Rosé, this summer’s Rockstar
Rosé is definitely a big part of the wine revolution which has been retransforming the wine scene over the last few years. Erstwhile downgraded, it has now become a high-end wine nowadays. To what is due this evolution?
It is now present everywhere: afternoons spent outside in the garden or the terrace, around a swimming pool or a barbecue and throughout our evening with friends. Refreshing and inexpensive, rosé is the number 1 drink for summer and vacations.
At Cuvée Privée, we waited for the arrival of a new “Provençal” estate, Château de Beaupré, to reveal to you all of the secrets of a wine that is much more precise than it seems.
What is a rosé wine and how is it made?
What is a rosé wine and how is it made? Let's start with what a rosé wine is not! A rosé wine is not the blend of red and white wine (with one exception that we will see below!). If it is rarely used as vin de garde (wine kept for aging) whose vintage is only sought for big occasions, producing a very good rosé is no less delicate and intricate. Synonymous with freshness and pleasure, rosé is a category of wine in its own right, requiring special attention and precision work. To produce a good rosé, three main production methods exist.
The direct pressing method
Using a pressing technique when making rosé is very similar to the methods used for white wine vinification. Once harvested, bunches can be detached from the stalks (the plant skeleton of the bunch) or kept whole, and then pressed in order to extract the juice from the berries. The strength used and the length of time for which the grapes are pressed will determine two things: the extraction’s colour and the aromas, contained in the grapes’ skin.
Once pressed, the juice is fermented in a wine vat, where it will remain for 10 to 14 days to complete its alcoholic fermentation. The wine is then clarified, separated from its impurities and placed in another wine vat where it will age until it is bottled. This direct pressing technique gives pale, fresh and aromatic wines.
This technique is the most used technique in rosé production. Rosé wines made from direct pressing usually appeal to consumers as they are fresh with light colours and aromas. These types of wines will be the perfect match for having an evening drink with friends.
The pellicular maceration method
The pellicular maceration technique is not very different from that of direct pressing. An important step is added at the beginning of the process. The grapes are not directly pressed, they are crushed and left to macerate for about 24 hours. It is during the process of maceration that pigments and aromas are extracted from the grapes’ skin and seeds. Once this stage is over, the grapes are pressed and then start alcoholic fermentation. The rosé produced by skin maceration has a deep colour and is generally fuller and more aromatic.
The saignée rosé method
The “saignée” technique, which means bleeding in French, is the historical technique in the elaboration of rosé. It is in fact elaborated by taking, in part, the product of red-wine fermentation that rosés “saignée” are made. We first “bleed” a few hectolitres of a red wine vat at the beginning of maceration to then make a rosé. This technique gives more colourful, vinous and full-bodied wine, with a well-structured taste, given that these are elaborated and produced using grape varieties intended for the creation of red wines.
And the blending?
In France and in Europe, it is forbidden to mix white and red wine to make rosé, except in one region: Champagne. This is how most Champagnes rosés are created. This derogation can best be explained by the region’s great tradition of blending different wines. Champagnes is also the only region that combines together wines from different harvest years.
Blending red and white wine for rosé elaboration is a common practice abroad, particularly in Australia and South Africa. Often of low quality, it is synonymous with large volumes and cheaper wines.
And in the vineyard?
Temperature is a very important factor when harvesting Rosé-destined grapes. Mainly produced in warm regions such as the South of France, this type of wine requires early morning or even night harvests, and often using a harvesting machine which allows large areas to be very rapidly harvested. Morning or night harvest prevents juice oxidation, which is more pronounced when the berries have been sunning all day long. This limits the cost of equipment necessary to cool down grapes which have bathed in warmth all day long. The key word here is coolness!
Optimal gape maturity is the key ingredient for the elaboration of a good wine, even more so for Rosé.
Grapes’ maturity will be assessed differently, depending on the production method chosen. Different concerns will be taken into account. For pressing winemaking, for instance, technological maturity, which is defined by the acidity level (pH) and the berries’ levels of sugar, is key. The technological maturity is key as these types of rosé require good levels of acidity, without having a too high sugar content, to obtain a very fresh, acidic, slightly coloured and medium-alcoholic wines.
