Pop Quiz, and this time it’s all about rosé winemaking. The original question, borrowed from my WSET tutoring, was quite a simple and straight-forward one. I, of course, am going to go out of my way to make it, as my dad would say, more interesting.
Original Question: Name and describe TWO methods for making rosé wines.
Stacy’s Version: Name and describe THREE methods for making rosé wine. Then, let’s go on a tour of rosé wines around the world. Which method is traditionally used in each region.
Ouch…I am a glutton for punishment… 😉
There are three different ways to make rosé wine. Actually, to be 100% correct and clear, there are four. But, for some reason that I do not know, the WSET does not teach about the saignée method (using the first press off the red wine to create a rosé). *Insert shoulder shrug here.*
So, the “textbook” answer goes like this:
- Direct Press: Red wine grapes are crushed and pressed in the same way as in white wine production. This is a more gentle press, thus extracting less color and tannin into the resulting wine. (I’ve met winemakers go so far to say they use a “Champagne” style press to ensure the most minimal of extractions, especially when utilizing thicker skinned, more tannic grape varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon). It’s noted that this method usually creates the most delicately colored (and I’d argue textured) rosé wines.
- Short Maceration: Red grapes are crushed and allowed to macerate (maintain contact with skins) for a certain amount of time. The maceration time will affect just how much color and tannin the resulting wine will have. For some of the fuller-bodied rosés, maceration may extend into the fermentation process. Once the maceration time is complete, wine is drained off the skins and the juice will be fermented at a cooler temperature (ala white wine).
- Blending: Not popular. In fact, most regions—unless they’re making a sparkling wine—do not allow this. But there are some regions, predominantly in the New World (no names will be mentioned at this point) that do employ this method. It is, as the name implies, blending of a red and white wine to make pink wine.
Awesome. So far so good?
Let’s take a brief tour around the world shall we? I will more than likely cover these regions in more detail in future posts. (My exam looms, you know.) But for now, I’m going to talk about these regions in reference to their rosé wine styles. Sound? Sounds great! Where’s my private jet…
LOIRE VALLEY, FRANCE
The Loire Valley can be “loosely grouped” into four sub-regions:
- Central Vineyards
Today we’re going to zoom in on Anjou-Saumur. Anjou, though relatively close to the ocean and does have a maritime climate, is a bit warmer and drier than maybe one would expect. The vineyards are protected by the Mauges hills and many enjoy warm, stony soils. I will note here that Anjou is best known for its dry, still wines, where as Saumur is best known for sparkling Chenin Blanc made in the traditional method. (Um, yes please.) But I digress…
Rosé Wines of Anjou Saumur
- Rosé de Loire—can be produced both in Anjou-Saumur as well as Touraine. It is always dry and it must include a minimum of 30% Cabernet Franc (yum again) or Cabernet Sauvignon.
- Cabernet d’Anjou—always medium-sweet, made from a blend of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
- Rosé d’Anjou—(Seriously? Could the choose something less confusing than basically the same name?!?) Is less sweet and is comprised mainly of Grolleau, blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and other black grape varieties.
A Footnote to Other Rosés Produced in the Loire Valley…
•Touraine produces rosé from a wide variety of grapes; wines are typically dry, fresh and fruity.
•Sancerre rosé must be made from Pinot Noir and is usually pale, light bodied, and dry.
Rosé Winemaking in the Loire Valley
Rosé wines in the Loire Valley can be achieved by either short maceration or direct press. They are usually fermented in inert vessels, with temperature control, to keep the fresh fruit flavors of the wine.
THE SOUTHERN RHÔNE
Oh how I look forward to my regional breakdown of France’s Rhône regions. It is one of (if not the) wines that truly turned my wine intrigue into wine nerd-dom. Anywho…
For this post, we’re going to zero in on Tavel and Lirac
FUN FACT: These are the only two crus on the west bank of the Rhône River.
