Rosé Wine Production
Rosé wine production has numerous steps in common with red and white wine production, though has its own distinct techniques too. Understanding the basics of rosé wine production is worthwhile in yachting, particularly given the popularity of ultra-premium rosé wines from the Côte de Provence.
Rosé wine is derived from red wine grapes, which are harvested and brought to the winery as normal. Here, the grapes are destemmed and crushed, and then will undergo maceration, pressing or other technique depending on the overall production method being used. Four such methods are explained in greater detail below. Alcoholic fermentation usually takes place in large vessels of stainless steel, wood or concrete. Fermentation can last between eight and fifteen days. Most rosé wine is allowed to complete its fermentation naturally and is thus bone dry. Some more inexpensive rosé wines are known to have some residual sugar, such as branded White Zinfandel from California intended for mass market consumption. The majority of higher end rosé, which is of interest to the yachting industry, will be dry.
Most rosé is made to be enjoyed young and fresh, immediately upon release. Oak ageing is very rare, though not unheard of. We will now outline four common methods for producing rosé wine.
Direct pressing is a technique where black grapes are pressed, as in the production of white wine. Gently pressed, the grapes will give off a delicate colour, though the winemaker must take care not to extract excessive tannin. This action does not leave the red skins and clear juice in contact for any considerable length of time, hence the wine’s light colour. Immediately after pressing, the juice is removed and brought to the fermentation vessel, which is usually a large stainless steel tank. Direct pressing produces the lightest colour of all these techniques and is the most common method used in producing Provence rosé.
This technique is identical to red winemaking until alcoholic fermentation begins. After between 6 and 48 hours of maceration, the juice is drained or “drawn off” from the skins. The shorter the wine is in contact with the skins, the lighter the colour, and vice versa. Having been drawn off from the skins, the juice continues to ferment, at cool temperatures in order to keep its fresh fruit aromas and flavours.
Saignée, or bleeding, is a variation on the drawing off process. Again, maceration takes place, usually for between 2 and 20 hours. Here, however, only some of the juice is drawn off – the rest stays with the skins in order to produce a red wine. The primary focus is to make a highly-concentrated red wine, with the rosé something of a by-product. As the red is the priority, the winemaker will tend to select grape varieties that are suited to red wine as opposed to rosé, and thus rosé made using the saignée technique may not be as good as rosé made from purpose-grown rosé grapes.
This relatively simple method involves blending a small amount of red wine into a white wine, thus producing a hybrid wine of a pink colour. With the exception of pink Champagne, this technique is not permitted in the EU and is mostly used in inexpensive New World wines.