For rosés produced with “saignée” or maceration winemaking methods, the grapes’ phenolic and aromatic maturity, i.e. the grape’s and its skin’s ripeness, are the most important factors. Indeed, prolonged contact between the juice and the skins during maceration requires an optimal maturity.
Contrary to what one might think, grapes do not ripen in a regular way and the different types of maturity are not reached at exactly the same time for one and the same bunch.
A marketing revolution: rosés at all prices
Today, rosé is anchored in French consumption patterns. Between 2002 and 2015, rosé’s production went up by 50% and it now represents 30% of sparkling wines’ sales in France. France is the world’s leading rosé producer, ahead of Spain, the US and Italy. To sum up, the rosé wine sector is in full growth and is bringing along with it changes in the wine market with new production areas that are specially dedicated to it, such as new rosé wine drinks, or luxurious rosés “d’exception” with prices that compete with famous vintages.
Mass distribution rosé
Rosé is trendy, simple (or at least fast) to produce and is enjoyed by all. It is therefore an attractive product for the main wine industrialists, especially the 2 groups which own the most sold wine brands in France. The group Castel, number 1 in France, with brands such as Roche Mazet, Baron de Lestac, Listel rosé, la Villageoise. It is followed by the French group of the sector, the group “Grands Chais de France”, which is very successful on the supermarket shelves with its Grand Sud and Jp Chenet brands, the latter being one of the best-selling brands. Its production represents more than one million hectolitres per year, which levels up to the sale of 85 million bottles through 160 different countries.
For these wines produced in huge quantities, selling prices are minimal and almost coincides with mineral water’s selling price. Wines produced and sold by these groups are set between 1 and 4€ the bottle. In order to reach these minimal prices, they have created and branded flavoured rosés, the most famous one being grapefruit rosé. Flavoured rosés now represent 1% of wine world production today!
In spite of its image of a very cheap and poor-quality wine, some regions in France have made rosé their specialty and have managed to produce high-quality wines.
AOP rosé wines
Within French production, 45% of rosés correspond to AOP wines. Bandol, Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence, Côtes de Provence and Montagne Sainte Victoire are among the most renowned AOP wines in the production of rosé. They all have one thing in common: they are all located in Provence. Today this region produces white, red and rosé wines but the latter represent 89% of the region's production. These AOPs are a reference for the consumer, they respond to strict specification and thus guarantee high-quality wines. The rosés produced in the AOPs are sold in supermarkets but can also be found in restaurants and wine shops. The average price for these wines ranges between 5 to 10 €.
More particular cases: prestige rosé wines
Some wine estates have bet upon upmarket rosés. These are particular cases, especially in terms of wine ageing (élevage in French). Some of these wines can be called “rosé”, but only in terms of their colour, as their production rather resembles a red vin de garde’s (a wine meant to be left to age and mature). This is the case, for instance, for the:
- Parisy of the Château des Tours estate, which ages for a long period of time. Experts classify this wine as an alien good on the market. Incredibly hard to acquire, you will have to pay no less than 70€ on auction sites to get it.
- The Spanish estate of LOpez de Heredia produces a rosé aged 4 years in barrel and marketed only 10 years after its production, an extraordinary rosé according to its rare tasters, also around 70€.
Other rosés, less complex, are also very popular and quite expensive, this is the case for two "spotlight" rosés. Two houses are competing for the starring role: the Miraval rosé on one side (rosé belonging to the two celebrities Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie) and on the other side the Château Minuty. These two rosés are on average sold at a price above 20€.
These have contributed to a new trend: a taste for very lightly coloured rosés, which is now synonymous with high quality and upmarket rosés for consumers.
Finally, certain wine producers have thrown themselves into the production of the world’s most expensive rosé, headed by Gérar Betrand and his rosé Clos du Temple, priced between 150€ and 200€. Marketing buzz or a genuine taste revelation? Up to you to judge...