PARIS, July 1 ― Consumption of rosé wine is on the rise, estimated at 23.6 million hectoliters worldwide in 2019. But alongside quantity, the quality of these wines has improved considerably. And France is leading the way in high-end rosé, according to the latest Observatoire Mondial du Rosé report. As such, there's clearly no reason to look down on the pink stuff as a downmarket wine.
The making of rosé is much more complex than it seems. For starters, let's get one thing clear: rosé is not red wine mixed with white wine. That technique is actually forbidden by law in France (with the exception of rosé champagne, for which it is permitted to mix a white Chardonnay with a Pinot Noir). Either black grapes with white flesh are pressed to obtain a very clear liquid, like with a Provençal rosé. Or winemakers let the skins of black grapes macerate in contact with the juice for a few hours before extracting the lightly tinted juice to continue the vinification process in another tank. The original vat would then go on to produce a red wine.
The complexities of making rosé
Beyond these manufacturing steps, other considerations reflect just to what extent rosé is a “technical” wine that's challenging to produce. Producers sometimes decide to harvest the grapes at the end of the night, before sunrise. This allows them to better regulate the temperature of the fruit, so that the grapes are not warm when they enter the winemaking cellar. Grapes heated by the sun's rays start their fermentation more quickly. That's why the winegrowers carefully judge, from one day to the next, the exact time at which they need to get up to start the harvest.
Indeed, temperature is a crucial factor to monitor for the success of a rosé wine. It's all a matter of vigilance and precision. When a wine ferments, it releases a lot of heat. It is thus necessary to check that the temperature does not soar, which would risk causing the rosé to lose its fruity taste and its freshness. As a general rule, winemakers are careful not to exceed 22°C. Different types of tools are used to achieve this ― including temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks ― so that the contents can be monitored and cooled at a glance. So, you might now understand ― in part ― why some rosé wines might lack a little length when it comes to tasting...
Wines to keep and age
Summer is the perfect time to enjoy rosé wine. However, there's no need to rush to empty the bottle because, contrary to popular belief, rosé wines that have been particularly carefully prepared during the winemaking process are suitable for aging. While it is recommended to drink a rosé within 12 months in order to take full advantage of the wine's inherent qualities ― namely its freshness ― some wines can be kept in a suitable cellar for two to three years.
Here, we're talking about rosés made from tannic grape varieties such as Syrah or Cabernet Franc (leaving aside the wines sold for a few euros in supermarkets). At the foot of the Sainte-Victoire mountain, in Provence, the prestigious Château Simone ― whose wines fall under the very small Palette appellation ― produces rosé wines that can be kept for up to 10 years! But this level of quality inevitably comes at a price: about €40, in fact. This type of rosé is part of a new category that tends to be more highly regarded, often referred to as “gastronomic” rosés. In short, these are rosé wines that are no longer limited to pre-dinner drinks, but which are stepping up to the table in carefully crafted food-and-wine pairings. ― ETX Studio