Rosé wine is the winner of the past decade. We are drinking more and more of it, waiting almost as much for it as we are waiting for summer. We love it! Becoming popular has also had the impact to improved its quality, as the days of the cheap’n harsh Château Migraine seem to be far away. In fact, rosé is now considered as being a real wine and not anymore as some kind of hybrid looking for its personality somewhere between red and white wine.
There are several great rosé regions in France: The Loire and its sometimes sweet wines made of Cabernet franc and Gamay, Provence with its straight wines made from Mourvèdre and Tibouren noir, the Grenache based rosés from the Rhone Valley, with the king of rosé coming from Tavel, the great Languedoc region with its Mediterranean rosés made of Syrah, Cinsault, Grenache, Carignan…
Concerning the production process of rosé, there are two traditional schools of wine making, which may complement one another: Rosé made by direct pressing of the grapes, and rosé de saignée (the French word literally means bleeding). For the first methodology, the red grapes are destemmed and directly pressed after harvest. The wines made this way are mostly light coloured. But finally colour not only depends of the wine making process, but is also strongly influenced by the grape variety and the ripeness of the berries. After pressing, the must will be fermented like white wine at low temperatures.
For a saignée rosé there is no pressing. Grapes are destemmed and slightly crushed, before being put in a tank and cooled down. After several hours of skin maceration, 10% to 20% of the must is removed into another tank. The removed juice will be fermented to rosé wine, whereas the remaining grapes in the first tank will be fermented to red wine. We generally agree that the longer the skin contact between the juice and the grapes, the deeper its colour. But like in the case of direct pressing, the influence of grape variety and ripeness on colour remains high.
These two wine-making methods lead to different types of wine. Direct pressing mostly gives a lightly coloured, straight and fresh rosé, whereas the saignée way results in deeply coloured, mellow and stronger wines. Of course, you may also use both ways to produce a wine, directly pressing one part of the harvest and using the saignée process for another. You only have to be sure that the process you choose suits to the grapes and the type of wine you want to make.
The cuvee Tradition from Pierre Cros from the Minervois is a good example for this. Made of four different grape varieties, Pierre uses both methods on different varieties: Direct pressing of Grenache and Mourvèdre makes his wine straight and fresh, whereas the saignée of Syrah and Cinsault juices make it smooth and mellow. Lightly coloured, his rosé has a powerful nose of strawberries and raspberries, with hints of lemon peel and mint. On the palate, it’s light and fresh, showing some light tannin on the final. Served at the right temperature (10 to 12 °C or 50 to 53 °F), it’s the perfect wine for your aperitif, for a lunch on the terrace or for grilled fish and seafood. To cut a long story short – it’s perfect company for your summer days and nights!