All wines discussed in this post can be found HERE
The Rise of Rosé
Associated with summer, friends, and picnics, rosé wines have seen a huge boost in reputation over the past decade. Their popularity is part of an almost self-perpetuating cycle, with factors such as the rise of social media, celebrity endorsements, and even changes to the weather causing many wine producers to devote more time and effort to creating superior quality cuvées, which in turn create more demand and increased exposure. But how much do people really know about this delicious pink tipple? Read on to find out how these wines are produced, and check out a couple of our favourites...
How are Rosé wines made?
There are a number of ways to create a rosé but here we will be focusing on the two primary methods of production: Direct Press and Saignée. A common misconception is that a rosé wine is simply a blend between red and white wines, but this is actually very rare; the practice is actually forbidden across most of the EU with the exception of rosé Champagnes. Rosé wines are overwhelmingly produced solely from red grapes, with popular varieties including Grenache (Garnacha), Syrah (Shiraz), and Pinot Noir (Pinot Nero), although more than one red variety can be - and often are - included in the blend.
The Direct Press method of production starts similarly to traditional red wine making, in which grapes are picked, destemmed, and crushed, then the juice (or must) is left to soak in a process called maceration. The purpose of maceration is to extract colour, flavour, and tannin from the grape skins. The main differences with these methods is that in rosé production, the grapes are usually picked before the full sugar ripeness that they would usually achieve for red wine production, and that the maceration period is significantly shorter. While a red wine may be left to macerate for days and is often left with it’s skins during fermentation at higher temperatures to extract as much as possible, a rosé will typically only spend 2-20 hours macerating before the juice is´ pressed off the skins and fermented at temperatures closer to white wine fermentation. The resulting wines are fresh, preserving the pure fruit characteristics of the grapes, and are usually pale, dry, and easy drinking.
The second (and more controversial!) process is the Saignée Method. This name comes from the word ‘to bleed’ in French, and this method began as a means to use a ‘by-product’ of red wine production. Again, grapes are picked, destemmed, and crushed, and the must is left to soak. However, the majority of this must will be intended for red wine production, so the grapes that are used will be riper than those in the Direct Press method. After cold soaking, a small portion of the juice is pressed - ‘bled’ - off, resulting in the remaining must having a higher skin-to-juice ratio which affects the red wine that this will go on to make. However, it is the bled-off juice that goes into making rosé wine. As in the previous method this juice fermented at temperatures similar to those used for a white wine fermentation. A winery may also choose to correct acidity or sugar imbalances in a number of ways.
The controversy comes from the view by some that this is a ‘lazy’ means of production; as the rosé wine is not always the primary focus, or the final intended product, it can be seen as untraditional, a by product, or an opportunistic experiment. The assumption is that these wines will be of lower quality and therefore they are disregarded. However, rosés created in this manner have a character all of their own. They are often darker in colour, slightly heavier in body, and showcase bolder, more complex flavours; herbaceous, earthy, or meaty notes. Some can even occasionally see oak in their production. As more high quality wines are made with this method, both producers and drinkers have taken a greater interest.
Our advice: open bottles made both ways, and see what you can discover!
A couple of our favourites...
We have several delicious roses in store, and one of our favourites is Chateau Beaulieau’s Cuvée Alexandre (£18.90). Beaulieu’s vineyards are located in an extinct volcano crater in the Trevaresse, Provence, with rich volcanic soils and cooling winds that help to create wines with fresh, crisp minerality. Made primarily from Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon, it displays wild strawberry aromas and juicy stone fruit flavours. This is an elegant and refreshing wine that could be enjoyed with prawns, crab, or stuffed vegetables. We even have it available in magnums for those special occasions.
Another fantastic rosé comes from Domaine de Terrebrune in Bandol (£33.90). This wine actually combines the best of both worlds, as it is produced through both methods; 50% Direct Press and 50% Saignée. Blue limestone bedrock and cooling winds from the Mediterranean influence the vineyards here, helping to impart a crisp saline edge to this Mourvedre/Grenache/Cinsault blend. The wine combines expressive aromas of rose petal, pink pomelo, and fennel, while the mouthfeel is stain smooth, featuring a long finish of orange peel and white pepper. This is a perfect partner to seared scallops, fresh salads, and other traditional Provençal cuisine.
Written by Liam