1. How to make rosé wine
The very first wines ever made were apparently rosés, before white or red wine was invented. Crafting a balanced rosé is a delicate process; only a master can strike the proper balance of fruit and aroma, and the appropriate touch of tannin. Selecting the proper parcels to make a rosé is also crucial.
Grapes destined for rosé are destemmed and crushed. There are then two options: the crushed grapes may be macerated, a process known as saignée, or they may be pressed, the former being the more common technique for modern rosés.
If the grapes are macerated, the grape solids and must (unfermented juice) are placed in a vat together, where they will stay no more than a few hours, at a low temperature. This step is essential to the character of the wine; it is important not to extract too much tannin, which would result in a texture more appropriate to red wine, which is made from the same grapes. The color in the red grape skins gives the juice its pinkish color. After maceration the grapes are pressed, or a special vat is used that allows most of the liquid to drain off. Rosés that undergo maceration generally have a relatively deep pink color.
Direct press is currently the most popular style of rosé on the market, for its lighter color and brighter flavors. These wines are produced by pressing the grapes immediately rather than allowing them to macerate on the skins.
The juice obtained either from direct pressing or from a brief maceration is left in vat to allow the solids to settle, then the clear juice is drawn off the solids. The clear must then undergoes alcoholic fermentation. Before bottling, the wine will undergo a short period of maturation known as élevage, during which it will be subjected to a number of tests of its quality and character.
2. Red and white do not equal rosé!
The assumption that rosé is made by blending red and white wines is happily uncommon today. Nevertheless, under pressure from certain manufacturers the European Union adopted a project—which, thankfully, has since been dropped—to authorize the name of rosé wine for these blends, which are allowed in Australia and South Africa. Most European winegrowers are vehemently opposed to this rule, having worked so hard to improve the quality of rosé wine over more than a decade. It is clear that rosés made from a blend of red and white are merely a way to dress up poor quality wines in a prettier package.
The great exception to this rule is Champagne, where, for instance, Chardonnay may be blended with Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier to make rosé Champagne. This is permitted because the blended wine undergoes a special fermentation used to create bubbles, so the resulting sparkling wine is not simply a blend of wines but rather a single wine that has been vinified as such.
3. Grape varieties, regions, and famous rosé wines
The same varieties used to make red wine are also used to make rosé, whose pink color comes not from a particular kind of grape but from a specific style of vinification. The great rosé production of Provence is made mainly from Tibouren, Carignan, Grenache Noir, Cinsault, Syrah, and Mourvèdre.
About three quarters of French rosé is from Provence, with the most famous wines coming from the appellations of Bandol and Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence. Among the very best rosés are those of Château d'Esclans, Château Pibarnon, Domaine d'Ott, and Château Bellet.
Corsica also produces excellent rosés, as do certain other French wine regions that are, however, less widely known for this type of wine, such as Bordeaux, Anjou and others in the Loire Valley, and Tavel in the Rhône Valley.
4. Pairing food with rosé
Rosé is a festive wine that makes a lovely aperitif when served chilled and can accompany hot or cold appetizers. It may also be served with a single-course meal or with grilled meat. However, some of the more complex rosés pair beautifully with fish like red mullet and more elaborate dishes.