Monday, April 25, 2011

The Rise of Rosé

       There's a wine joke that goes something like… "The first duty of a fine wine is to be red." This type of humor won't necessarily go a long way in scoring you a spot on Last Comic Standing, but it does indicate that most wine drinkers possess a color bias. It appears that the hierarchy favors reds followed by whites with rosés falling somewhere near the bottom of the heap. Such a categorization is nonsense as a wine should be judged solely on its color no more than a book by its cover. To write off all rosés would be to miss out on some of the most stunning values in the world of wine, not to mention tons of sipping pleasure.

       Historically, rosés tended to be dry and delicate (as opposed to something sweet like a White Zinfandel). A wine like Chateau Penin Bordeaux Rosé exemplifies a style once very common in France. In fact, the British term "claret," essentially a synonym for Bordeaux, grew out of the root "clairet" which meant rosé.

       Wikipedia summarizes the historical evolution of rosés as such: "After the Second World War, there was a fashion for medium-sweet rosés for mass-market consumption, the classic examples being Mateus Rosé and the American 'blush' wines of the 1970's. The pendulum now seems to be swinging back towards a drier, 'bigger' style. These wines are made from Rhone grapes like Syrah, Grenache and Carignan in hotter regions such as Provence, the Languedoc and Australia." Nowadays, there seems to be a proliferation of rosés made from unique, indigenous varieties such as Nerello Mascalese or Marzemino.

       Rosés tend to be made in one of three ways: skin contact, saignée or blending. Skin contact simply means letting the unfermented grape juice, or must, of black-skinned grapes remain in contact with the grape skins for a short period (anywhere from eight hours to two or three days). With few exceptions the juice of most grapes is clear, or white. Extended skin contact during the winemaking process results in a red wine, while a short period of skin contact will yield a rosé. With skin contact, the skins are removed once the desired color has been obtained.
       The saignée method works using the same principle though in a different way. Sometimes referred to as “bleeding,” the saignée method is a way of crafting a rosé as a by-product of red wine. It works as follows: A winemaker will go about producing his or her red by allowing the grape juice to come in contact with the grape skins so as to exact color and tannin. In order to increase the ratio of skins to juice (and thus end up with a more concentrated red), the winemaker will “bleed” off some rosé from the vat. Skin contact and the saignée method are the most common way making rosés.
       The third and least common way of making rosé is simply to blend white and red wines together. Perhaps, surprisingly, this method isn't all that common, though every now and then one can locate a wine that's been produced this way like the rosé blend of Agiorgitiko and Moschofilero from Domaine Skouras. Regardless of how your rosé has been made, it is a category of wine well worth exploring.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

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