Hooray for Rosé (Part I)

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With the summer heat upon us and the “Rosé All Day” promotion in full force, it seems fitting to discuss a very common yet misunderstood category of wines. Clearly, rosé suffers from nothing more than an erroneous negative reputation because when speaking to folks in the wine industry, there is only praise and appreciation for the class. However, the regrettable era of White Zin lingers, clouding the casual wine drinker’s opinion of the entire group of wines to this day.

 

Sommeliers around the country lull themselves to sleep at night repeating the refrains: No, rosés are not made from pink grapes; no, rosés are not red and white wines mixed together; no, rosés are not all sweet; no, rosés are not considered entry-level wines for the uninitiated. Henceforth, it is helpful to note what exactly rosés are and to debunk these misnomers one by one.

 

Simply put, rosés are pink-hued wines made from red grapes. Rosés differ from red wines because, during the production process, the extracted grape juice is in contact with the red grape skins for only a short amount of time. This limits the rosé wine’s ability to acquire the vibrant red color of their red wine brethren whose juice is in contact with the red grape skins for an extended period of time.

Even casual rosé drinkers are likely to note the variety of shades in which the wine presents itself. From pale baby pink through burnt sunset orange to cherry soda red, the tints are determined by the amount of time the juice spends in contact with the grape skins, the grape variety that comprises the wine and the winemaker’s preferences.

In all wines, including rosés, the winemaker determines the sweetness of the wine by stopping fermentation when the wine has reached the desired level of residual sugar. During the process of fermentation, yeast continually consumes sugar and produces alcohol until the sugar is completely depleted or until the winemaker halts the process to leave some amount of sugar to balance the resulting wine. This means that rosés, like all other wines, come in versions ranging from very sweet to very dry. If a rosé is sweet, it can be called blush. It is helpful to remember, though, that blush is not a synonym for rosé because even though all blushes are rosés, not all rosés are blushes.

Check back with us in September’s issue of Cape Style Magazine for the second half of this article where we will delve into the numerous processes used to make rosé wines. Until then, please remember to say Hooray for Rosé!