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Lab Notes


To Rosé or Not to Rosé?

July 20, 2022

Karin Rockstad, Spanish translator/English editor, WSET Educator, SWS, FWS, Albariño Ambassador, Certified Advanced Cava Educator


Let's get one thing straight. Rosé has been around a VERY LONG time. Maybe you thought it was a recent trend. Maybe you thought it was a "thing." Well, the Greeks and Phoenicians made it more than 3000 years ago. No joke. There was no social media, no wine magazines, no "influencers," etc. back then to hype it up or drag it down. It was, and is, a style all its own. And no, it's not just for young people or women or people with a sweet tooth. Rosé has every bit of a range of quality and style as any white or red wine, from fruit-forward porch-pounders to salty/minerally wines that pair with amazing seafood and beyond.

Let's start by finding out how it's made. One method is by direct press. This means that black grapes are gently squeezed to release their juices (all grape juice is clear, except for a few varieties, but that's another post). The juice and the grape skins go into a tank and macerate/marinate/have a party together from anywhere between a couple of hours to a couple of days, depending on how much color, flavor, and tannin the winemaker wants to impart. There also might be regulations on this depending on the wine region. The skins are then removed, and the juice starts fermenting and becomes wine. This is usually done in an inert vessel to preserve the aromatics and flavors. A wood vessel would overpower a more delicate style of wine. After that, the wine may be filtered or not (see my post on natural wines), it may be aged a bit or not, and then bottled and sold.

Another method is by "bleeding" off the juice while in the process of making red wine. This method is called saignée in French, salasso in Italian, and sangrado in Spanish. You may see these terms on labels or on tasting notes. Again, the black grapes are crushed and the juice is kept in contact with the skins to start the color extraction (again, the juice is clear and the wine gets its color from skin contact). When the winemaker decides on the hue of the rosé to be made, this pale/medium/dark juice is then "bled" off into another tank and will start its fermentation process. The remaining juice continues in the original vessel and will become red wine.

A third way to make rosé is the clarete method. This is used a lot in Spain and it's where the English word "claret" comes from. It means crushing both black and white grapes and fermenting them together. The skins from both the black and white grapes stay in contact with the juice to give it color. Once the winemaker decides on the hue and tests for aromatics and flavors, the skins will be removed.

Now you know how it's made. What about style? Are they all the same? Nope. Lately, the pale, Provençal style has become the darling of wine magazines and Instagram. They are pale, pink or salmon in color and very delicate. They're super refreshing with lively to racy acidity, and pair well with summery foods or just on their own. Think of a day at the beach, a seaside bar, an anchored boat out in the middle of the water, poolside, or sitting on your deck/balcony/terrace on a hot day. Rosé screams for that. Rosé just IS. It doesn't fit into a demographic. If you've ever seen travel pictures or traveled around to other parts of the world yourself, you'd see that everyone and anyone is enjoying it. It just goes down really, really well. And guess what? It now even comes in cans! You can't have glass at the pool? Or don't want to haul a bunch of bottles onto your boat? Bring a cooler full of canned rosé. Easy!

How about something a little bit more substantial? Try one from the Puglia region of southern Italy. These are made from Negroamaro or Bombino Nero and have tons of flavor. They're darker in color and will also stand up to more foods. These are intensely fruity and delicious!

How about Spain? Navarra is famous for their rosés, usually made from Garnacha/Grenache, but Jumilla and Rioja make great ones too from Monastrell (Mourvèdre) and Garnacha/Grenache and/or Tempranillo, respectively. The Cigales region is a rosé-only appellation in central Spain. Their wines are Tempranillo-based but can have other grapes added. This is a classic area for the clarete method.

One of the darkest rosés you can find comes from Tavel, in the southern Rhône region of France. It's considered one of the area's crus, or high-quality regions. This wine has much more structure, weight, and even tannin. Grenache must be in the blend and no one grape (others are allowed) can exceed 60%. This is a very concentrated wine and is definitely made for heavier foods. This is not your chug-it-down wine. Check out this article from Elizabeth Gabay, MW on a tasting of 30 Tavels she did last year.

So, the next time you're in your local wine shop, talk to the staff. They taste a lot of wine and can direct you to some good ones, but just to get you started, here are a few of my favorites:

Easy, peasy, and thirst-quenching (and they don't break the bank):

"The Beach" from Chateau d'Esclans, Provence, France

Pullus from Slovenia

Landskroon of Pinotage from South Africa

Here are a couple that are more savory:

Ostatu from Rioja, Spain

Happy summer! Rosé all day! Rosé yes way! Let us know if you've got some favorites of your own!



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