The Sunshine Tipple
Ten or so days of consistent sunshine and heat! Is everyone ok? Everyone remember their sun-cream? I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced such consistently glorious weather in this country and I hope everyone has made the most of it. Now, weather such as this only calls for one thing, and post a wee trip looking at the gannets and puffins of Bass Rock, that thing was a cold glass of Rosé.
The minute the sun starts to shine and summer breaks, this pink wine becomes a staple of any party, bbq or boozy picnic and who would protest? It’s appeasing colour, the red fruit flavours and delicate floral aromas; it is summer in a glass and I often get asked how it gets made with a lot presuming it is just a blend of red and white wine together. It is not quite that simple – I am not sure you’d get quite the same affect as Provence Rose by buying a bottle of red and white and lobbing them in to a bucket with a handful of ice. Now there are actually three ways to make a Rosé but the most common method is pretty similar to red wine production. This is called the maceration method which involves leaving the grape skins in contact with the juice once the grapes have been pressed. The colour pigments from the skin diffuse into the juice. Now the length of time of time you leave the skins in contact with the juice determines how deep the colour of the wine will be. With lighter coloured rosés, such as those from Provence and Côte du Rhône, they are left for a short time (between 2-12 hours) whereas darker rosés such as those that come out of South Africa and Spain can be left for up to 36hours.
Now the other two methods are not used as much as the maceration method. The Saignee (pronounced San-yay) Method, involves removing, or ‘bleeding’, a portion of juice from a red wine being produced after it has been on it’s skins for a short period of time. This increases the concentration of the red wine while also producing a lovely little rosé. This is often seen in Sonoma and Napa with the wines taking a darker salmon or red rose petal colour.
The final method is the Blending Method, commonly used to produced Rosé Champagnes and other Sparkling Wines and it is as simple as whacking a bottle of red and white into a bucket. Ok, maybe not that simple; there is a fine art to it that involves adding a tiny portion of red wine to the blend of a white wine creating a lovely pink hue. Obviously the amount of red wine determines how dark the final colour is but as most producers want to keep the elegance that Sparkling Wine is known for, it is never more than 10% of the blend.
So that is rosé production, but the second thing I get asked regularly this time of year and especially when I am up-selling a darker rose is “is it sweet?” The answer is almost always “no” but I understand the question; darker coloured rosé has always caused the question of sweetness to arise because of the Californian White Zinfandel. Now, I wouldn’t usually recommend this wine but I see its purpose in the wine world – it is easy drinking, fresh fruited, sweet and has a reputation of being a regular for day-drinking and partying youths, and why wouldn’t it be? With that in mind, I can understand why I get the same queries regarding the sweetness levels of a darker rosé and why there is such a fondness for the pale, floral, delicate rose’s of the Côte du Rhône and Provence. These are always safe bets when rosé is on one’s mind but I am here to say, don’t be scared of the darker options: A juicy, strawberry and peach Tempranillo rose from Spain; a crisp, refreshing with vibrant fruit Chiaretto from Italy; a fuller, rich and spicy Pinotage rose from South Africa; all of these are fantastic alternatives to enjoy in the sunshine… or at least before the rains come.