There are a lot of reasons to love rosé; the ripe fruit flavors, the food-friendly acidity, and of course, the beautiful color. But how, exactly, does that beautiful color come to be?
Rosé is often described as halfway between a red and a white wine, but this is meant to describe the intensity of the wine, not the production method. Although they’re light in color, rosés are made from 100% red grapes. Some of the most popular grapes for making rosé are Pinot Noir, Grenache, and Syrah. The difference between a red pinot noir and a rosé Pinot Noir comes down to the grape skins.
When making a wine, grapes are pressed to release their juices. For a red or a rosé, the grape skins and juices are left to sit together. This process, called maceration, gives the grape juice time to extract color and tannins from the grape skin. For a red wine, the skins are left to sit with the juices for at least three (but sometimes up to 100) days. For rosé wine, the maceration period can be as short as several hours. This short resting time means that the skins only release some of their pigmentation and tannins, resulting in a lightly structured wine.
Rosés are different from blush wines, which are made by combining red and white wines after they have been fermented. One exception to this rule is rosé Champagne. While some rosé Champagnes are made using the maceration method, many are produced by adding still red wine to sparkling wine after the fermentation is completed.
When it comes to color variation within rosés, it is primarily caused by production method and grape variety. Regardless of color, the light structure and refreshing flavor make rosés a perfect pairing for summery meals. They have enough complexity to stand up to some spice, but are subtle enough not to overwhelm delicate seafood.