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February 09, 2021
Most wine grapes produce a clear or colourless juice with the exception of very few varieties. The colour in red and rosé wine comes from phenolic compounds called anthocyanins (an antioxidant), which are found in the grape skins. The anthocyanins react with other components in the wine to form colouration pigments.
Rosé is a type of wine that incorporates partial colouring from red grape skins, but not enough to encroach into red wine territory. There are three main ways to make rosé wine as we will discuss below, however by far the most popular is the maceration method.
When rosé wine is the main desired output (some methods decant a portion of rosé style wine before leaving the rest to make red wine), the skin contact method is used.
Anthocyanins are extracted from the skin during the process of maceration; the grapes are crushed and the skins are allowed to remain in contact with the juice (must). The the semi-liquid pulp juice is called 'must' and is the combination of grape juice, skins, seeds and stems on the first crush. The maceration period can last from two to twenty hours for making rosé, and several days in the case of most red wines. Once the desired colour and taste (in relation to tannins in red wine) has been achieved, the juice is filtered off and fermentation is completed.
During the first few hours of red wine production, some of the juice is ‘bled off’ and put into a new container to ferment and make rosé. The primary goal of this is to increase the concentration and intensity of the red wine, thus Saignée is considered a by-product. Saignée wines are often unique tasting and darker in colour than other rosé wine.
The simple mixing of red wine into white wine to impart colour is uncommon and is discouraged in most wine growing regions, especially in France where it is forbidden by law. Blending wines is only allowed in France for making rosé champagnes, but even in Champagne several high-end producers do not use this method and prefer the Saignée method.
The primary flavours of rosé wine are red fruit, flowers, citrus, and melon, with a pleasant crunchy green flavour on the finish similar to celery or rhubarb. Of course the flavour will broadly vary depending on the type of grape the rosé wine is made with. For example, a deeply coloured rosé will offer up cherry and orange zest flavours where a pale-colored Grenache rosé will taste more of honeydew melon, lemon and celery. At one end of the scale, we have our Silva Kotsifali Grifos Rose that has been fermented in clay amphora - this is a robust rosé that can pair with white grilled meats such as pork and chicken. At the other end, we have beautifully light rosé form very restricted maceration periods such as the Foivos 47 rosé with gentle and subtle hints of melon and white flowers.
Oxford Companion to Wine, Edited by Jancis Robinson, 4th Edition;
Wine Folly: The Magnum Edition: The Master Guide, Michale Joseph;
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May 11, 2021