Rosé here is made predominantly from Grenache and Cinsault. The resulting wines are full-bodied when compared to those coming out of Provence (we’ll get there…just hold on a second). As such, they’re intensely flavored and aromatic and can actually age in the bottle over time, developing even more complexity. Only rosé can be produced in Tavel. Lirac, conversely, produces both red and white wines similar in style to those found in the CDP.
Like the Loire Valley, rosé made in the the Rhône can be achieved by either short maceration or direct press.
FUN FACT: The majority of the wines coming out of the South of France come from Languedoc. Ah, but today we’re not stopping there. We’re taking the tangent that is…
The landscape of Provence is cuckoo like CoCoa Puffs, with a variety of soils and microclimates and broken up by a bunch of hills. But instead of making soggy cereal, these hills help protect the region from the crazy mistral winds that define Rhône regions. So it is that rosé is the main wine being produced. The wines are pale, light-bodied, dry, and really quite delicate in their fruit flavors. It is noted that there is a range of styles that span from light and fresh to a fuller-bodied expression (these tend to be barrel-aged).
I believe, correct me if I’m wrong, that Provence rosé is traditionally made utilizing direct press.
Côte de Provence is the largest appellation inside Provence and, again, it is rosé that wins the production race. But I’ll add a little tangent foot note here that inside Côte de Provence are three Appellation controlée. The most renowned of these is Bandol, noted for premium red wines based on Mourvédre. (Is this the third ‘yum?’)
Ok, I’m getting a little into the weeds here. While I’m sure there are some producers of still rosé wines inside Spain, there’s not mention of this within the WSET Level 3 book (please correct me if I’m wrong and my eyes glazed over something). But what we do need to talk about is…
Now, I will have a separate post all about sparkling wine (she said optimistically), but I want to just touch on Cava here because it does include a sparkling rosé.
Cava is a DO that covers a bunch of different (non-contiguous) regions across Spain. But, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, the majority come out of Catalan. (Other areas include Navarra, Rioja, and Valencia.) Cava is a sparkling wine that’s made in the traditional (ie., Champagne) method. Traditional grape varieties when producing Cava include Macabeo, Xarel-lo, and Parellada for the white wines and Garnacha and Monastrell (Mourvedre) for the rosé. And since these are made in the traditional method, I’m going to say that the rosé base wine is made from the direct press method.
You all know how much I love my AU wines. I’m not sure that I’ve ever had an Aussie sparkling rosé though. Well, apparently the country is the one who has seen the “most commercial success” with sparkling red wines, made from Shiraz, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. And, although it doesn’t explicitly state this, I think it is safe to assume that for a sparkling wine production, winemakers are utilizing the direct press method. And gently, at that, given the hearty red grapes they’re working with…
My cheeks turn rosé when we talk about White Zinfandel. But there doesn’t necessarily need to be a bad stigma around it does it? I mean if someone were to market it “Rosé of Old Vine Zinfandel” then, mayhaps, more people would grab a bottle and realize that not all pink Zinfandel is created equal.
The second thing is…so what? There are folks out there that like this medium-sweet, low-alcohol wine. And if that’s how they choose to enjoy their wine time, then so be it. Who am I?
At either rate, the text specifically talks about White Zinfandel in reference to the latter description. The wine is predominantly produced in California’s Central Valley where red wine grapes (like Zinfandel) ripen almost excessively. Indeed, this is where the bulk of the state’s, well, bulk wine comes from. To create the style of wine we know so well, winemakers will most likely utilize the maceration process (although, footnote, many use the unmentioned saignée method) and then halt the fermentation process (with either SO2 or by chilling) to leave behind a bit of residual sugar. Wines will typically be matured in inert vessels to maintain the fruity amazingness that is White Zin.
So…how’d I do? Is there a region you love for rosé? I can’t believe I don’t have a rosé to review at the moment. But truth be told, I’m not a girl who likes to “rosé all day.” I like to “rosé with a purpose.”
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