Making Rosé Wines

Rose Defined

A rosé is a pink wine, somewhere in the color spectrum between a white wine and a red wine. Various other terms are used. A “blush” wine is a rosé at the whiter end of the pink spectrum. Terms like “white Zinfandel” or “white Merlot” (i.e., “white” preceding the name of a black grape) also usually refer to a rosé wine. They are almost never truly “white.”

A rosé can also be defined as a wine made from black grapes in a white wine style.  Very little color or tannin is extracted in the maceration and the wines is made to be “fruity.” Rosés can be either table wines or “patio” wines with some residual sugar.

The BCAWA Handbook defines Rosés this way:

As an example of a rosé, the BCAWA Handbook gives only a southern Rhone wine (probably Grenache) with alcohol=12%, TA=5.5, pH=3.15 and only 0.1% sugar (SG=0.990). This is clearly a very dry wine, suitable for the table.

Ways of making rosé

There are several approaches to making a rose:

Not highly recommended

  1. Mix a small portion of red wine with white wine to make a pink wine. Except for pink champagne, this is not an approved method in any classic wine-making region. Normally, this approach does not produce the best kind of pink color.
  2. Strip some of the color and tannin out of a red wine This can be done using various techniques. However, unless a red wine has already been made in an aromatic style, this approach is not likely to produce the best kind of rose.
  3. Use any black grape of a quality that is not likely to produce a good red wine. Press off the juice soon after crushing (as one would with a white grape). Proceed as with making an aromatic white wine. However, a black grape that is not going to make a good red wine is probably not going to make a good rose either.

Recommended

  1. Use a normally lightly colored black grape and make a wine using techniques for aromatic white wines. Some skin contact is fine, but make no effort to enhance color. Grapes are pressed off fully. This is the method used in southern France and the Iberian Peninsula, often with Grenache. Some of the Central Valley California black grapes (often heavily irrigated with high tonnage per acre) would also work. Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Gamay Noir are possibilities from the Okanagan.
  2. When you also want to produce a more intense red, you can do this and produce a rose as a by-product.  You begin by "bleeding" some juice from a batch of freshly pressed good black grapes. This juice (which you remove early before it has picked up much color or tannin) can be made into a rose. The remaining juice is left in contact with what is now a higher-than-normal volume of skins, and this will produce a darker, richer red wine than would otherwise be the case. This is a favorite technique with Pinot Noir, which is often light colored but where getting more extract can produce a superior red wine.

Unfinished draft by Rod Church, March 2004