Doth A Rosé by Any Other Name Smell as Sweet?
Well, does it? In this new age of rosé-style wine appreciation, it appears the acceptable product definition is all over the sensory-sense map. The color can be very light, pinkish going all the way to light red. The bouquet can be from light floral to full-on garden. And the weight can be from water-like to just short of a major big wine.
In short, if you have resisted rosé wines because they are wimpy, sweet, without character, you are very much behind the times. We are in full rosé season, but in truth, in our part of the world, these wines answer the call year-round. They are perfect with fresh seafood, heavier desserts, or just sitting around and quaffing. There are no limitations as to when or how this style of wine can be enjoyed.
There are really two main methods of manufacture to make rosé wines in a quality fashion. The first is for the vineyard manager and winemaker to plan from the beginning and know that the red grapes grown and harvested will become rosé wine. The grapes are brought into the winery after harvest then very lightly crushed. The resulting juice, known as “must,” remains in contact with the grapes’ skins for a short period of time, usually less than 10 hours, sometimes as little as 2 hours, depending on the intensity of the pigment imparted by the skins to the must.
The second method, saignee, a French term meaning “to bleed”, removes some of the must from the red grapes pressing after a short period of time. In this case, the grapes were not harvested exclusively for rosé wine. The lighter juice is sent to a separate process which results in rosé wine. The now concentrated heavier juice is made into red wine which possesses more weight, depth of character and qualities desired by the winemaker for the red wine program.
There is another method, which is to take the must from both red grapes and white grapes and mix them together. This process is banned in many areas, but this is exactly how Champagne rosé is made.
The pressing from any red grape must can be made into a rosé wine. Usually the grapes used are syrah, grenache, cabernet franc, merlot, cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir but each wine-producing country has its own indigenous red grapes and these form the basis of that country’s efforts, along with a raft of lesser, more geographically focused, even obscure, grape varietals.
Quality rosés, and here is the most important point of this article, are NOT SWEET. The purpose of this style of wine, rosé, is for a different expression of a top-quality grape. Sometimes the ripening of the fruit, or bouquet development, or the rounding of all of the character cannot be achieved with winery controls or meteorological conditions. By taking another route to the final effort, the result is superior than just allowing the usual path to fermentation and development which may end with mediocrity.
If you have shunned rosé wines, why not open your mind and your mouth? Give the pink a chance to enchant.
Read Happy Hour here on myneworleans.com on Wednesdays, and listen to The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, hosted by Tim, every weekday, 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. on WGSO 990AM and streamed, as well as stored (podcast), at www.wgso.com. Also, check out Last Call, Tim’s photo-feature about cocktails in New Orleans, every month in New Orleans Magazine.