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WINE ROUTE: The making of Rosé


Michael Olivier, who grew up on a wine farm with Rosé-drinking parents, looks at the making of Rosés and the range available today, and implores you to drink pink.

Up to about the past five years or so, Rosé was pretty much regarded as a wine real wine lovers [and men] didn’t drink. It’s pink, it’s sweet and it’s a nothing wine, was the attitude. But today, with Rosé becoming increasingly popular in the UK and in Australia, it’s taken off here too.

What is Rosé and how is it made? Firstly, one should remember that all red wine grapes have white juice, it is the bursting open of the colour cells that are to be found just below the skin that adds flavour and colour to a wine.

There are essentially three ways in which a Rosé can be made. The first is perhaps the most frequent, particularly in entry level wines, bag in box and jugs, where a white wine is blended with a red wine until the wine maker is happy that there is sufficient influence – and colour if the truth be known – of the red wine on the blend. Here wines tend to be on the sweeter side rather than dry. And you can obviously never have a varietal Rosé this way.

The second way is to use a French method called saignée, or bleeding. This involves allowing juice to run free from red wine grape mash after some hours of maceration during which time colour and flavour from the skins change the juice from white to pink. This also leaves a greater ratio remaining of mash to juice resulting in a more concentrated red wine after the fermentation process is over. Blanc de Noir is also made this way. As its name implies Blanc de Noir is a white wine made from black grapes. The colour of the wine is carefully monitored, too pink and it must be called Rosé. The saignée method allows you to make a varietal wine.

The third way is to grow grapes for the sole purpose of making a Rosé. In this case the grapes are picked at optimum ripeness, often a few varietals in a blend, and allowed to macerate for a number of hours, the longer the maceration, the pinker the wine.

Pink wines can be found with different levels of sweetness and in a variety of packagings. There are some excellent everyday drinking Rosés, like the iconic Four Cousins, which even comes in magnums, some more serious and dryer premium Rosés, sparkling wines, MCC wines and even a pink port made by Boets Nel of De Krans in Calitzdorp.

Michael Olivier is a wine writer, broadcaster and author of The People’s Guide – navigate the winelands in a shopping trolley.