How Rosés Are Made
The most common question I get, as a purveyor of pink-wines, is: ‘what exactly is rosé?’
Many assume (like I did back in the day), that rosés come from blending white and red wines together. It makes sense, right: we have red wine, we have white wine, mix red and white together and you get pink. And while that’s true for some areas in France where they make pink champagne, for the most part, rosé comes from red grapes that get treated like white ones.
At first blush, it doesn’t make sense. I know.
The secret to understanding this is the red grape itself. 97% of the red grapes that we grow for wine have red skins, but white flesh - all of the color (and much of the flavor) is locked up in those skins. When you make red wine, you take red grapes and you crush them in a big tank, leaving the juice and skins to sit together for weeks as the juice ferments to wine. As this happens the juice turns from white – to darkening shades of pink – and then to red.
When we make rosé, we’re simply separating the juice and the skins much earlier in the process – much like you would a white wine. Like whites, rosés are made with just a bit of skin contact (sometimes minutes, sometimes hours), before the juice is pressed off the skins and set into a cold tank to ferment. There are other factors that are important to making great rosés: fruit ripeness, grape variety, soak lengths, temperatures – but we’ll save those for another post.
With our wines, the color of each is a reflection of different lengths of skin contact:
- Wasted Youth had about 2.5 hours on the skins. Mourvedre is a grape with a salmon/copper hue to it and you can see that in the wine
- Beautiful & Damned had almost 18 hours of contact before going into the press. Grenache is a thin-skinned grape with very little color to give.
- The Outsider had about 4 hours of contact. Syrah is an inky grape with thick skins that likes to throw off a lot of color – hence the ruby hue of this wine.
That’s it! It’s pretty simple, really. So the next time one of your friends asks you where rosé wines come from, all you have to remember is: red grapes + limited skin contact = rosé! Now you're a pro.