Rosé, also known as rosado in Spain and rosato in Italy, gets its color and tannic structure from the pigment in red grape skins. Any red grape, or combination of red grapes, can be used to make rosé: Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Gamay and Cabernet Franc are among those used. Depending upon the types of grapes and the production method used, rosé’s color can range from a pale onion skin color to a pink to a pale red.
Several methods are used to produce rosé. Winemakers using the direct pressing method put the grapes in a wine press and ferment the pale pink juice that is released from the pressed grapes. Rosé made using this technique tends to be lighter in color than rosé produced using other approaches since the skins stay in contact with the juice for a shorter period of time.
Winemakers who want to impart more tannin and a deeper color to their rosé crush the grapes and allow the juice to stay in contact with the skins until the desired color is achieved. The skins are then discarded and the juice is fermented. Highly pigmented grapes may only need a few hours of contact, whereas less pigmented grapes can require up to three days of contact.
The saignée method (meaning “bleeding” in French), involves producing rosé as a by-product of red wine fermentation. Winemakers who use this technique “bleed off” some of the pink juice from crushed red grapes to intensify and concentrate the red wine that will result from fermenting the remaining juice with the skins. The pink juice which has been “bled off” is fermented separately and becomes rosé. Some disapprove of rosé produced using this technique because they assert that the winemaker is really focused on red wine production, and the rosé is a kind of afterthought.
Finally, rosé can be made by simply blending finished red wine and finished white wine, but this method is not commonly used. Champagne is one of the few appellations where blending is sanctioned, and it is the method used to produce most rosé Champagne. Specifically, the winemaker adds a small amount of still red wine to still white wine. The resulting mixture then undergoes secondary fermentation, producing the bubbles which make Champagne so famous.
Whatever production method is used, there is no doubt that a glass of chilled rosé is a wonderful treat on a hot summer day!