Wine Profile: Rosé

With summer well under way, Rosé is very much the wine of the moment here in New Zealand. Even my local discount supermarket now stocks a small selection (at discount supermarket prices), so naturally I decided to hop aboard the band wagon.

Rose colours
Fifty Shades of Rosé, (c) Wine Folly

Unlike other wines that I’ve profiled, Rosé is not a type of grape, but rather a reference to the colour of the wine, which is pink (‘rosé’ in French). Being curious as to how that distinctive colour was obtained, I looked up how Rose is made and discovered that there are a number of methods, the three most common being:

Skin contact: red grapes are crushed, as for red wine, but the skins (‘must’) are removed part-way through fermentation (anything from a few hours to a few days) rather than at the end. The wine is then aged using white wine, rather than red wine, methods. As grape juice itself is clear this results in a lighter-coloured wine and, by reducing the level of phenolic compounds (the most well-known of which is tannin) considerably alters the end result. Because the whole aim with this method is to produce a Rosé it is sometimes referred to as ‘intentional’ Rosé.

Saignée: ‘Bleeding’ is when some of the juice is drained off part-way through the fermentation of a red wine, in order to increase the level of phenolics in the remaining red and thereby intensify the flavour. As such, the resulting Rosé is technically a by-product of red-wine making. You’re more likely to find saignée Rosé at the cellar door than in a bottle shop.

Blending: As any school-child can tell you, if you mix red and white you get pink, and blended Rosé is made by applying this principle to wine. It’s widely regarded as cheating, if not as an outright abomination, and as a result French and Italian wine-makers lobbied successfully to have it banned in the European Union. However, my favourite Rosé so far has been a New Zealand-made Sauvignon Blanc blend, which is doubly impressive when you consider that Sauvignon Blanc isn’t a particular favourite of mine, so I’m inclined to be forgiving.

Beyond ‘pink’, Rosé is hard to describe. Because many different grapes can be used in its production, it can be light to medium bodied, sweet to dry, and have an ABV of anywhere from 11% to 15%. Strawberry is a commonly-identified flavour, but a full list is mind-boggling. My abomination had floral and redcurrant jelly notes (whilst still being dry): red berryfruit, herbs, capsicum, tomatoes, citrus, flowers… the list goes on and on. Bottom line, it’s best just to read the label so you get an idea of what to expect.

Rose map
Wine Folly’s helpful mind-map of the mind-boggling variety of Rosé wines.

Like white wine, Rosé should be served well chilled (8-10C – any colder and you’ll need to warm it up just to taste it). Because it sits between red and white it’s a versatile wine which can be paired with anything from soft cheeses to barbeques. Which means I can drink it all summer long.

Although there are exceptions, in general Rosé wine is not a wine that is made for aging, and it’s generally best drunk in the same year it was purchased

Always drink responsibly. One standard drink of wine is approximately 100ml (3.3 fl oz). The New Zealand Ministry of Health recommends that women consume no more than 2 standard drinks a day, and no more than 10 standard drinks a week, and that men consume no more than 3 standard drinks a day and no more than 15 standard drinks a week (note that this is slightly lower than the limits recommended by the World Health Organisation). The World Health Organisation recommends that women abstain from alcohol during pregnancy. In New Zealand the legal drinking age is 18. Do not drink alcohol if you are under the legal age to do so in your country. It is illegal to drive while under the influence of alcohol.

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