Taste Like A Pro, Rosé Wines...

Reproduced from Year 5, Issue #22 of Spirito di Vino Asia...

Summer is around the corner and it is time to consider the wine list for the hot days ahead.  Not surprisingly, Rosé wines, those made in the pink color, are super trendy right now. Throughout this series, we have taken the view that style, or the personality of the wine, and quality, its degree of excellence, are two fundamentally different issues when it comes to scoring wines.  This is why it is imperative to understand how key production methods affect style so that quality can be fairly evaluated. This issue looks at what influence Rosés.

One thing is certain, the category is difficult to pinpoint precisely as it is blessed by a myriad of styles from dry to sweet, light to full bodied, pale to dark, aromatic to neutral, even still to sparkling. It is perhaps this amazing diversity that makes Rosés an inexhaustible source of pleasure. Critical to all of them, however, is that the final wines must be refreshing, vibrant, and exude delicately perfumed notes of fresh fruits and flowers. 

Easier said than done for, to obtain such delicacy of aromatics, the fruit at harvest must be impeccably healthy with the right amount of ripeness and without any green notes. Sometimes, the red grapes to make this style of wine will be picked a little earlier than they would to make normal red wines.  This is to keep the freshness of the acidity and emphasize floral aromas rather than its darker fruits notes.  This kind of grape will almost invariably produce wines issued from the “pressing” method in which the grapes will be left to macerate in the juice for a short period of time, most likely less than 24 hours. They will then be pressed very gently and the resulting juice will be left to ferment in the method of a white wine, without any skin contact. Here, the shorter the maceration, the lighter will be the color and its tannins will barely be noticeable.  Because the grapes were picked a little early, the acidity will be crisp and the alcohol will be medium to low, making these wines light and vibrant on the palate.  Depending on the temperature of fermentation the aromas will differ in intensity and in complexity.  The cooler the fermentation, the more intense will be its notes of tropical fruits and confected candies.  Milder temperature will give wines subtler intensity and its varietal character will come to the fore.  Delicate and made to enjoy fresh and vibrant, these wines must be drunk as young as possible, hopefully within one year of production, and will pair beautifully with light dishes typical of those we find around the Mediterranean sea.

More structured Rosés, in terms of firmness of texture and ability to pair with heavier food, can be obtained from the “saigné” method.  Here, a portion of the juice is “bled”, in French “saigné”, directly from a vessel in the process of fermenting red wine and transferred to another vessel to continue fermentation without skin as a white wine would. Because it had a longer maceration time on the skin, the resulting wine will have more color and noticeable tannins. As well, because the fruits used for this style are picked riper, as they were originally destined to make red wine, the resulting wine will be fruitier, with slightly less acidity and more alcohol than the “pressing” method.  This will produce wines that are fuller in body, smoother in mouthfeel and, generally more tannic. Here, fermentation temperature can vary and will produce similar aroma characteristics as the above method.

Many Rosé sparkling wines are actually blend of white together with red wines. In Europe, no other Rosé can legally be obtained in this way.  This is especially the case in Champagne where a large proportion of the blend use Chardonnay for its finesses and long ageing ability.  Here, Pinot Noir is added to provide color and body and tender notes of red fruits.  Alternatively, when a sparkling wine is made with only red grapes subjected to short maceration, the resulting wine will invariably be fuller and more structured and will pair very well with main dishes typical of summer.

In the next issue, we will look at how harvest decision can have a tremendous impact on the final wine style and quality.