine being made — more on how this relates to rosé later. Overall, there are five main methods of making rosé: skin contact, pressing, run off, saignée or blending, all of which carry out certain stages of the winemaking process slightly differently. Let’s examine what each of these entail:
Also known as maceration, the skin contact method is the most popular way to make rosé. Just like red wine production, it involves crushing red grapes and leaving the juice in contact with the grapes’ skins. However, unlike with red wine, the skins are only left to soak for a short amount of time so that the juice doesn’t turn too red — this can be for anywhere between six to 48 hours, in comparison to weeks or months for red wine. Once the wine is the right colour, the juice is transferred into a tank for fermentation, minus the skins. This method can make a variety of types of rosé, depending on the duration of the maceration process.
Similar to the skin contact method, pressing also keeps the grape juice in contact with the skins for a limited time. However, instead of allowing the juice to soak and gain colour, the grapes are immediately pressed to remove the skins, just like how white wine is made. The red grape’s skin pigment means the juice will retain some colour (if only a small amount), which explains why this production method produces the lightest-hued rosé.
The run off method produces both rosé and red wine. In fact, the process began as a way to concentrate red wines, with the producer removing some of the juice during the maceration process. This is then vinified separately as a rosé, while the remaining juice continues to vinify into a more concentrated red wine. The run off method results in a darker rosé, which may not be to everyone’s taste.
Saignée (also known as bleeding) arguably makes the best quality rosé, with rich and fruity varieties common. This involves stacking up the grapes in a tank so that they get naturally crushed under their own weight, creating juice in a similar way to the method of pressing rosé grapes. Because the juice is only in contact with the grape skins for a limited period, the rosé produced through this method tends to be pale.
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