Ever Wonder How Rosé is Made?

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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 Lees & Battonage Are Used in Wine Making

A couple of weeks ago, I reviewed a Sauvignon Blanc from Chile. The tech sheet that came with it described how the wine was made including the terms 'maceration,' 'lees,' and 'battonage.'  We took a brief look at 'maceration' last time where, simply put, it is a term for allowing the grape skins, seeds and stems to soak in the juice (the must) either prior to fermentation or during fermentation.

After the yeast does its job during fermentation by 'eating' the natural sugar in the must and transforming it to alcohol, fermentation is complete and the yeast dies. These dead yeast cells that remain in the wine, along with bits of grape seeds and solids, are called 'lees.'

At this point, the lees can either be removed from the wine (by racking or fining methods) or they may remain in the wine. If they are left in the wine, they will break down and release compounds that interact with the fermented wine. This interaction can create additional complexity, aroma and flavor.

But, with time, the lees tend to settle at the bottom of the aging vessel. If the lees are just left in the bottom of the aging vessel, they can clump up and actually become detrimental. So, if a wine maker wants to age their wine 'on lees,' they need to periodically stir the wine to keep the lees mixed in with the aging wine. Battonage (or Bâtonnage) is this periodic stirring of the wine. Battonage essentially helps redistribute all these positive lees compounds into the wine, making sure all the wine comes in contact with them.

The term battonage derives from the stirring stick, a baton.  The baton is placed in the top opening of a barrel (bung hole) and gentle rotated within the barrel to stir the wine and re-distribute the lees during aging.

So, there you have it. Many wine makers use maceration, lees and battonage in their wine making process. A bit technical, yet important parts of making all the great wines we enjoy. Cheers!

 

What Does the Word 'Maceration' Mean in Wine Making?

The words 'maceration,' 'lees,' and 'battonage' are somewhat technical wine words. My recent review of a Sauvignon Blanc from Chile included these terms that were included on the spec sheet. While the words themselves may be unfamiliar, their meanings are actually quite simple.

After the grapes are picked, the juice is extracted from the grapes to create the wine. At this point, the grape skins, seeds and stems can either be immediately separated from the juice or they can be left in contact with the juice.

Maceration occurs when the grape skins and solids are intentionally left to soak with the extracted juice.

There is 'cold' maceration (40-50° F) that takes place before fermentation and 'warm' maceration (70-90° F) that is done while the wine is fermenting. This warm maceration process, used primarily in making red wine, allows the alcohol being produced in the fermentation process to act as a solvent to extract color, tannins and aroma from the skins.

Maceration times vary, depending on the type of wine being produced. Red wines typically have extended maceration time (7-40 days) while Rosé wines get very brief maceration (2-24 hours). Maceration is not typically used in the production of white wine, but when done, it may only last for 12 to 14 hours.

Next time we'll look at the other terms 'lees' and 'battonage' used in the wine making process. Cheers!

 

How are Rosé Wines Made?

There seems to be a lot of information and some misinformation out there about the production of rosé wine. I'm not sure why this topic is so complicated or confusing. Rosé is quite simple and such a simple pleasure. So, let's take a look at how rosé is made.

Rosé is made from red wine grapes.  But, it's made in the traditional white wine making process. Hence the confusion.  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.

So with that in mind, rosé wines are made in one of the following ways:

  • Maceration -- This process is the most common method used in the production of rosé wines. The word 'Maceration' literally means to soften by soaking. And in the case of wine production, it means to allow the grape skins to soak in the grape's juice. With red wine, the juice spends a lot of time (weeks) soaking with the grape's dark purple skin that gives red wine its deep color.  In the production of white wines, maceration is avoided. But for rosé, the red wine grape skins spend some limited time soaking with the juice, but not to the extent of red wine production. As a matter of fact, the juice gets very little time in contact with the grape skins. Usually a matter of 2 to 24 hours.  Once the winemaker achieves the desired color they are looking for, the juice is separated from the grape skins and allowed to ferment in a separate tank. For rosé, this is typically a stainless steel tank that is chilled in order to maintain the freshness of the juice.
  • Saignèe ("San-yay") -- While somewhat similar to maceration, this method allows the grapes to be crushed under their own weight and the 'free run' juice is collected.  Since this juice spends little time in contact with the red grape skins, the resulting color is light pink.  Some argue that this is the highest quality rosé because it is the most pure.  Others consider this just a bi-product of red wine production since the remaining grapes and juice go on to become a more highly concentrated red wine.  Regardless, the rosé juice yielded from this process is separated, fermented in stainless steel tanks and kept at cool temperatures to preserve its freshness.
  • Blending -- While this is a process that yields pink wine, it is highly frowned upon and outlawed in France and several other countries.  This method uses mostly white wine that is blended with just a touch of red wine, resulting in a pink wine.  This method is certainly not used in most rosés.

Regardless of the method used, rosés can be dry or sweet. As previously mentioned, one key to finding a dry rosé is the alcohol level. But, rosés can also vary by grape type:

  • Dry Rosés -- Below are listed some of the most common dry rosé wine varieties, used alone or in a blend:
    • Grenache, Sangiovese, Syrah, Mouvedre, Carignan, Cinsault, Pinot Noir
  • Sweet Rosés -- Like any wine, rosé wine can be made sweet by not fermenting all the natural sugar in the grape juice to alcohol. So, if you are looking for a sweet rosé, these are typical examples:
    • White Zinfandel, White Merlot, Pink Moscato

Always remember with rosé wines that 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.

One way or the other, give rosé wines another try. Cheers!


Behind the Cork™ Wine of the Week - Sobon Estate Rosé ($12)

This is a nice dry rosé from Amador County, Ca.  This rosé is made from 96% Grenache grapes and 4% Syrah. It is crisp, fruity and refreshing with a nice dry finish. Chill it and enjoy!