Rosés…the Colorful Wines of Summer

Photo by Christine Humphrey ©2012

With Memorial Day and summer fast approaching, wine retailers are featuring a vast selection of Rosé wines, not to be confused with the “Blush” American quaffing wines like White Zinfandel, made famous by Sutter Home in the 1970s.

Rosés are very popular in Europe in the summer, with an entire appellation in France’s southern Rhône, Tavel, producing only Rosé wines. Tavel_AOC.  They are made most frequently from the Rhône varietals of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Carignan. Burgundy’s Rosés are made from Pinot Noir, as shown above.  Further south in Beaujolais, they are made from the Gamay grape. Bordeaux makes Rosés from Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. France’s Loire Valley produces Cabernet D’Anjou, a Rosé  of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.

Rosés are commonly produced throughout both the Old and New Worlds, including the US.  California has been producing Rosé with many excellent offerings, especially on the Central Coast, where Rhône grape varietals are the stars. But our domestic Rosés are also made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec or most red grape varietals. Rosés are an efficient way for a winemaker to use leftover red grapes, especially in a “bumper crop” year.

Photo by Christine Humphrey ©2012

Rosés can be made two ways, either by skin contact, where the dark skins are left in with the juice for up to a few days, or by the saignée technique, when the grapes are “bled” as a by-product of red wine fermentation, with the pink juice removed and fermented separately for Rosé production.  Blending white and red juice is NOT done to make Rosé, and is actually forbidden in France.

Colors for Rosés range from a pale pink to salmon to pale orange. Rosé wines can be still, semi-sparkling or sparkling, are light (not tannic), fresh “drink now” wines…perfect for a summer BBQ. Prices are generally under $20 per bottle.

Check out Rosés at your local wine retailer…they will be the ones showing their true, beautiful colors!

Until next time…à votre santé!

© 2012 by Christine Humphrey




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  • Cathy Henton
    20 May, 2012 at 21:11

    Here in the Loire we also make rosé using ‘pressurage direct’. This is where whole bunches of perfect black grapes are put straight into the press. They have a tiny bit of maceration in the press and so have a wonderful delicate pink colour – on the whole much lighter than when macerated or saignée. The quantity of juice when pressing whole bunches is less than when pressing destemmed grapes so the quality is high and retains it’s elegant fruity aromas. Our favourite rosé this year is a Chinon from Domaine de la Noblaie. It’s also under screwcap – unusual for a Loire valley wine but perfect for those summer days and picnics.

    • Christine Humphrey
      20 May, 2012 at 21:22

      Very interesting, Cathy! Thank you for your comment….