Rosé Wine, giving your table a touch of class…
Often neglected and considered lacking a true identity, Rosé Wine is actually a product with technical characteristics and quality worth of great respect.
One of the worst prejudices about rosé wine, and responsible for major damage to its reputation, is the common belief that this product is made by mixing white and red wines together. To be honest, this belief actually used to have some grounds. In fact, in the past there had been an unfortunate habit, practiced by unscrupulous and short sighted restaurateurs and producers, to mix white and red wines to create a terrible, pink-ish colored beverage.
Lets make this clear: the production of rosé wine made by blending white and red wines is a practice prohibited by law in all the winemaking countries in the world.
The only rosé wine produced in this way is the one used as a base for the production of Champagne. Rosé wine is created using specific techniques and with the clear intention of producing a pink colored drink. Therefore it’s not some kind of inferior product. The production of this kind of wine is backed by the traditions of many winemaking areas of the world, where the rosé wine has always had its own dignity and its own purpose. It’s worth noting how the classic method sparkling rosé wines have a high reputation among connoisseurs. If the sparkling rosé wines are well appreciated, then the same should apply to table wines.
Rosé wine can bring a touch of class to the table, creating extremely balanced and interesting food and wine pairings.
Very often, rosé wine is a good answer to food pairing. In this respect, rosé wine has got its well defined niche in the wines landscape: it’s different from white and red, it has got its own identity. I’d be awesome if everyone would want to extend his knowledge about table wines to include rosé wine, not just white and red! Rosé wine is an unique experience on its own, from the way it is produced to its organoleptic qualities. As for red and white wines, its production achieves a result, which is expressed every time it is poured in a cup: color resembles red wine’s but it’s served as a white wine.
It’s possible to play with three main grapes characteristics in order to produce a pink drink:
- grapes may be red, but with just a smidge of color, or they may be genuinely pink;
- the grapes blend has to consist of a large majority of white grapes and a minority of red grapes;
- starting from any variety of red grapes, pull out just a small amount of color by letting macerate a small amount of grapes.
Let’s see in more detail how pulling off just partial coloring of the grapes skins is done.
At first, a normal red grapes crushing is performed. Follows the must fermentation, including grapes skins. The fermentation with grapes skins goes on for 4-12 hours, in order to allow a partial release of coloring substances. Once the desired tint has been achieved, skins get separated from the fermenting mass, interrupting the must coloring process.
When grapes are very rich in color, or when the fermenting must temperature is high, it takes just 4-5 hours of fermentation with grapes skins to achieve the needed coloring. Then racking is performed, in order to separate the liquid portion from the solid.
It’s also possible to produce rosé wines from red grapes by letting the grape skins macerate in the must for a whole day, before fermentation. What comes out, after maceration at low temperature, is what in the south of France is called: “Vin de Café”.
Another way to obtain a rosé wine is to blend a little of red must with colorless must.
Anyhow, rosé wine must be produced exclusively from the fermentation of the free-run must. In fact, adding must resulting from marcs pressing would release a greater number of coloring substances and tannins, making the product take the typical characteristics of red wine. Furthermore, as when producing white wine, using sulfur dioxide on the grapes or in the must containing the skins, would favor the release of coloring substances and tannins. Therefore this additive should only be used in previusly drained must.
Some rosé wines resemble red wines, having been obtained from a short maceration with red grapes skins; these wines generally undergo malolactic fermentation and therefore are smoother. They can contain up to 100 mg/l of anthocyanins. Other rosé wines, however, more closely resemble the characteristics of whites: they are those resulting from direct pressing of red grapes. These wines are fresher, more aromatic and normally keep all of their malic acid content, which in turn it keeps their freshness and fruitiness. These wines may contain up to 50 mg/l of anthocyanins.
A rosé wine does not have the same structure as a red one. It is less astringent, it has got the freshness of the typical white and a color which is “intermediate” between white wine’s and red’s. The pinkish color – as for red wine – is obtained by macerating must in skins for a time varying between a couple of hours up to 48. The soaking time depends on the type of wine being produced and the coloring capacity of the grape. At the end of the maceration, the must is separated from the skins, then production process continues exactly as for white wine. The maceration of the must in skins is actually carried out in different ways, each of which allows you to get specific results. Rosé wine is ranked according to the production method: vin gris (gray wine), blush wines, wines of one night, wines of one day and saignée.
Vin gris is not really a gray wine. It’s a rather tenuous pink wine. Gray wine is produced using the same oenological procedures used for the white one. The only tangible difference is the use very low coloring capacity grapes.
This kind of wine is produced by pressing grapes and avoiding the maceration of must in skins, just like for a white.
The blush wine has become famous in the United States mainly due to the White Zinfandel Wine success. This wine is made with the Zinfandel grape, a known red grape, using the standard oenological practices used to produce white wine. Usually, blush wine features a sweet taste and is often characterized by a slight effervescence. In closing, it’s worth noting that some wineries in California produce dry and barrel aged blush wine. This is typically known as vin gris.
