All About Rosé

All About Rosé

For the last several years, rosé wine has been enjoying a major moment in the spotlight—with its playful pink hue and easygoing life-of-the party personality, it’s difficult to imagine a more crowd-pleasing style of wine. And anyone who has fallen down the rosé rabbit hole knows that it can be so much more than just a simple wine for summer sipping.

Because rosé is made all over the world from a dazzling number of different grape varieties and using varying winemaking techniques, it’s remarkably diverse. There are options for every wine lover, ranging from crisply mineral to aromatically fruity; from light and delicate to bold and juicy; and from the palest blush tint to bright, vivid ruby.

But what exactly is Rosé wine, and how does it get its gorgeous pink color?

Red wines get their color from a pigment in grape skins called anthocyanin—the longer the juice stays in contact with the skins during fermentation, the deeper the shade of the wine. So to produce rosé, winemakers simply shorten that period in order to extract just enough tint to give the wine its pretty pink flush. While red wine usually rests on its skins for anywhere from a couple weeks to several months, a few hours to two days is all the time that’s needed to add color to rosé.

This quick-maceration technique described above is the most popular way to make rosé. Another is direct pressing, where some growers will separate the grape juice from the skins immediately to get the palest pink tinge for a more delicate character. There’s also the saignée method, a two-birds-one-stone approach that involves bleeding off the early-pressed juice while making a red wine, concentrating the red while providing a bonus rosé byproduct.

Rosé can be made naturally or conventionally, and while the general winemaking methods are the same, there are some notable differences. Natural rosé, especially when it comes from a cool climate, has no additives and much lower levels of sugar, alcohol, and sulfites than conventional alternatives.This translates to wines with pure fruit flavor that are crisp and dry with refreshing acidity. Natural Wine is also much more likely to be made by small, independent growers who prioritize sustainable farming.

The History of Rosé

Although scrolling through your news feed these days can make rosé feel like a modern sensation, the history of its production and consumption predates the invention of Instagram by a few millenia, at least.

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when the first pink wine was made, because primitive winemaking techniques did not allow the same levels of extraction that are possible today. In fact, what our ancient ancestors referred to as red wine often looked a lot like what we now consider to be rosé.

In the sixth century BC, the early rosé craze was kicked off when vines were brought from Greece to the south of France (the area that, to this day, represents the pinnacle of pink wine). Red and white grapes were planted side by side, and fermented together to produce light, easy-drinking wines that became wildly popular throughout the Mediterranean.

Later, in Bordeaux, a different style of rosé was on the rise, known as claret. Made from quickly macerated red grapes, these were likely more similar to the pink wines we drink today. By the 19th century, rosé was a beloved staple of European life, especially in coastal vacation towns, where it became a symbol of luxury, leisure, and fun in the sun.

Rosé changed its course a bit in the middle of the last century, when a couple of inexpensive Portuguse labels infiltrated the US market en masse, shattering sales records with their lightly sweet, slightly fizzy appeal. Then domestic producers hopped aboard the bandwagon when Sutter Home produced its first White Zinfandel in 1975 from a failed fermentation that was transformed into a colossal success.

By the 1990s, however, Americans were beginning to develop more sophisticated palates for wine, and the rosé backlash began. Sommeliers wouldn’t touch the stuff out of the mistaken belief that all rosé was syrupy blush. But post-Y2K, importers started to bring the “real” French stuff stateside, piquing the attention of serious wine drinkers who realized just how good rosé could be.

Then, the advent of social media sealed the deal for aesthetically pleasing pink wine once and for all, catapulting rosé to maximum desirability once again. The rapid rise in popularity even caused a rosé shortage in the Hamptons in the summer of 2014! Now that winemakers in the US and worldwide are now taking their pink-hued cues from the ones who started it all—the French—we can safely say that rosé is here to stay.

Enjoying Rosé

Widely considered one of the most refreshing beverages in the world, rosé is pretty effortless to enjoy.

You might hear people quip about “rosé season,” but we love rosé any time, anywhere, on any occasion. 

We all know about the light and easy styles that pair perfectly with barbecues, bocce ball, boats, and beach blankets, but there are plenty of structured, balanced pink wines that would be right at home with a proper meal at the dining table, or spicy and savory bottles to get cozy with on a chilly day. 

Here are a few tips:

Right Temperature. To get the most out of your rosé, it should be served chilled between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit, just like a white wine would be. Especially if you plan to enjoy it with food, you’ll want to look for drier styles of rosé, as sweetness tends to overwhelm most pairings. Natural wines from cooler climates are a great option as they tend to contain very minimal sugar.

Bolder rosés complement food. Richer, styles of dry rosé made from grapes like Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch, Syrah, and Cinsault go great with heartier meals like brisket, duck, lamb, or risotto, while light, crisp rosés like those made from Pinot Noir, Trepat, or Cabernet Franc match beautifully with chicken, salad, grilled vegetables, or just about any kind of seafood. 

Young drinking! While some rosés are surprisingly ageworthy, the vast majority are meant to be drunk young! Don’t worry about cellaring or decanting these fresh, lively wines; just pop them open and enjoy. And of course, rosé tastes the best when it’s savored among great friends—but that’s true of any wine! 


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