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How Is Rosé Made?

Rosé is absolutely having a “moment,” and it’s about time! Sales have surged in recent years, as the rest of the world finally came to realize what the people of Provence, France have known for decades. Rosé is a wonderful accompaniment to so much of what we love about spring and summer. Part of the awakening, especially here in the U.S., was the growing awareness that pink rosé does not necessarily mean sweet.

So how is Rosé made? There are multiple methods, most of them using red grapes only. A very common one involves allowing skin contact during fermentation, but only for a few hours to a few days. Once the desired color is attained, the juice is pressed off the skins for fermentation to continue. In France and a few other places, the resulting wine is called vin gris (literally “gray wine”). These are typically fermented to dryness, as a great many rosés are.

Another method to making rosé wine, this one made famous in Provence, is called direct press. Here the grapes are crushed and pressed simultaneously, which results in a very pale pink indeed. In fact, depending on the ambient lighting, Provence rosé can sometimes look resemble closely a white wine! These also will usually be dry.

Finally, there is a process to making rosé wine called saignée (literally “bleeding”). Here red grapes are crushed and placed in a vat or tank. After a short period of time to pick up some color from the skins, some of the relatively pale juice is allowed to run (bleed) off. This method has two effects. It produces a light rosé, and it concentrates the remaining red wine. Win win!

As for grapes, any red can be used in rosé production, and many are. In Provence and elsewhere in southern France, rosés are often blends that may include Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvedre, Syrah and even Cabernet Sauvignon. Single varietal versions are also plentiful. Rosé of Pinot Noir hails from places as disparate as France’s Loire Valley, Oregon, California and New Zealand, to mention a few.

Rosé carries various monikers around the world. Some of these are: rosato in Italy, rosado in Spain and weissherbst in Germany. They are sometimes prefaced with the word white, as in White Zinfandel, or simply called blush. The latter two often indicate a sweet or semi-sweet version, but again, most rosés are dry. As we’ve seen, they vary widely in terms of the how, where and what. But dry rosés share wonderful commonalities, including a crisp character, medium to light body and a fantastic pop of flavors from strawberry and watermelon to bubble gum and peach. Delicious and refreshing, they make a delightful aperitif, especially on a warm day. They are also quite versatile with food, pairing up nicely with seafood, poultry, charcuterie and more! So pop open some pink juice and raise a glass to its growing popularity. May rosé be a trend that truly lasts!

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