Wine Talk with Alice Swift
Alice’s 2019 Spring Wine Pick–Rosé
With the rough winter weather we have had all around the United States, many of us are eager to welcome the spring season in, with the sunny days, beautiful flora and fauna, and of course, the warmer temperatures. With that springtime weather comes the need for the lighter, crisper wines, and this season, I would like to revisit Rosé wines. Why does sparkling wine only have to be consumed for celebrations, and Rosé wines for summer only? I believe any wine can be enjoyed any time regardless of the occasion, the season, etc. If you like, try it!
Surprisingly, Rosés have gone through a mini surge in recent years. Controversial branding of Rosés in the 1970s has led to some misguided stereotypes of the wine. Some people might think that Rosé is one style of wine; however, interestingly enough, there are a multitude of styles, just like most all other wine varietals. This month, I will briefly share on the different methods to make Rosé, and a brief history of the wine that history brought a specific style of Rosé to fame with the term White Zinfandel.
The Winemaking Styles of Rosé
First things first–Rosé is NOT a grape varietal. It is a wine-making style with different processes to make it. This winemaking style has existed in Old World wine regions (e.g. France) for a very long time, but has only been commercially introduced to the U.S. wine market since the 1970s. The color resembles a “rosé,” or pink color that ranges from a very pale orange tint to a deep pink, almost purple color. Similar to other wines, Rosé styles vary, from still to sparkling, and range from bone-dry to sweet. There are three major ways to make Rosé wines:
1. Skin Contact (also known as Maceration)
This method sounds exactly the way it sounds. Red wine grapes (black-skinned) are crushed and the skins are left soaking in the juice for a short period of time prior to pressing (~2 hours up to 1-2 days). The skins are then removed before the fermentation process, unlike the red wine making process where skins are retained during fermentation.
In order to produce a more complex wine with increased intensity and tannins, the Saignée method (translated from the French term for “bleeding”) is used to “bleed off” a portion of the “pink” grape juice from an early stage of the red wine making (where the skins and seeds are fermented with the grape juice) before the color becomes too intense. The pink grape juice is then fermented separately, and typically results in a darker, stronger Rosé wine. This is a controversial method, however, as some believe that maceration is the best method to produce Rosé wines.
The blending method of Rosé wines is exactly as it sounds, the blending of wines–typically a small portion of red wine into white wine. This practice is illegal in some regions of Europe, but this method is still used in some regions, such as Rosé Champagne in France. The United States has less regulations around blending practices and may use this method to make Rosés still or sparkling wines.
Is White Zinfandel Rosé?
Have you heard of the term White Zinfandel before? Ironically, this wine is not “white” either, and is likely one of the first surges of Rosé wine in the 1970s, though this purely happened by accident. Bob Trinchero, of Sutter Home Family Vineyards, who was experimenting with their Zinfandel grapes, was forced to relabel the wine with an English phrase rather than French, and the name White Zinfandel was born. After an accidental stuck fermentation of white Zinfandel wine that was set aside, meaning the sugar in the wine was not entirely fermented out, Trinchero decided to bottle the wine anyway with ~2% residual sugar. This apparently made all the difference, and the US consumers began to favor this “White Zinfandel” Rosé that was a “blush pink” color and slightly sweet.
Other similar terms were coined by other wine producers, such as White Merlot, or Blush wine, but White Zinfandel was the name that stuck, selling out year over year after 1975. This popularity was great for many American consumers, and continues to be one of the largest categories of blush wine consumption today in the United States. However, this specific style made by Sutter Home also did result in the misconception for many years that all Rosé wines were a sweet, easy drinking and “economical” wine, which was not the case.
Luckily, in recent years, with the increase of millennials developing a more exploratory, sophisticated palate for wines and other alcoholic beverages, a wider variety of Rosés are making a comeback! Consumers are growing their appreciation for the other styles of Rosé from all over the world, such as France, Italy, Oregon, etc. Consumers are more aware of other styles such as dry Rosés, and the Rosé wine category as a whole continues to maintain its consumption demand.
While Rosé is a great, refreshing wine that can help keep you cool during the summer, it truly is a wine that can be consumed year-round. White fish, rosemary chicken, and strawberry salad with a vinaigrette dressing are all pairing ideas that come to mind when I think of Rosé wines. This month, stop in to your local wine shop or supermarket and pick up a bottle of Rosé wine!
Until next month, Cheers~!