Summer is the perfect time for a glass (or two) of refreshing rosé! In this blog post, we'll cover everything you need to know about this delicious style of wine - how it's made, how to serve it, food pairing ideas, and more.
What is rosé wine?
Rosé is the French term for an entire category of pink wines that we English speakers have universally accepted. The equivalent Italian term is 'rosato' and the Spanish version is 'rosado.'
How is rosé made?
Rosé can be made in a number of different ways, with some being more common than others.
In most cases, rosé is made entirely using red wine grapes, and gets its colour from limited contact with the grape skins. While a red wine might get days, weeks, and even months of skin contact, a rosé will usually get mere hours. This is one of the reasons why rosé is sometimes referred to as 'blush wine.'
The two main sub-methods here are called the 'maceration method' and the 'saigneé method.'
The maceration method simply involves crushing the grapes and leaving the juice in contact with the skins for a period of time and then pressing the juice off, leaving the skins behind and fermenting the pink juice into a rosé wine.
The saigneé method is a bit of a variation on the maceration method, where the grapes are crushed and then only a portion of the juice is "bled off" and used to make a rosé. This is often used in regions where the winemaker intends to make both a red wine and a rosé, leaving them with an extra concentrated red wine as well as a rosé.
Sometimes rosé can also be made by mixing white and red wines together, though this is not allowed in most rosé wine regions. The one notable exception is Champagne, whose pink Champagnes get their pink hue from mixing red wine made from Pinot Meunier or Pinot Noir grapes, usually only 5-10% at most, into the white wine used to make the Champagne base.
Finally, rosé can be made by co-fermenting red and white grapes together, but again, limited skin contact is still key.
Which red wine grapes can be used to make rosé?
Pretty much any red grape variety can be used to make rosé. The most famous rosé in the world is arguably the Provençal rosé produced in Southern France.
These rosés are usually made from a blend of red grapes, namely Grenache, Cinsault and Mourvèdre.
Due to the popularity of these wines, winemakers producing rosé the world over try to emulate this style. Sometimes rosé uses the same grape varieties, but often uses more common varieties for their wine regions like Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Shiraz in Australia.
Different red varieties impart slightly different flavour profiles on the rosés that are made out of them, but to list them all here is a bit beyond the scope of this introductory article.
What does it mean if a rosé is a darker or a lighter colour?
The colour of rosé is the result of two factors: how long the juice stayed in contact with the skins, and how much pigment the grapes used for the rosé had.
The thing it absolutely doesn't tell you is whether the wine will be sweet or dry! A lot of wine lovers are convinced that darker rosés are sweeter. The two are in fact not connected at all.
What you can often expect from a darker rosé is a bit more flavour and complexity, as well as more texture and perhaps tannin. This style of wine is common in Italy and actually makes for a terrific food wine, pairing much better with dishes than paler rosé.
Here is a delicious example of a darker rosé from our wine collection.
What does rosé taste like?
Just like with white wine and red wine, the flavour profile of rosé wine can be incredibly varied.
Red fruit like strawberry and raspberry is a very common flavour note. So is citrus, usually in the form of lemon, lime or grapefruit.
Beyond this, some rosés are more tropical with notes of guava. Others can be spicy with notes of white pepper. Some are a bit more vegetal with notes of capsicum. Others again will be floral with notes of rose petals.
This all depends on a myriad of factors, primary among which would be the grape variety/varieties used, how much skin contact the wine had, as well as regional and climatic characteristics (broadly referred to as 'terroir').
Beyond this, depending on what a winemaker desires in the final wine, they can make lots of different decisions, all of which influence the direction of the finished wine.
The possibilities are endless, though there is a common thread that ties all rosés together, just as there is one that ties all white wines and red wines together too.
How to serve rosé wines?
Pretty much all rosé should be served chilled. For really pale, crisp examples straight out of the fridge is fine, especially if you're just drinking it as an aperitif or a cold tasty beverage.
If your rosé has a bit more going on, or you're planning on having it with food, getting the bottle out of the fridge and serving it 20 minutes later will yield the best results.
What are some good food and wine pairings for rosé wine?
While most people think of rosé as just something to enjoy on the veranda on a hot summer day, there are actually many exciting food pairings possible with this style of wine.
For the most part, lighter dishes work best with lighter, more delicate rosés. Foods like grilled chicken salad, soft cheeses, and cold seafood.
Fruitier rosés pair beautifully with spicy foods like curries and stir-fries. Fuller-bodied rosés are excellent with grilled salmon and can even work with heavier poultry like duck.
Rosé with a bit more body, like a Tavel rosé (from the Rhone Valley in France) can even be used as a gateway for white-only drinkers towards some reds and can be a nice pairing with steak, especially something tender and lighter in flavour like beef fillet.
Some final words on rosé wine
Rosé is a style of wine just like white wine and red wine. It is often maligned as lower-quality wine or viewed as monolithic (with people assuming all rosés are pretty much the same).
This is totally undeserved, and if you're not drinking rosé, you're missing out!
Just like with any wine, there are high-quality and low-quality examples, but on the whole, the style offers some delicious food and wine pairings as well as terrific value and lots of different flavour profiles and styles if you take the time to seek them out.
If you haven't gotten into rosé yet, what better time than right now, this summer? And if you want a few high-quality dry rosé wines to get you started, check out our range of rosé wines here.