Can We Please Talk About The Colour of Rosé

Can We Please Talk About The Colour of Rosé

Open a bottle of Rosé, and inevitably there’s a chat about its colour. The very sight of it conjures so much - holidays, sunshine, and maybe even the romance of the south of France. Currently the words ‘pale’ followed by ‘dry’ are on everyone’s lips when it comes to choosing it. Which has prompted us to want to have a chat about the varied colours of the pink drink. 

There are a couple of myths we’d like to dispel straight up. The first is that a darker, fuller coloured Rosé is going to be sweeter. How dry or sweet it is is not determined by the depth of colour. The second myth is that pale Rosé is somehow better quality. Fuller coloured styles have their time and place just as much as paler styles, and they are in no way inferior. So don’t limit yourself, there’s great drinking to be found in a wide range of Rosé styles. Read on for a deeper dive into drinking it, including some of our favourites, and if you want to know more about the production of Rosé. 

A Deeper Dive into Drinking Rosé 

We love that those pale, dry French styles bring refreshment, without overt fruitiness. Sometimes they’re thoughtless and quaffy (this French fav fits that bill). But they can be wines of real elegance and sophistication, like La Source Gabriel from the Côte de Provence. We can’t help but think of long lunches with Caprese salad, salmon gravlax, and grilled calamari.

And then there’s darker styles. If we were to sum them up we’d say they just bring more to the party. Locally we love Three Fates, Alpine Wine Co. and Melange for that reason. Wines like these bring a bolder character, more forward fruit, and sometimes pepper, smoke or herbal complexities. They can also have more tannic grip, often as a result of a longer skin contact. The dry firmness of these wines is really satisfying to taste. As they edge closer to being red wine (A Thousand Gods Love Letters gets real close), they become super friendly with charcuterie and whatever meat is grilling on the barbie. 

Like all wine choices, it really is a matter of staying open minded to different things, and choosing a time and place to best enjoy particular wines.

A Deeper Dive into Making Rosé

Rosé is produced from red grapes (technically they’re pretty black in colour by the time they’re harvested). The great thing about it is that Rosé can be made from almost any red grape variety, and from anywhere that grows them.

It’s basically red winemaking cut short. The colour of red wine comes from the skins being in contact with the juice. Once picked and usually crushed, this happens in conjunction with the fermentation of grape sugars into alcohol. Alcohol aids the extraction of colour, flavour and tannin from the skins. To make Rosé, the length of this maceration is kept to a minimum. It could be not at all, it could be a couple of hours, or days. The longer the skin contact, the more colour, tannin and flavour is extracted - like making a cup of tea. The fermentation of the juice starts/continues after the juice is pressed off the skins, turning all the grape sugars into alcohol.

Rosé can be grown ‘intentionally’ where the grapes are picked specifically for the production of Rosé. Or by bleeding juice off from the production of red wine, which also concentrates the juice to skin ratio of the resulting red wine. This is known as the ‘Saignee’ method.

Like all winemaking, it’s all about the vineyard first and foremost. Rosé is made in wine regions all over the world, but you might have observed that it's notably produced in warm climates like the south of France. This is where robust, heat friendly grape varieties produce robust reds. It’s also where the temperatures are too warm for a lot of white grape varieties. So the resourceful local alternative for refreshment is Rosé. Early picking ensures not too much colour and tannin develops in the skins. But as noted, whether a region is warm or cool, if red grape varieties are grown there, you’ll generally find Rosé being made. 

The grape varieties used reflect the varieties grown in a region for red wine production. Most Rosés from the south of France are predominant in Grenache with Cinsault and Mourvedre, because they are the local varieties of great wines like Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Sangiovese, grown for reds like Chianti, is a favourite in Tuscany. Pinot Noir is a natural choice in New Zealand. It also makes sense that thicker skinned varieties throw more colour - like Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah for example. Whereas thinner skinned varieties like Pinot Noir don’t throw as much colour in the resulting Rosé. So before any actual wine making decisions are made, grape variety is a big consideration. 

With many factors contributing to the style of a Rosé, it’s actually a very considered, thoughtful process by those producers who take it seriously. We’re aware there’s a lot of commercial, average Rosé out there, but it's definitely worth seeking out great examples from the great producers, of which there are many too.