Rosé is French for pink, but that term reveals as much about the wine category as “white” does about white wine or “red” about red. Rosé wines vary in hue from the lightest blush through salmon orange all the way to watermelon red. They’re made from all kinds of grapes, from the Rhône varietals of cinsault – grenache,mourvèdre, and syrah to merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon,malbec, pinot noir, and even pinot grigio — a white grape with some pink pigment in its skins.
Geographically, rosé is made anywhere in the world that wine is made — northern France (Anjou, Chinon, Touraine, Sancerre, etc.), southern France (Provence, the Languedoc and Roussillon), almost every part of Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Northern and Central California, Washington State, Australia, South America, and more.
Rosé can be made in a number of ways, even the often joked about method of just mixing some red and white wine. Local regulations in Europe generally dictate the method of production precisely and insist on more sophisticated winemaking techniques.
A key thing about redness in wine is that virtually all of the 1000-plus grapes used in winemaking have white (clear) juice. The color comes from the skins. Therefore, with the unusual exception of the rosé or pinot grigio below, red (skinned) grapes must be used somewhere in the production process.
The color of rosé or red wine is from skin color leaching into the juice during the cold soak or maceration after the grapes are harvested and during fermentation. One way to make rosé is to remove the skins at the point at which the wine is left pink. A second method, common in France, is saignée. Here the juice is allowed to soak for some time with the skins to extract some color but then some of the liquid is bled off (saignée means “bleeding”), leaving the skins behind. The juice left behind becomes a darker red wine. The juice bled off becomes rosé.
Rosé is on a sales tear. In the U.S., sales are growing at over 10 percent a year. In France, rosé outsells white wine. Far from being the niche product popular with female wine drinkers, or a wine thought of as a minor offering suitable for summertime barbecues, that it used to be, rosé has gone mainstream.
Take a look at 10 rosés we suggest for the fall.