We all have that one friend who thinks they’re a straight-up sommelier after a couple of glasses of the good stuff.
It all starts with their mentioning (over-loudly) that they’re getting “notes of chestnut and subtle hints of sweet green apples”, and somehow it always ends up with them prattling on about how making rosé wine is as simple as mixing red and white.
They even take it upon themselves to stand on their chair and announce it to the entire party with a look of smug self-satisfaction on their face and cheap wine all over their shirt. But, how is Rosé wine made?
Well, needless to say, our collective friend is, of course, incontrovertibly, invariably, embarrassingly, not to mention hilariously wrong. Although rosé wine can be considered a hybrid beverage, adopting fermentation techniques from both its red and white cousins, the idea that it’s simply a mix of the two is way off the mark.
In fact, such an act is now forbidden in many nations. So, how is rosé wine made?
What is Rosé Wine
Commonly crafted from grenache, carignan, mourvèdre, cinsault, sangiovese, syrah, and pinot noir grape varietals, rosé is a partially colored wine, with hues ranging from pale peachy-orange, to pink, to borderline purple.
Rosé Wine Taste
What is rosé wine? Is rosé wine sweet? A lot of people have multiple questions about this delicious drink. An incredibly diverse beverage, it’s difficult to sum up in any economical fashion.
Perhaps the most definitive feature (besides the color) is its light, fruity character and refreshing finish.
We may be slap bang in the middle of a rosé boom right now, but it’s by no means a new category in the wine market. On the contrary, due to a straightforward composition, rosé is thought to be the oldest form of wine in the world.
Making Rosé Wine: The Process
Right, we’ve had our moment to laugh at our mistaken friend. But how is rosé wine made?
Like all wine, the creation of rosé begins with the growing and harvesting of grapes, black grapes to be precise, which don’t sound like they’d form a light pink wine, but if you slice one open and hold it to the light, you’ll see the inside is almost translucent.
Only the skin has dark pigmentation. The exception to this black grape rule is rosé champagne, the formation of which relies exclusively on chardonnay grapes.
The process is done in the following steps:
- Crushing the grapes
- Pressing the wine
The Crushing of the Grapes
Once the grapes have been picked, they must be crushed. This can be done with machinery, or, if you feel like kickin’ it old-school, by standing on them, an act fittingly known as “grape stomping”.
Fermentation is where the magic happens. Grape juice goes in, someone says “Abra-kadabra” and boom… booze is born. Well, actually, that’s not strictly true; it’s a little more complicated than that.
First, the grape juice (or mash) is ferried from the stomping ground to a fermentation tank, a big, stainless steel container. Similar to the production of red wine, the dark grape skins are left to stew with the juice in order to bring a bit of color to the final product.
The only instance that rosé is fermented sans skin is if the vintner is following the Saignée Method, which involves a 1–2 day resting of the crushed grapes prior to fermentation. During this period, color and tannins from the skin leach into the juice. The skin, seeds, and stems are then filtered out, and the mash is taken to the fermentation tank.
Next, the magic ingredient (yeast) is added to the mix, and gets straight to work breaking down sugars, converting them into alcohol, carbon dioxide, and also a teensy bit of heat.
For rosé, the fermentation process only ever lasts for between 12 and 36 hours, whereas red wine can be left to ferment for weeks on end. This keeps the skins from coloring the juice too deeply, locking in that signature sunset-pink hue.
Rosé wine must also be fermented at or below 59° F (15° C), the same as white, but the sweet spot for red is between 68–86° F (20–30° C).
Pressing the Wine
Having officially earned the title of alcoholic beverage, the wine must now be filtered to remove residual skin, seeds, and stems, a process known as “pressing”. If you have followed the Saignée Method I mentioned earlier, then your wine is already filtered and ready for fining and bottling — hooray!
Wine fresh from the fermentation and filtration process often appears hazy, so vintners will add fining agents to enhance the transparency of the liquid.
Bottling Your Delicious Pink Wine
Almost all rosé wines are bottled immediately and, much like white wine, should be consumed sooner rather than later. The crisp, refreshing fruitiness of rosé is at its peak right out of the vineyard, so don’t worry about stashing that bottle away for a special occasion, break it out tonight and treat yourself to a tipple!
The only rosé that benefits from bottle aging is, again, rosé champagne. The rest should be enjoyed as and when the feeling strikes.
Drinking Your Wine: Should Rosé Be Served at Room Temperature or Chilled?
And finally, we get to the important part… rosé wine taste.
Due to the crisp, complex character and lightly fruity, floral aroma, rosé is best served chilled, so pop it in the fridge for a couple of hours, and prepare yourself for that first tongue-tingling, mouth-watering taste!
Rosé: The Wine Du Jour
Rosé has become an incredibly popular tipple over the last decade or so for a number of reasons. The eye-catching blush color has earned it a place as the de facto drink of summer for many millennials, and the palatable flavors catch all the undecided voters sitting on the fence between red and white camps.
Pretty, pink, and insanely photo-friendly, it’s also become the Instagram influencer’s go-to prop drink, sparking an endless stream of copycat posts showing sunlight twinkling through blush liquid in long stem glasses.
All wine has, or at least seems to have, a personality, and rosé’s is simply more playful, fun, and flirtatious than its contemporaries. It evokes images of sun-kissed garden get-togethers, swanky luncheons in upmarket restaurants, and dreamy barn conversion wedding venues.
When you order a rosé, all of these vibes arrive with it, making the whole drinking experience a little more exciting and giddy.
No doubt another essential part of this meteoric rise is the increasing quality and variety of rosé available to the general populace, and the fact a lot of people seem to be taking a vested interest in the subtleties of this diverse and delicious wine.
According to Nielsen, between 2018–19, rosé sales in the US shot up by a whopping 40%, and the IWSR reports that the volume of still rosé in the States has increased by more than 118% over the last 6 years in order to meet demand. To put that into a bit of perspective, over the same period, all other still wine only saw growth of roughly 1.5%.
But this incredible boom is by no means unique to the US. Rosé is dominating the global wine market, and despite being pigeonholed early on as a seasonal drink, people don’t seem to be enjoying it year-round.
World’s Best Rosé Wine
The majority of the world’s rosé (areas where the best rosé wine is produced) originates from Provence, France, with particularly respected appellations including:
- Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence
- Cotes de Provence
- Coteaux Varois
Besides France, Italy and Spain are big names in the “old world” production of rosé, while Australia, Argentina, many states across the US such as California, Oregon, and Long Island are spearheading the “new world” movement.
Final Thoughts on Rosé Wine
Thanks for sticking with me right to the end, but enough reading already! Words can only teach you so much. The best way to learn about rosé is to actually try it, so head to the store, buy a couple of bottles, chill them, and enjoy a lovely evening drink — cheers!