Rosé wine featuring more intense, tending to red colors, is produced by macerating the must in skins, in variable times ranging between a few hours to a few days. The maceration time duration essentially depends on the coloring capacity of the grape and the type of rosé to produce. The so called “one night wines” and “one day wines” are produced this way. If the maceration has a duration of 6-12 hours, the rosé wine is defined as “one night wine”. If wine’s maceration duration is about 24 hours then it is defined as “one day wine”. During maceration it is essential to prevent fermentation from starting, therefore the must gets sulphated and the temperature is kept low. At the end of the maceration, must is fermented and the vinification process continues exactly as for a white wine.
Another technique used for the production of rosé wine is the so-called saignée, commonly known as bleeding or bleed. This technique is generally used by wineries producing red wines and by some producers of rosé champagne. The bleeding technique consists of taking a certain amount of must from the maceration tank in which a red wine is getting prepared. The drawn part of must is vinified as a white wine, producing rosé wine. The remaining part of the must continues its maceration and will be used for the production of red wine. When producing red wines, this technique allows to increase the proportion of aromatic substances and phenols in the must. This results into a more concentrated and structured red wine.
From must to wine
After having prepared the base must by using one of the above methods, the next step is winemaking by following the same procedures used for white wine production. Rosé wine is fermented in inert containers, usually made of steel or concrete, rarely in wood containers, such as barrels and barriques. Rosé wine is generally ready by the spring following the harvest and is best consumed during its youth. When the fermentation process and subsequent maturation are over, the rosé wine gets stabilized and filtered, just like any other white wine. Then it’s bottled and is ready to be sold. The rosé wine should be consumed within two years of the harvest. Over time, product tends to lose its best qualities of aromatic and flavored freshness, in addition to its pleasant fruits and flowers aroma.
Some white wines tend to become rosé over time. A white wine with a slightly pink color slowly turns into a “stained” wine, that looks like having been “contaminated” by the presence of red wine anthocyanins. The phenomenon, however, is due to the presence of a polyphenol which becomes colorless pink due to oxidation.
What are anthocyanins? Anthocyanins, whose name derives from the Greek words “antrum” and “kyanos”, that is blue flower, are colored pigments present in different common flowers and fruits.
Chemically speaking, they are anthocyanin glycosides. A glycoside is a substance resulting from the union of a sugar, said glyco, with an organic molecule of any other nature, said aglycone. In the anthocyanins the non sugary portion of the molecule is commonly called anthocyanidin. In nature there are different types of anthocyanidins, among which the six most important are called: pelargoidin, cyanidin, delphinidin, peonidin, petunidin and malvidin.
As already mentioned, the anthocyanins are present in almost all fruits and vegetables found in nature. These chemicals give red and blue nuances to those fruits and vegetables. Their coloration is in fact linked to the vacuolar pH (the vacuoles are vesicles containing reserve substances, including anthocyanins and other secondary metabolites). Similar to the litmus test, anthocyanins in acidic environment take on a reddish color. On the contrary, when the pH is high (basic environment), they show various shades of blue.
Before explaining the importance of anthocyanins to human health, it’s useful to recall their function in the plants kingdom. Some believe that the anthocyanins are essential to attracting pollinating insects on the flower and, later, the animals on the fruit. Some authors attribute these pigments the ability to filter out harmful solar radiations. Others believe anthocyanins help against dryness when illumination is very high.
Anthocyanins antioxidant power
Anthocyanins, while not essential for human well-being, have a positive effect on the entire body. Thanks to their strong antioxidant properties, they have been acclaimed as a real natural antidote against aging. The most interesting property of the anthocyanins is the protective action on the microcirculation. That is why cranberry juice, which is the main natural source of anthocyanin glycosides, is recommended to combat capillary fragility (cellulitis, varicose veins, hemorrhoids). Moreover, thanks to its anti-edema action, it is very useful at easing water retention problems. Blueberry anthocyanins are important for the treatment of eyes’ capillaries permeability and fragility as well. Another fruit is even richer in anthocyanins than blueberry. It is the maqui, typical of South America, also known as “fruit of eternal youth.”
Glycosides anthocyanins are attributed anti-inflammatory and anti-platelet properties which, along with the vasodilator and antioxidant action, benefit the entire cardiovascular system. Adequate consumption of anthocyanins rich foods offers the best protection against the adverse effects induced by hypercholesterolemia.
Last but not least, anthocyanins have scavenger (waste finding) effects on free radicals and are important for the general welfare of the body (protection against carcinogens) and, alas only to slow it down, the biological phenomenon of aging.
The richest natural sources of these substances are wild berries, eggplant, dark grapes and red beet. Anthocyanins also abound in the flowers of mauve and carcadè, as well as in oranges, cherries, apples, strawberries and pears. In general, the more their color (reddish or blueish) is intense, the greater is the precious anthocyanins load.