Rosé Exposé

Welcome to More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About Rosé

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If there’s nothing else that you’re able to take away from all the very many words below, may we request that just THIS makes it: the majority of Rosé is DRY. Not Sweet. Seriously, of the 25-30 rosés we stock in the shop each summer, only 1 or 2 has any residual sugar (and sometimes not enough for anyone to notice). Yet this remains, surprisingly, the most-asked question we get about  picking out a pink wine. “Which of these is dry?” And, when we answer “all but this one” we get skeptical looks.  

Perhaps a little science would help?  

There are 3 methods of making rosé: 

Maceration

The Maceration Method, wherein the winemaker crushes the grapes and lets the juice sit on  the skins for a short period of time, several hours as opposed to the few days/weeks when  making red and white wines. Color and oftentimes a touch of tannin (biomolecules found in the  skins of red grapes) are imparted to the rosé, as suits the winemaker’s preference. Sometimes  they’ll let the juice run off right away, as the grapes are pressed, for an even lighter version (this  option is called Direct Press). 

Saignée

Of less common use is the Saignée (sahn-yay) Method, where a winemaker bleeds a little juice  off a vat of crushed red grapes in the first few hours of ferment, in order to concentrate flavor in  the eventual finished wine. With this method rosé can be seen as a sort of by-product of  winemaking, rather than the main attraction. Saignée is mostly used in California, where they  like their reds big and beefy.  

Blending

Lastly, and only used in the Champagne region really, is the Blending Method. Just like it  sounds, a small amount of red wine is blended into a white wine base. Most fancy sparkling  rosés from France use a Chardonnay base with Pinot Noir blended in. 

All of these methods however rely on a universal fact. If the fruit isn’t quality, the wine won’t be  either. Rosé isn’t a “cheaper” wine to make, or something for the winemaker to do with their  bad juice that will somehow make it drinkable. Bad wine comes from poorly grown and  handled grapes. Making it pink won’t magically solve that. It follows then that huge wineries  who make industrial-tasting red and white wines, are also going to make an industrial-tasting  rosé. In your glass this will taste thin, without complexity or fruit or mouthfeel. It will taste out of  balance or just plain boring. Precisely the way a poorly made red or white wine will.  

What we love about rosé is that it offers us the best of both worlds. It’s crisp and refreshing like  a white wine, but can have the texture and complexity of the red grapes that it comes from.  We’ve seen juicy Mencia, spicy Sangiovese, salty Gamay, and earthy Pinot Noir. The  expressions are as vast as the juice vinified to be red or white wine.  

Additionally, rosé offers winemakers a chance to start earning from their yield as soon as 6  months after harvest, as rosés don’t need to stabilize or age as long as reds and whites (yes,  I’m suggesting that you drink rosé as a means to support small farmers). As buyers we start  seeing tank samples as early as February, with snow still on the ground. We can decide which  rosés we want to dedicate our shelf space to each year. They aren’t made in huge, age-able  quantities, so we have to commit early on to which ones we think are going to really shine. Our  options are as reliant on grape varietal, terroir, and vintage as any other wine choices we make.  While the style has come to be known by its French name “rosé,” it’s made in all wine-making  regions from all kinds of grapes. Whether it’s rosé, Rosato, or Rosado though, the quantities are limited.  Hence the abundance starting to fade from shelves and restaurant lists sometime in late fall,  the frenzy calming to a gentle pink simmer.  

That said, if you find a rosé you really love, grab an extra bottle and hang on to it until the  depths of winter, or even the next season. We’ve had a couple of 2019 bottles that we’ve  actually enjoyed more at the beginning of this summer than last. Sometimes their acidity will  stay tightly coiled until a little more time in the bottle. Then when they finally unfurl it’s like a  fireworks show on your palate. Watch (by which we mean taste) how a rosé changes as it  bottle-ages, and revel in the fact that you stashed away a little twinkle of summer for your  coldest day. Pro-tip: Mary takes a bottle of her favorite rosé from the season up to her cottage  at the end of summer and leaves it there. So when the next rolls around and they’re bringing  out the beach chairs again, they have a little time capsule of last year’s sunshine waiting for  them. 

See the current line-up here