Ever Wonder How Rosé is Made?


Spring-time is a great time to start enjoying Rosé. It’s bright fruit flavors and wonderful acidity makes a nice chilled rosé very thirst quenching. And its bright pink hue just seems to go with all the beautiful blooms of the season. But, you may wonder how the color of this wine is achieved.

Rosé is made from red wine grapes.  But, it's made in the traditional white wine making process. Hence, the process can be a bit confusing. 

So, first, realize that all juice from wine grapes, whether from red grapes or white grape, is nearly clear. And, all the color in a finished wine comes from the skin of the grapes, not from the juice.

With that in mind, rosé wines are made in a couple different ways.

Maceration is the most common method used. The word 'Maceration' literally means to soften by soaking. And in the case of rosé production, it means to allow the grape skins to soak in the grape's juice. For rosé, the red wine grape skins spend limited time (2-24 hours) soaking with the juice. Just enough to give it its pink color.

The Saignèe ("San-yay") method allows the grapes to be crushed under their own weight and the 'free run' juice is collected.  Since this juice spends such little time in contact with the red grape skins, the resulting color is light pink.

Regardless of the method used, rosés can be dry or sweet. Typically, rosés with alcohol levels around 8 or 9 percent are going to be quite sweet.  In the 11 to 12 percent range, they will be mid-range between sweet and dry. And, above 12 percent it's going to be dry. So, check the label. The alcohol level must always be shown.

And, remember, with rosé wines they should be enjoyed young (within two years of its vintage) while they still have their bright fruit flavors and crisp acidity, and they should be served cold.

How to Pick the Right Sweetness of a Champagne or Sparkling Wine

Glasses of Champagne.jpg

The wine world is confusing enough. Then, you find yourself standing on the wine aisle trying to figure out what the different styles of Champagne and sparkling wine mean. And, it’s not straight forward.

Champagne and most sparkling wines will have words on their labels to indicate their sweetness level.

So, here’s your quick guide for choosing the one that best fits your palate:

Brut Nature - This style is bone dry. It has little or no sugar content (0–3 g/L sugar).

Extra Brut This style is also bone dry but, it can have up to twice the sugar level of Brut Nature (0–6 g/L sugar). But, this little bit of sweetness creates a wonderful balance with Champagne’s naturally high acidity.

Brut This is the most common style. While considered “Dry” this style can have twice the sugar of Extra Brut (0–12 g/L sugar).

Extra Dry This is the one that always confuses people. This style is sweeter which actually makes it also taste a bit Fruity (12–17 g/L sugar).

Dry The confusing continues. This style is getting up there in sweetness (17–32 g/L sugar).

Demi-Sec Now you’re talking Sweet (32–50 g/L sugar). This style works well with desserts or cheeses.

Doux This one, while very rare to find, is SWEET (50+ g/L sugar).

Looking for a Sweet Champagne Can Be a Bit Confusing

Champagne is a great drink. It's most often consumed in times of celebration. Champagne and joy naturally go together. But "Champagne" is often misunderstood. And splurging on a $100 bottle may result in disappointment.

First, let's take a step back. Champagne is a sparkling wine that is produced in the relatively small region of Champagne in France. Only those sparkling wines produced in this region are allowed to be labeled as 'Champagne.' 

There are also multiple styles of Champagne produced. It is most common to find Brut, Dry and Extra Dry Champagnes on store shelves.  These styles have a direct correlation with the amount of residual sugar (RS) in them. For those seeking a sweet Champagne, you're going to want to look for 'Dry' Champagne. This is a bit confusing since a dry wine typically has little or no residual sugar and will have no sweetness to it. But, in Champagnes, 'Dry' means that there can be 17% to 35% RS and be quite sweet on your tongue.

Here are all the styles of Champagne that are produced:

  • Extra Brut: 0-6% RS
  • Brut: 0-15% RS
  • Extra Dry: 12-20% RS
  • Dry: 17-35% RS
  • Demi Sec: 35-50% RS
  • Doux: Greater than 50% RS

So if you are looking for a sweet Champagne, look for the 'Dry,' 'Demi Sec,' or 'Doux' designations on the label.

Here's to raising a glass of Champagne at your next joyous occasion. Cheers!



What is a Dry Wine?

You may have heard or even used the phrase regarding the preference for a dry wine.  But what does that really mean?  The problem is that the term gets used in a couple different ways.

When referring to a dry wine, a lot of people are referring to the way that it tastes or the sensation that the wine produces in their mouth.  But 'dry' can also refer to the amount of sugar in the wine.

Ok, so what then is a 'dry' wine? Well, most wines are technically dry.  That is, during the fermentation process, the yeast is allowed to consume all the natural sugar in the juice of the grape and convert it into alcohol. Thus, dry wines actually contain no sugar.  But, if the fermentation process is interrupted before the natural sugars are converted to alcohol, then you end up with a wine that has a residual sugar level greater than zero.  So these wines are 'sweet' which is, in wine parlance, the opposite of 'dry.'

And while we'll save an in-depth discussion of residual sugar for a future posting, there are certainly winemakers that produce wines with some sweetness by interrupting the fermentation process. And these wines are highly popular.

What about wines that dry out your mouth when you drink them? Aren't they dry wines? Well, technically no.  The sensation of dryness in the  mouth is actually the result of tannic compounds in the wine or 'the tannin.'  Tannins are naturally produced from the skin and seed of the grape. And these tannic compounds in grapes are the same ones that are experienced when drinking a strong cup of tea or when eating nuts such as walnuts.  They can yield the same effect; a drying sensation in the mouth. But this is not what makes a 'dry' wine.

So the next time you or someone you know uses the term 'dry' when speaking of wine, ensure that you clarify what is meant by the term.  Otherwise, it can result in very different wines. Cheers!