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The colour of a rosé matters. Just look at how often they are sold in clear bottles that make their vibrant hue a selling feature on the store shelf. But beyond broadcasting the visual attractiveness of a pink wine, I’d be wary of making a snap judgement based on whether you’re looking at a rosé that’s watery pale or shocking pink.
The notion that a lighter colour is somehow better, typically meaning more delicately fruity or less cloyingly sweet in character, isn’t always the case. In some instances, a lighter colour means lighter flavour and lesser enjoyment. Other times, that transparent pink liquid delivers a surprising shock of aroma and flavour intensity. You’ll never know until you taste it.
The pale-is-best camp, wrongheaded in my estimation, depends on a worldview where pink wine is represented by two solitudes: Whispering Angel or White Zinfandel. Sophisticated or basic. That reality doesn’t exist. Rosés come in an incredibly diverse spectrum of colour, depending on which grapes are used, when they’re harvested – if you think rosé is all fun and games, ask a winemaker how the pH levels of grapes at harvest influences a wine’s colour – and how they’re processed. Each has the capacity to seduce or repulse, depending on your taste, mood or setting.
The classic rosé production method sees the wine spend a short amount of time with the grape skins – 12 to 24 hours compared to 10 days or longer for conventional red wines – to get the desired light tint and flavour compounds before being pressed. The grape skins and seeds are discarded, and the juice continues fermentation like a white wine.
Another method could see winemakers drain liquid out of a tank of fermenting red wine to obtain a lightly coloured wine to make into rosé, with the added benefit of increasing the colour and structure of the remaining wine due to greater contact with the grape skins as it finishes fermentation. Purists note that there’s less control over the quality of the rosé produced in this instance versus the classic method.
A third technique involves blending a small percentage of a finished red wine with a white wine to impart the desired rosé colour. While common in Champagne and for traditional-method sparkling rosé wines, this practice isn’t usual for table wines. It’s prohibited by most winemaking regulations in Europe.
An increased fashion for rosés from the Provence region of France helped propel the idea that lighter tones and crisp character are hallmarks of the best pink wines. Regional regulations call for a crisp and refreshingly fruity style from varieties including cabernet sauvignon, syrah, cinsault, grenache and mourvèdre. Domaines Ott, Whispering Angel, Château Minty, Maison Saint Aix and Hecht & Bannier are Provençal brands that helped cement the region’s chic reputation.
For many wine lovers, however, the revitalizing charms of well-made rosé extend beyond the pale to the deeper orange-pink tones of the savoury examples made in Bandol or the virtually red hue of the seriously structured ones from Tavel. It even extends beyond the geographical boundaries of France.
One of the best parts of the #roséallday movement has been the growing number of enjoyable expressions coming to market from virtually every wine region in every part of the world. There are a wide variety of rosé styles worthy of our attention, from dry to sweet, still or sparkling. Take note of the shade of the ones you enjoy, but also consider the region, grape varieties and winemaking TLC that went into making that style, so next time, you’re not shopping solely based on looks.