The production of rosé wine is much more complex than it seems , and given the growing success of this type of wine, winegrowers have the choice between several techniques. Let's then go into the details of making rosé wine , and discover the particularities of each winemaking method.
Rosé: press wine or saignée wine?
The winemaker who wishes to produce rosé wine must first of all ask himself the crucial question of choosing the winemaking technique . He can then turn to direct pressing rosé, or saignée rosé. These two methods make it possible to obtain very different rosé wines.
In the case of vin de saignée , the grape berries are crushed and placed in vats, as winemakers do to make red wines. The process is then the same, but the maceration time is much shorter. After a few hours, the juice is taken from the bottom of the tank to obtain rosé, while the rest of the juice continues its maceration to obtain red wine.
Direct pressing rosé
In the case of press rosé , the berries of red-skinned grape varieties are directly pressed, to separate the grape juice and the solids. During this slow process, the juice remains in contact with the skin of the grapes long enough to take on its color thanks to the red pigments and develop its aromas and tannins.
Saignée rosés and pressing rosés: what are the differences?
Saignée rosé is a maceration rosé which takes the time to delicately absorb the tannins, aromas and pigments of the grapes. Thus, this type of wine is more vinous, more colorful , and therefore offers good aging potential.
Pressed rosé remains in contact with the pulp and skin of the grapes for a shorter time. Logically, the red color is much less intense, and the tannins are less present. We then obtain a fresh, aromatic and clear rosé , to be consumed quickly.
Define grape maturity
The degree of maturity of the grapes , and therefore the date of the harvest, are of great importance for the production of rosé wines. For the rosé de saignée, the winemaker then bases himself on the maturation necessary for the production of red wines. On the other hand, for press rosé, several vintages have proven that a slight under-ripeness of the grapes allows better results to be obtained. Generally speaking, wine lovers prefer first harvest wines. With greater maturity, we obtain fatter and more vinous rosés.
Protecting wine from oxidation: a challenge from the harvest
As with white wines, the quality of the future white wine is determined well before alcoholic fermentation. From the moment the grapes are harvested, the challenge is to protect the wine from oxidation . Several tips can then be followed:
- Harvest at night, or early in the morning, at low temperature, to slow down the oxidation process accelerated by the sun and heat;
- Add sulphites moderately and early;
- Crush and destemme the grapes, to diffuse the anthocyanins, release the juice, and avoid harsh flavors and polyphenols;
- After maceration, drain then squeeze, taking care to limit oxidation of the juice;
- Cool the juice (less than 10°C) to prevent alcoholic fermentation from starting too early;
- Place the juice for alcoholic fermentation, at a temperature between 16 and 20°C;
- Carry out sulphiting after alcoholic fermentation, to avoid malolactic fermentation;
- Fining the wine with bentonite;
- Filter the juice;
- Proceed with bottling.
Managing the color of rosé wines
The color of rosé wines seems to have a crucial importance in consumers' choice when buying wine. The winemaker must then pay particular attention to this criterion, particularly at the end of the maceration process.
We must then take into account the fact that the color of the rosé must at the end of maceration is very different from the color that we will obtain when opening the bottle of wine. In fact, just during fermentation, rosé wine will lose half of its coloring intensity. And other losses will follow, particularly during breeding and filtration. For winegrowers, it is then a matter of determining the correct duration of maceration required, but this remains very complicated.
Very often, a contact time of between 3 and 10 hours , at a temperature of 15 to 20°C, is often sufficient.
Defining the aromatic profile of a rosé wine
After the color, come the aromas of the wine. They too can be more or less developed, and more or less good, depending on the rosé production techniques chosen by the winemaker. It is then possible to vary the aromatic palette of a vintage by intervening at different levels: during settling , when choosing the yeast , and when choosing the fermentation temperature .
For example, with light settling and a fermentation temperature of 18°C, we obtain rosé wines with developed varietal aromas (grapefruit, exotic fruits, etc.). With further settling and a temperature of 16°C, the fermentation aromas are more developed (candy, red fruits, banana, etc.).
Residual sugar: an asset for rosé wines
In general, consumers of quality rosé wine particularly appreciate vintages where there is a little residual sugar . Thus, rosé wines with 4 to 6 grams of sugar per liter are often preferred to dry wines with less than 2 grams of sugar per liter.
To retain some residual sugar, it is necessary to stop fermentation , the process during which sugars are transformed into alcohol. To do this, it is recommended to cool the tank to 10°C, then proceed to racking, to remove the yeast biomass. Finally, the process ends with sulfiting.
It may happen that fermentation restarts, so to avoid this, it is advisable to filter the wine, or to use potassium sorbate.
Check carbon dioxide with bottling
Carbon dioxide , or CO2, is essential in the production of rosé wine. It helps maintain the fruitiness and freshness of the rosé, accentuate the bitter or astringent flavors of polyphenols, and reduce the sensation of roundness. The winemaker must then keep an eye on CO2 during the vinification of rosé wines. It is generally accepted that a quality rosé wine has between 700 and 900 mg of carbon dioxide per liter .
The interest of breeding for rosé wines
Rosé is a fresh, fruity and light wine, which is generally drunk young. Long breeding is therefore of no real interest. On the other hand, aging on lees can bring length and richness to the wine, which can be interesting in certain cases. The process must then last at least 3 to 6 months. After bottling, rosé wine does not improve, or very little, over time.
Rosé wine is not a simple mixture of red wine and white wine. The winemaker tackles even the most complex winemaking technique, where every step counts. To find out more about the production of rosé wine , go to the cellar of the Domaine de Berne, where the best AOP Côtes de Provence rosés are produced each year.