As summer springs, Rosé can be a refreshing and fruity companion for hot days, with its typically medium to high acid, lower alcohol, and light, sprightly flavors of red and black fruits. It can also be an elegant alternative to the ‘red vs. white’ question. So let’s explore the styles of Rosé, and what to consider when choosing one to drink alone or pair with food.
In a nutshell, a Rosé is white wine from red grapes. Iconic examples include Rosés from the Provençal hills in southern France which are delicate, herbal and pale pink. These wines are often described as having notes of ‘garrigue’, an expression for the aromatic Herbes de Provence that grow on the hills of the Mediterranean coast. At the other
end of the spectrum, the central Italian wine region of Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo DOC derives its name from the deep cherry (cerasa) color of its Montepulciano-based Rosés, which are virtually cranberry-red. These darker styles of Rosé can be round and full on the palate, with pronounced flavors of cherries and vanilla.
Today Rosé wine is diverse. It is produced worldwide, often from the popular red grapes of the local region. There are also few rules governing the grapes that can be used and what the wine should look and taste like. In addition to a winemaker’s freedom of style, there are several ways a Rosé can be made.
The two principal methods used to produce Rosé are Direct Press and Saignée, both of which aim to limit the amount of time that the grape juice spends in contact with grape skins. With the Direct Press method, red grapes are gently pressed, and the juice is immediately drawn noff so that it has little time to extract color, tannin and flavor from the skins.
The Saignée method is a by-product of red wine making. The winemaker begins the process of making a red wine, and after a few hours or days will ‘bleed off’ some of the juice, which is then made into a Rosé wine. The remaining juice continues its journey to becoming a red wine that is more concentrated and intense because a portion of the juice was removed.
The rule of thumb is that the more time the juice spends on the skins, the darker, more full-bodied, and structured it will be. Time is color. Blending red and white wines together is a third way in which a Rosé wine can be made, though it is rarely done, and is illegal in the European Union with one notable exception: Rosé Champagne.
The choices for making a Rosé are as varied as shades of pink, and the food pairing opportunities are equally broad! Lighter, Provençal styles can nicely complement vegetables, mediterranean flavors, seafood, chicken and light sauces. Additionally, at lower alcohol levels these light Rosés can pair with spices. On the other hand, Rosés with deep color, body and fruit flavor can pair well to stronger dishes, including red meats, heavy sauces, and even smoked fish. Time is color, but it is also body, intensity and structure. Thus a darker Rosé is a wonderful alternative to red wine at the dinner table.
It is fair to say there is a Rosé to suit every dish and occasion. Whether by the name of Rosé in France, Rosato in Italy, or Weissherbst in Germany, pink wines are a wildly diverse and delightful style to explore in the summer . As the saying goes: ’The world looks better through Rosé colored glasses.’
• Certified Sommelier (CS)