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What Makes Rosé Pink?

Any true wine lover knows that the true harbinger of spring isn't the sighting of a red-breasted robin, but of a glass of chilled pink rosé. That first sip of blushing goodness is enough to banish all lingering memories of a gray and chilly winter. But what is rosé exactly and how does it come upon its luminous pink hue?

Three methods for making rosé

Rosé can be made in one of three ways, but the vast majority of the time, it's produced using the maceration (or contact) method. Basically, pink wine is crafted using the same methods for making red wine, by letting the grape juice sit with the grape must (a combination of the skins, stems, and seeds) until the juice is dyed a red hue — only with rosé, the juice is left in contact with the must for a few hours instead of a few weeks, so the juice comes out a shade of pink. This means that just about any red grape variety can be used to make rosé, and that's why you may sometimes see on the label that the rosé is a Pinot Noir or a Grenache. If the grape variety isn't specified, it probably means that a blend of grapes was used.

About 10 percent of the time, rosé is made using the saignée (or bleeding) method. This type of rosé is a byproduct of red wine making — while the winemaker is in the process of making a red wine and before the juice gets too dark from the must, some of the juice is "bled" and put aside to make rosé. Wines made this way are typically more concentrated and of higher quality; therefore they're also more revered and expensive.

And then there's the small percentage of rosés on the market that's made by simply blending red and white wines. Only a tiny amount of red wine is necessary to tint white wine pink, so these rosés are essentially just white wines. This technique is rarely used to make regular rosés, but is more common with the production of sparkling rosés.

A rosé by any other name...

Rosés are known by different names around the world. For example, if you drink a rosato in Italy, it's actually just a rosé. Similarly, in Spain and Portugal, rosado is the word for rosé. If you find yourself sipping a glass of Tavel in France, that's a rosé specially crafted in the Tavel region, in the southern part of the country.

And here in America, we've got our own version of rosé, called White Zinfandel. A winery called Sutter Home popularized the term, but White Zinfandel is essentially rosé made with Zinfandel using the saignée method. It tends to be sweeter than most of the rosés we enjoy today, which may be why it's no longer very popular, but White Zins are still rosés.

Enjoying rosé to its fullest

The beauty of rosé is that it's a fresh and breezy wine to sip at everything from weekend brunch to a picnic on the beach. But just because it's an easy quaffer doesn't mean that it can't also be savored and assessed. The primary flavors found in rosé include cherry, strawberry, raspberry, watermelon, citrus fruits, melon, and flowers — always be on the lookout for those flavors while you're tasting.

And while rosé is a lovely drink to sip on its own, it makes a great pairing for many kinds of foods, particularly seasonal dishes such as spring salads with goat cheese, as well as light or raw seafood preparations like sushi, oysters, and grilled fish.

Rosés to try

In Tasting Room's Bottle Shop, we've got several rosés from around the world and of different varieties for you to try! See if you can taste the differences between them.

NV Casa di Carlone Italian Rosé
2017 Raven Paso Robles Grenache Rosé
2017 MasterChef Monterey County Syrah Rosé

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