On the blogby Alfred
May 21 2019

Rosé Wines Are Not Trivial Products

by Pascale Lemieux

After being so eagerly awaited, the beautiful weather has finally arrived! What better to accompany our happy hours outside than a thirst quenching, fruity and crunchy rosé! This type of wine can be extremely simple, but can also showcase strong personality, a quality shown by the products originating from the Bandol or Tavel appellations. It is not surprising that these types of products are more and more popular upon consumers. They are versatile in the sense that they can accompany pretty much anything from a small picnic to a much finer cuisine. The arrival of rosé wines is constant during the summer season, which always allows us to taste wines from different parts of the world. There exists a product for all tastes and for all budgets. The Provence region is one that should not be forgotten; on its own, this region produces 42 % of total rosé wines of France and 6 % of the total rosé wines of the world. All categories aside, 89% of the wines that are produced in that region are rosés. This can be explained by the Center of Research and Experimentation of rosé wine in Vidauban, in the heart of a very specialized vineyard.

Knowing that the tasting ritual of a wine usually starts by how it looks, the importance in describing this part of the wine is extremely important, especially for rosé wines that can come in various different colors. In 2006, the Center of Research and Experimentation of rosé wine created a color wheel for rosé wines of Provence. After long statistical work on 347 rosé wines from the 1999, 2000 and 2001 vintages, 21 colors were selected and 9 of them were prototyped to become the colors that can be observed in Rosé wines from Provence today and that can be used to describe them. The terms that were selected by the jury were: “groseille, pelure d’oignon, brique, framboise, chair, bois de rose, saumon, marbre rose, corail”, which can be translated to the following: currant, onion peel, brick, raspberry, flesh, rosewood, pink marble and coral. It is important to note that it is possible to order a copy of that color wheel to the Center either through email, regular mail or fax.

Rosé wine is quite difficult to elaborate and also to analyze. If you are not sure, try to analyze rosé wine blindly, in a dark cup or with your eyes closed. This experience will let you in on the complexity of these products; try to recognize only a small aspect of it, it can be quite a challenge!

Rosé wine can be elaborated by using three different methods. First, there is the press rosé. This wine is obtained by direct pressuring of entire grapes after the harvest. The must is then placed in casks for fermentation. This technique produces very light colored rosé wines. Another method is the maceration rosé. This wine is obtained from dark grapes that are left to macerate after the harvest in a cask. During this period, aromas from the pigments of the grapes are transferred to the must that is then pressed to be separated from the solid particles of the liquid. This liquid is then placed in a cask to ferment at low temperatures to preserve the maximum of the aromas. Lastly, there is the “bleeding rosé”. This method is similar to the previous one, but it is designed to create red wine. Indeed, after a few hours of maceration (6 to 48 hours on average), the cask is opened and the part of the liquid is emptied and placed separately. The rest of the harvest that stays in the cask after this period will eventually become red wine.

The appellations that must be noted in Provence for the production of very high quality rosé wines are:

Côtes de Provence : this area of 20 000 ha of vineyards is the largest of the region. Most of the wines produced here are rosés of a very light color, from varietals such as Cinsaut, Grenache and sometimes Tibouren (an indigenous varietal that adds complexity to wines, with aromas reminiscent of scrubland).

Bandol : the flagship appellation of the region that refers to the name of the harbor from where the wines were exported. Known for producing wines with high cellaring potential, the rosés of Bandol are mostly elaborated with the Mourvèdre varietal. The vines are planted and exposed on terraces. These vines are harvested by hand, because the mechanical harvest is prohibited.

One of my favorite rosés of Provence is the Domaine du Gros Noré of the Bandol appellation. Alain Pascal only supervises 16 ha of vines and only has one cuvee of red, white and rosé. Available in small quantities in SAQ stores and available in private importation at Oenopole. Enjoy the rosé season!

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