5 Lesser Known Facts about Rosé
Rosé is one of the most aesthetically beautiful styles of wine while simultaneously being one of the most versatile styles of wine. When rosé began reemerging on the international scene in the early 2000s, it was quickly embraced and just a decade later, was a way of life - with dedicated museums, clothing, and catch phrases. #roseallday (and even the ‘shaking my head’ #brosé).
Here are five lesser known facts about this gorgeous blossom in a glass!
The first ‘rosé’ wine was likely made from Rkatsiteli Vardisperi grapes and originated in Georgia. Not to be confused with the US state, Georgia is a country between Eastern Europe and Western Asia. Its winemaking history dates back about 8,000 years and it considered by many to be the birthplace of wine. Rkatsiteli is a white grape that grows particularly well in Georgia and the surrounding areas and it contains notes of green apples, quince, and just-ripe peach. Rkatsiteli Vardisperi is a pink skinned clone of the grape. Most ancient wines were probably pink (rosé) or orange colored since early winemakers had yet to develop modern techniques that encourage color extraction, and because wine was likely made of field blends that vinified red and white grapes together. So for those calling rosé a ‘craze’ - maybe we’re just coming full circle.
Rosé in its modern form was developed in France. When you think rosé, you likely think Provence, and rightly so, since that is where modern-day rosé got its start. With Domaine Ott* to be exact. Marcel Ott arrived in Provence in the late 1800’s and deemed the area perfect for rosé wine even though the style was far from appreciated at the time. He replanted phylloxera-ravaged vineyards with high quality grapes such as grenache, syrah, and cinsault, and his son René designed the distinctively shaped Ott bottle. Today the Louis Roederer Champagne corporation runs Domain Ott while Marcel’s great great GREAT grandsons stick to winemaking.
There are several ways to make rosé. A lot of people think rose wine is just a mix of red and white wine. While blending is a method for making rosé, it’s not that simple. Methods include:
Blending/co-fermentation/lees - Red and white wines are created differently and these differences do not necessarily allow the finished wines to easily mix well together, but it does happen. Rosé Champagne is made by adding small amounts of red wine to white. Some wineries co-ferment red and white grapes, meaning they undergo fermentation together, and some wineries use the lees (dead yeast cells) from white wine to fermenting red juice in order to absorb some of the color.
Direct Press - Red grapes can be slowly and gently pressed to allow the juice to absorb color from the skins as it runs off. This press would be very gentle to avoid astringent notes in the wine.
Maceration - In this method, grapes are crushed, and then the juice soaks up color and tannins from the skins. The amount of time juice stays in contact with the skins generally varies from hours to a day.
Saignée - This is known as ‘bleeding off’ : winemakers crush red grapes and bleed off a bit of the juice from the crushed grapes after it sits on its skins for a short while, allowing it to absorb some color and tannin but not fully develop into red wine (which is what the juice left behind does).
Paler doesn’t mean ‘better’. Shade and hue matter more in rosé than in red or white wine when it comes to consumer perception. Studies and purchasing patterns have shown that many Americans associate a paler rosé with higher quality and less sweetness (and presumably less of a hangover). Spanish rosados are typically a deeper, brighter pink than Provence-styles, promoting more than one American portfolio manager to request lighter colored rosés for their particular market. This is changing though, as the versatility of rosé is embraced, as well as more acceptance for its year-round style - particularly regarding some of the deeper colored styles.
Chateau d’Esclans makes the world’s most expensive bottle of rosé: At about $105 (or 80 euro) Makers of the ubiquitous Whispering Angel also make a higher end line called ‘Garrus’ and most of production stays in Provence and is consumed along the Riviera. Oooh lala.
Rosé is no longer a fad - not that it ever was - and it’s not going away. We like to associate its rise to the Natural Wine Movement , with which we see a lot of similarities. We’ll explore that topic in a later article, but in the meantime, here’s to happy (and educated) drinking!!