A symbol of celebration and conviviality, rosé can be enjoyed all year round. Do you know which grapes are at the origin of this much appreciated wine? Vinatis introduces you to the essential grape varieties for the vinification of rosé wines.
Contrary to popular belief, rosé wine is certainly not a blend of white and red wine! Most rosé wines have little or no contact with the skin of the grapes, also called maceration. They are made from black grapes with white juice and directly pressed. This is why they have a slight pinkish tinge, unlike white wines which are made from white-skinned grapes with white juice.
The grape varieties used to make rosé wines are very numerous and are not specific to this type of vinification, since they are also used to make red wines. However, some varieties are more suitable than others for making rosé wine.
Widely used varieties:
Lesser used grapes :
Maceration: this method is similar to the production of red wine. Indeed, the juice is macerated with the skins and the seeds of the grapes, but it lasts much less time than when making red wine. These rosé wines have more power and a fairly deep colour.
Saignée method: rosé made with this method is considered a by-product of making red wine as the primary purpose is to increase the concentration of colour and aromas in red wine. The grapes are placed in a maceration tank up to 48 hours. The juice is then drained from the bottom of the tank once the wanted colour and aromas are obtained. You can understand why the method is called "saignée" or "bleeding", since it is a little like bleeding the wine from its fermentation process early to create a rosé wine that is darker in colour, fuller-bodied and more concentrated than the rosé wines made with direct pressing. These wines are well suited to gastronomy.
Direct pressing: the grapes are directly crushed and pressed in the same way as making white wine. These rosé wines are very pale in colour with light body and delicate fruit aromas.
Among the directly pressed rosé wines, we find the vin gris, the palest of the rosé wines. Produced from grapes with black skins and white flesh, vin gris has the particularity of being the result of direct pressing, with almost zero skin contact. With very low tannins the wine is not suitable for ageing. The best known regions in France for vin gris are: Gris de Toul in Moselle, the Sables de Camargue with the famous Listel appellation and the Loire Valley with the Châteaumeillant, Coteaux du Vendômois and Touraine Noble-Joué appellations.
At the end of January 2009, the European Union, including France, adopted a draft regulation allowing blends of red and white wine to be called "rosé". The current controversy surrounding the blending of red and white wine to make rosé wine allows producers to insist on the technical specificities of rosé wine. Indeed, rosé wine is neither a white wine, nor a red wine, nor a mixture of white and red wine because it has a specific method of production. Offering a rosé wine without the specific aroma and taste may therefore disappoint the consumer. In France, only one appellation authorises the blending of red and white wines to obtain a rosé and that is Champagne. It is therefore possible to blend Chardonnay wines with Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier wines to make a Rosé Champagne.
The range of colours in rosé wine is relatively wide and varies according to the grape variety, the maceration and the ageing of the wine. It is the colour of the grape skin, the tannins and the maceration time that will define the colour and aromas of the wine. Even if the colour of the rosé wine does not guarantee its quality, it does allow us to recognise the production method and the origin. There is a multitude of colours for rosé wines, which can be found in a very complete colour chart: pale pink, sand, redcurrant, mango, peach, salmon, raspberry, garnet, lychee, coral, cherry, etc... For example, a light colour will give a light rosé wine with low tannins, a taste of exotic fruits and floral notes. This is the case for most rosé wines from Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. A dark colour, on the other hand, will offer a wine with more structure and a stronger taste, with notes of red and black fruit. While the colour of a rosé wine does not necessarily indicate its quality or alcohol content, it can be a good indicator of its aromas and taste!
Almost all French wine regions now produce rosé wine. Rosé wines differ with markedly different styles according to their appellations, grape varieties, climates and winemaking methods. Here is a short tour of the French rosé regions, their main grape varieties and the most famous appellations.
Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur is the star region for rosé wines and remains the leading producer in France. It is home of the famous appellations such as Côtes de Provence AOC, Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence AOC and Coteaux Varoix AOC. Also the most prestigious domaines can be found in Provence, such as Miraval or Minuty, as well as Château de Pibarnon, Saint André de Figuière, Domaine de Valdition or Sainte Marguerite. As far as grape varieties are concerned, the famous Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Mourvèdre and Carignan have pride of place. The rosé wines of this region are appreciated for their delicate colour and intense fruitiness.
The Rhone Valley is also a reference in terms of rosé and gives birth to many wines of great renown. The main appellations of the Rhône Valley are : Côtes du Rhône, Costières de Nîmes, Coteaux de Tricastin, Lirac, Côtes du Lubéron, Côtes du Ventoux, Vacqueyras, Gigondas, and of course, the famous Tavel which is a 100% Rosé appellation. The grape varieties used to produce these quality rosé wines are Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Carignan. These wines seduce with their balance of flavours between sweetness and fruitiness.
On the Island of Beauty, the rosé wines are of high quality and generally have deep colours, accompanied by aromas of acidulous fruits. They are surprisingly fresh and well-balanced. The main grape varieties used in the composition of rosé wines are typical of Corsica: Vermentinu, Niellucio, Sciacarello. The rosé wines of Corsica are promoted through numerous AOCs: Ajaccio, Patrimonio, Vin de Corse-Coteaux du Cap Corse, Vin de Corse-Calvi, Vin de Corse-Porto-Vecchio, Vin de Corse-Figari and Vin de Corse-Sartène.
The region produces rosé wines that are constantly improving in quality. The rosé wines of Languedoc-Roussillon are made from Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvèdre, Syrah and Carignan grapes. These grape varieties, among the most renowned, give rosé wines of character, with complex and fruity aromas that can be found in various appellations: Coteaux du Languedoc, Faugères, Saint-Chinian, Corbières, Minervois or Côtes de Roussillon.
The rosé wines of the South-West region seduce with their beautiful pink colour, their minerality and their balance between sweet and fruity flavours. The main grape varieties used to produce these quality rosés are: Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet-Sauvignon and Cabernet-Franc. The South-West region, known in particular for its numerous appellations such as Côtes de Gascogne IGP, Irouléguy, Bergerac, Côtes de Duras, Buzet, Côtes du Marmandais, Gaillac, Côtes du Frontonnais or Marcillac.
The rosé wines of the North-East are located in different wine-growing areas which include Alsace, Lorraine, Champagne, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Jura and Savoy. Pinot Noir, the flagship grape variety of Burgundy, Lorraine, Champagne and Alsace, is used to make pale, delicate rosé wines. In Beaujolais, it is the Gamay that expresses itself through light, fruity and lively rosés.
This wine-producing part of France includes the Loire Valley, the Nantes region and Touraine. This region offers quality wines with the AOC Rosé de Loire or the AOC Touraine for example. In terms of grape varieties, Cabernet-Franc and Cabernet-Sauvignon have pride of place. We also find Malbec for the Rosé d'Anjou, Gamay and Pineau d'Aunis, renowned in Nantes, and Grolleau Noir and Grolleau Gris, which are more Loirean.