I’m back! It’s been forever since my last post, and not for lack of things to write about, and definitely not for lack of wine, but rather lack of time. Work has been crazy. Also, I had a midterm this week, so I was in study mode in the days leading up to it (for those who don’t know, I am taking the Beer course at Algonquin, just to round out my sommelier training—more on that in posts to come). Also, as I have mentioned before, we are renovating our house, and last week we were finally able to move out of the guest room in the basement and back into our bedroom on the main floor. But moving an entire bedroom from one floor to another is harder than it sounds. Have you ever tried moving a king-size mattress? It is a) heavy and b) awkward. Also, the fact that I am pretty useless in the upper-body strength department doesn’t help. So useless, in fact, that my husband affectionately calls me T-Rex.
All this to say that I have been waiting for weeks to write my first required seasonal post on the black sheep of the wine family: rosé. Many people would not necessarily associate that role with rosé, perhaps seeing it more as a flower child or flighty blonde of the wine family, but I am here to tell you that rosé has got a lot more going for it than just a pretty pink face. And while as a child it may not have been as successful as its parents would have hoped, in recent years it has certainly flourished and is starting to make a name for itself.
To understand how the pink stuff is made, it is important to remember that the colour of wines comes from their skins. Keeping that in mind, there are three ways to make a rosé:
- Abbreviated maceration
Once the grapes are harvested and de-stemmed, they are crushed in a vat, allowing the juices to emerge from the fruit, forming what is called the must. Since almost all grape juice is naturally colourless, it is in this stage that the must acquires its colour. Obviously, the longer the must macerates (i.e. sits with the skins), the darker it gets, so it is up to the winemaker to decide when the colour is just right (anywhere from 2 hours to 2 days). At that point, the must is pressed, meaning that the juices are drained off, thus ending contact with the skins before fermentation. More of a visual learner? Here you go:
This is probably the most common method of making rosé, and is used in the south of France. On a related note, the technique is said to have originated in the times of the ancient Romans 26 centuries ago in Provence, which claims to be the first wine-making region in the world.
This method, which means “bled,” essentially consists of making a by-product of red wine. First, the red-wine maker steals some juice from a tank of must destined to be red wine after it has macerated only 12-24 hours. This portion of juice is then transferred to another vat, where white winemaking techniques will be used to make a rosé. This method tends to be used in cooler climate wine regions, such as Niagara.
As one would expect, this method involves adding a tiny amount of red wine to a white wine. It really doesn’t need a whole lot of red, usually no more than about 5%. This method is actually banned in the EU (except in Champagne).
Now that we’re done with the winemaking part, stay tuned for my Summer 2016 rosé wining recommendations in part 2!