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How is Rosé Wine Made?

How is Rosé Wine Made?

by David and Kelly Mebane

There are white grape varietals like chardonnay to make white wine and red grape varietals like pinot noir to make red, but there are no pink wine grapes. So how is a rosé wine made?

Rosé Background

Rosé wines can be made still or sparkling, and range in color from pale to vivid shades of pink. The primary flavors in rosé are red fruit (for example, strawberry), flowers (for example, rose petals), citrus, melon, and some rosés have notes of green vegetables like rhubarb or celery. The flavor of rosé ranges according to the type of grape used in its production. 

The majority of rosé wines are made from red grapes, and it is from the skin of red grapes that the color of rosé is derived. Any red wine grape can make a rosé, but the most commonly used to make rosé are pinot noir, grenache, cabernet sauvignon, carignan, cinsault, sangiovese, and syrah. Other common red grape varietals used to make rosé include zinfandel, malbec, tempranillo, mourvèdre, and merlot

What Methods are Used to Make Rosé?

Rosé wines are made from three distinct processes as described below. And despite what many may assume, rosé is typically not made from the blending of red and white wines.

    • The Maceration Method

      In general, the most common way to make rosé wine is through a production process called maceration. This is when red wine grapes are juiced and left to soak (macerate) for a relatively short period (from two to twenty hours plus) with their skins intact until the juice turns a subtle pink color. Then, the grape skins are removed so that the liquid can ferment without the skins. Red wines, on the other hand, ferment with the red grape skins intact for weeks.
      Regions - French regions with a strong rosé influence like Provence use the maceration process.

    • Saignée or "Bled" Method

      A second process used to make rosé is the Saignée method. In this process, while making red wine, some of the juice is "bled" off during the first few hours and saved separately to make rosé. A benefit of bleeding off the juice is that it concentrates the red wines’ intensity - in addition to creating a rosé.
      Regions - Saignée wines are rare but are made in wine regions that produce red wines such as Sonoma and Napa.

  • Blending Method

    The least common process used to make rosé is the blending method. This method occurs when a small amount of red wine mixes into a vat of white wine resulting in rosé. It takes very little red wine to color a white wine pink. (Generally, less than 5% of the volume of a blended rosé contains red wine.) So, for example, you may find a splash of pinot noir blended into a chardonnay to make a sparkling rosé or rosé champagne (such as Ruinart’s rosé champagne).
    Regions - Still rosé wines are rarely made with the blending method. However, you can find the blending method used in sparkling wines and sparkling wine regions like Champagne.