Somewhere on the Silverado Trail

Somewhere on the Silverado Trail

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

There’s more to Rosé than you think!

  

 After ten consecutive years of double digit sales growth in the USA and United Kingdom, it appears that Rosé is finally accepted as a “serious” wine. Rosés are routinely reviewed and recommended in most major newspapers, and major national wine publications have given them several cover story treatments, including recommendations. 

Established, international wine critics have published vintage tasting reports, and several well known, highly rated, USA dining spots include Rosés on their wine lists.  And let's not overlook Miraval, Brad and Angelina’s very own Provencal creation, which continues to receive positive press coverage and ratings.  

Of the three basic production methods—maceration, saignée, and blending—only the latter is looked down upon as not being the “appropriate” way to vinify a quality Rosé.  (In France, except for the Champagne appellation, blending red and white wines to yield a Rosé is illegal.) And while the other two methods may sound different, they are, in fact, quite alike in that soaking the skins and extracted juices and solids (maceration) is common to both.  They only differ as to whether the winemaker only wants a Rosé or he/she wants both a red and a Rosé. 

Maceration, also known as direct press, is when Rosé is the one and only desired outcome.  The method begins the same as typical red wine production—crush the grapes and let the skins and juice soak together until it is time (sans the color and texture-supplying skins) to proceed to fermentation.  The duration of maceration is what differentiates Rosés from reds. For Rosés it varies from less than 24 hours to a day or two, depending on the nature of the grapes as well as the winemakers target as to the intensity of color, aromas and flavors.

Saignée, (sen-yay) or “bleeding off” is when the winemaker’s principal aim is to achieve more color, depth and concentration in the red wine.  Think of it as a “twofer” proposition—two wines from a single crush.  Early in the maceration, some of the juice is bled off and fermented as a Rosé. Meanwhile, the red wine crush is left to macerate for a much longer time in a smaller volume of juice, with the end result being a more complex and powerfully extracted red wine.

Inasmuch as both methods are maceration based, one should expect that there is very little, if any perceptible difference between the two. I have enjoyed Rosés that proudly display “Saignee” on the label, however, I have never noticed Provencal wines to distinguish themselves by announcing their wine results only from “pure” maceration. And quite candidly, I have never paid much attention to their differences, if any, because when it comes to assessing Rosés, all I ask of them that they be fresh, fruity and well balanced.  

For a slightly different take on Rosé, you might consider sampling the wines from Tavel, an appellation in southern France near Chateauneuf-du-Pape, where, interestingly, Rosés are the only wines they produce.  You read that correctly, nothing but Rosés!  Their method, which involves a longer maceration, are more like light bodied reds, and offer an interesting contrast to the breezy Provencal style.  Enthusiasts with lower acid preferences may find these more to their liking.

I should also mention that there are a few Rosés that can be quite substantial and have the ability to age and evolve into something more interesting and complex than simply being fresh and fruity.  I have in the past come across a few with four or five years of age that were quite surprising. They were balanced, well structured, and displayed a reserved and intriguing textural profile. 

And lastly, if you're curious about the appellations and winegrowers that produce such age-worthy wines, wine critic Eric Asimov discusses them in his interesting May 21, 2015 New York Times Internet article. Click here to get up to speed on that topic.