The Making of Rosé

Monday 29th of March 2021

From its pretty pink hue to its refreshing taste on a warm summer day, rosé has become the “it” wine over the last several years, and it shows no signs of fading. Rosé itself isn’t even a varietal of wine—it’s just a color of wine like white or red. “Rosé” doesn’t really describe what’s in the glass. Rosé can be light or dark pink, mineral or fruity, lush and floral or crisp and acidic.

Rosé can be made from any red grape and cultivated in any wine region. Two of the best grapes are Zinfandel and Pinot Noir. At Harvest Moon we have used both of those grapes to make rosés.

Rosé is a winner when it comes to food pairings. Best known for its al fresco-friendly sipping style, this blush wine pairs well with almost everything, including spicy foods, sushi, salads, barbecued meats, roasts, and rich sauces.

History of rosé wines

Rosé wines have a long and colorful history, going all the way back to ancient Greece, where almost all wines were consumed in a dilute state because it was considered barbaric to drink pure wine. When grapes were harvested, workers routinely crushed white and red grapes together with their feet while they held onto suspended rope to keep their balance.

They put this juice in huge ceramic containers and allowed it to ferment, resulting in an oxidative style. The pink juice that resulted from this process was somewhat off-dry and tannic because of the contact it had with grape skins, seeds, and stems, and this is a far cry from rosés produced in modern times

Eventually, both the Greeks and the Romans began exploring ways to separate grapes by color, giving rise to red and white wines. Many of these early red wines were tannic and difficult to drink, so for a long time the predominant preference was for lighter colored wines that were less harsh. Rosé remained the beverage of choice for centuries.

In the sixth century BC, grapevines were introduced to Greece from an area that is now modern day Marseilles, France. The wines produced from these grapes were blends of white and red grapes, and thus naturally light in color. These wines became popular all around the Mediterranean and were the wine of choice for most.

When the Romans expanded their territory to France, they were well aware of the famed pink wines produced in the area. Roman influence caused these rosé wines to become enormously popular throughout their empire. Even today, southern France is considered one of the strongholds of rosé wine throughout the world.

During the Middle Ages, a violet-colored rosé wine was produced in Bordeaux and acquired the nickname claret, which comes from the Latin word claritas meaning clarity. This wine became fashionable all around France, and when Bordeaux fell under British rule, claret wines became extremely popular throughout England. By the 1900s, rosé wines had become a symbol of leisure, glamour, and luxury, and were popular among tourists visiting France and England. From here, the popularity of rosé wine spread throughout the world, and the wine achieved its present highly coveted and admired status.

Primary flavors of rosé wine

Depending on the type grapes used to make the rosé, many different flavors can be achieved. There are several flavors of rosé wine that are more dominant than all the others. They include melon, citrus, flowers, and red fruit, and these flavors will often be accompanied by a crunchy green finish that is very much like rhubarb or celery.

The flavor also depends on the location of the winemaker. For instance, in Italy a very deeply colored Italian Aglianico rosé has a zestful flavor of cherry and orange. A very popular Grenache rosé from Provence in France has the flavor of lemon, celery, melon, and honeydew. Harvest Moon’s Rosé of Pinot Noir is crisp with aromas of strawberry and flavors of Kiwi and orange zest, whereas our Rosé of Zinfandel has a bouquet of fresh cut strawberry with flavorful notes of raspberry and peach.

The next time you sip a glass of rosé, close your eyes and try to determine which flavors you are able to taste.

How to make rosé wine

There are several ways to make rosé wine, but by far the most popular method is the limited skin maceration process. Simply put, maceration is the process of soaking crushed grapes, seeds, and stems in a wine must to extract color and aroma compounds as well as tannins. This is where red wines get their color and tannins and it is the lack of maceration that makes white wines so light in color and nearly tannin free.

The limited skin maceration process involves crushing grapes and allowing the juice to remain in contact with the skins for a precise amount of time. If left in contact for an extended period, the wine will end up being red. In the case of rosé wines, skins are left to soak for a very limited amount of time.

The amount of time will depend on the style of rosé being produced and can be anywhere from six hours up to 48 hours, as opposed to the several weeks or months required by many red wines. The longer the maceration period, the more richly flavored and the darker the rosé. The winemaker has total control over the wine's color and can remove the red grape skins when he or she thinks the wine has achieved the ideal color.

After the soaking period, the juice is racked or removed from the skins, and the rosé- tinted wine begins fermentation. This process is used to make a great many styles of rosé wine, and the particular wine being produced depends on the variety of grapes used and the length of the maceration.