If someone had told me twenty years ago that in 2019, I’d be wandering past a group of fellas in my local pub, sharing a bottle of rosé whilst they were watching the rugby, I would have laughed, disbelievingly. Not because rosé wines haven’t long been favourably tickling our tastebuds but because, back then, the pink stuff was what we quaffed on summer holidays and was often seen as a frivilous drink and, dare we say it, more suited to the ladies…
Happily, rosé wines (rosado to the Spanish, rosato when in Italy) have shrugged off the girlie-only-for-the-summer image and are taken seriously all year round by a broad spectrum of wine drinkers. Why? Because they’re frequently delicious, very versatile food companions and available in a range of styles from a host of different grape varieties.
What is Rosé Wine?
The Ancient Greeks and the Romans … Their part in the story of rosé wine
The Ancient Greeks thought that diluting wine was the only way to drink it and would add water to both red wines and white wines. Grapes of both colours were often crushed together, and the resulting juice would ferment into pink-coloured juice. These ‘rosé’ wines were immensely popular and remained so even when the move to separate fermentation, by colour, was made.
Come the sixth century, Marseille had been planted with vines by the Phoenicians and the wines being made were again a blend of both white and red varieties. These wines were shipped around Europe by the Romans who made the area famous for their delicious rosé. It is a reputation that has endured, and the south of France remains a hot bed of some of the world’s finest pink wines.
How is Rosé wine made today? Are we still making rosé wine like the Romans did?
Ah, no! In fact, there was something of a wine ding-dong when the EU tried to amend long-standing rules back in 2009, to allow a splash of red wine to be added to white to make rosé. Wine trade associations from across Europe lobbied hard and in the end the proposals ended up in the shredder. [The one exception here is pink champagne that can be made by blending red with white]
The winemaking behind rosé wine has been considerably refined over the centuries and now there are three methods:
Direct Pressing: The distinctive pink hue comes from the time the grape juice spends with the skin and in this technique, the time allowed is short, with the grapes being pressed straight away. Due to the speed, direct pressing typically yields the palest of the pinks.
Château Léoube – Côtes de Provence Rosé
An incredibly elegant, smooth rosé with soft red fruit flavours from Provence and right next to the sea, helping to give a slight saline edge to the wine.
Saignée: This French term for the making of rosé means ‘bleeding’. The juice is fermented just as it would be for a red wine but in the early stages of maceration, the winemaker draws off a proportion of the juice that has gained some colour, continues fermentation, and turns it into rosé wine.
Champagne Fleury – Rosé
A darker coloured rosé fizz. Fully biodynamic this champagne really packs a punch with big raspberry, and summer pudding fruit flavours. Complex, refreshing and persistent on the palate.
Skin Maceration: The most common practice in rosé winemaking. If you cut a white grape and a red grape in half and you’ll notice that in both the flesh is white. Colour in red wine comes from the pigments in the grapes’ skins. For rosé the juice is left in contact with the skins for as long as it takes to achieve the colour and texture that the winemaker is looking for. As you might expect, the longer the skin time, the darker the colour. The juice is vinified once the skins have been removed.
DO Penedes – Curiosa Rosado – Albet i Noya
Vivid and vivacious are good words to describe this crimson coloured rosé from Spain. Made using Pinot Noir and Syrah grapes, the generous fruit flavours include cherry, redcurrant and raspberry. Dry and very drinkable, enjoy chilled.
Are their different types of Rosé wine?
Yes, absolutely! Rosé wines can be light to medium-bodied and can range from the steely dry to the softer and fruitier. Though mostly still, you can also find delicious sparkling pinks, from Prosecco to Champagne.
You can make rosé wine from pretty much any red grape and given that there are thousands of grape varieties globally, that makes for no shortage of flavour profiles
As is true with all wines, the winemaking style, the climate and vinification all make for very different wines. Though the vast majority of rosé wines are vinified in stainless steel, you will find those that have seen a touch of oak that can add texture and weight to the wine.
We know that dogs aren’t just for Christmas and so it is true that rosé wines are not just for summer. Some of the more serious Provence rosé wines have great complexity and offer a refreshing alternative to white wines with food all-year round. Equally, a rich pink from Rioja or a cabernet-dominated example such as Domaine Bousquet Rosé can be just as delicious with a meal that you might normally serve with a red.
All of our organic rosé wines from around the world, can be described as dry. We currently do not stock any sweeter rosé wines – a common example of this style would be white zinfandel.
Rosé wine colours
We buy with our eyes, don’t we? Rosé wines usually come in clear glass bottles, to show off their delicate and attractive colours. We have already learnt about the different ways to make rosé (see earlier section), and to some extent the winemaker is in charge of creating the finished colour. It can range from the faintest and barely perceptible pink, through to the dark crimson, bordering on red. This latter style is often called Clairet, is dry and mainly originates from the Bordeaux (claret) region of France. It is where pink virtually can become red.
Over recent years rosé wines have become ever more popular. Some might say fashionable, and the ‘fashion’ definitely seems to have gone towards the paler end of pink, or ‘Provence style’. Winemakers around the world are quick to cotton on to what is selling, and these days are copying the paler pink colours, as it will help sales.
Some of our paler pink rosé wines:
Grape varieties and their rosé wines
Grenache: Comparatively low in tannins and acidity but with oodles of bright summer fruit flavours, grenache (aka garnacha in Spain) makes brilliantly expressive rosé wine. Mas de Longchamp Rosé is a fine example of a grenache-dominant pink and we love it with stuffed vine leaves and tzatziki sauce.
Syrah: The bold-flavoured syrah is often found as part of a blend in rosé wines, giving the wines good colour and plenty of structure. We often find that where syrah plays a part, the wines pair well with most robustly flavoured foods; maybe even chilli or pizza! The Adobe Rosé Reserva would be a good example.
Tempranillo: Spain is one of the most important countries for rosé wine production and tempranillo is their star performer! The wines are typically summer berry flavoured with bright acidity. Light tapas dishes and grilled vegetables are an ideal accompaniment. Try the Wild Thing Rosé; a classic tempranillo with the added bonus of a charitable donation being made to the Born Free Foundation every time a bottle is sold.
Pinot Noir: A tricky grape to grow, it’s worth the effort for the elegant wines it so often yields. Crunchy and bright, pinot rosé wines tend to be subtle with aromas of wet stone, cherries and raspberries. We have had many happy lunches of goat’s cheese salad with a bottle of Albet i Noya’s Pinot Noir Rosé which has a splash of syrah in it too!
Is orange the new pink?
What distinguishes pink from orange is that the latter is made from white grapes. Whilst rosé is something of a ‘splash and dash’ with the skins for colour, it’s all about lengthy skin and pip contact time for orange wines. Again, the range of time can be anything from a few days to months and months and the intensity of the orange will have much to do with the time spent.
So no, for us orange and pink are two very different wines…