There’s definitely something special about that first glass of rosé that welcomes in better weather. Yet, despite the fact that we drink a lot of it, many people don’t really quite know what rosé is.
Making rosé is a simple enough concept, but real winemaking skills are required to achieve success. The key to understanding how rosé is made is understanding the differences between how white and red wine is made. The majority of white wine is defined by aromas and flavours that are predominantly floral or based on white and citrus fruits, and noticeable acidity is an important aspect of ensuring these wines are refreshing. Red wine has typically has more robust aromas and flavours plus a whole range of additional flavours created by winemaking techniques and bottle age.
Therefore, the challenge for the rosé winemaker is to introduce enough of the red fruit flavours and smells without overpowering the inherent qualities of the white wine.Most white wine is made with grapes that are ‘white’ inside, e.g. the flesh and the juice are clear. White wine is made by gently pressing the grapes to release the juice and then fermenting it - there’s a little more to it (quite a bit actually but this is a blog not double chemistry), but that’s the idea. The skins are kept away from the juice in most cases and play no part; therefore, as nothing red is involved, the outcome is white wine. Simples!
With red wine, the grapes have skins that are red (black or purple really), and instead of just squeezing the juice out, the winemaker puts whole grapes into a vat and crushes them together - the resultant ‘mush’ is called must. The grapes begin to ferment, and the juice starts to absorb the red pigment from the skins. This is encouraged by regularly mixing the juice and skins by ‘punching down’ the floating skins or sucking the juice from the bottom of the vat and pumping it over the skins. The skins bring other qualities, such as flavour and tannin, to the red wine as it develops, but the immediately obvious difference is the colour. Put simply, the longer the juice remains in contact with the skins, the darker red the final wine is, and most red wines ferment and develop for at least two weeks and often a lot longer.
Making rosé, therefore, requires grapes with red skins, because without them there can be no colour. The skins go in with the juice and begin to absorb some of the red colour as well as some flavours from the skins. The winemaker then has to decide when to separate the juice and the skins, which generally happens within 12 to 36 hours - so not very long at all. The result is pink, and most rosé is best known as exactly that. However, some rosé wine has orange hints, and this colour is known as salmon.
A successful rosé wine blends the best qualities of white wine with subtle flavours and aromas from red, and the result should be fresh, appealing and delicious!We stock a range of rosé wines from across the world, ranging from light and fruity Calancombe Estate Pinot Noir Rosé from here in Devon to the dry and elegant Domaine Houchart Rosé from Provence.