The Battle of the Roses- French vs. American

A rosé wine has some of the color typical of a red wine, but only enough to turn it pink. The pink color can range from a pale orange to a vivid near-purple, depending on the grapes and wine making techniques.

There are three major ways to produce rosé wine.

  • Skin Contact

Winemakers employing this technique crush red-skinned grapes and allow the skins to remain in contact with the juice for a short period of time, typically 2-3 days. The grapes are then pressed and the skins removed. (When making red wine, the skins are left in contact with the juice during the entire fermentation period.) The longer the skins are allowed to be in contact with the juice, the more reddish the color of the finished product. A lot of the flavorful tannins are found in the skin and that’s why rosé typically tastes more like white wine than red.

  • Saignée

When winemakers produce rosé wine as a by-product of red wine fermentation, they normally employ this method. Saignée (pronounced ‘sonyay’) is French for “bled” and an equivalent English expression is bleeding the vats.

When a winemaker wishes to make a red wine more colourful and flavorsome by increasing the amount of tannins, he or she can decide to remove some of the pink juice from the must at an early stage. (The remaining wine in the vats will now contain a higher degree of tannins since the volume of juice in the must has decreased.) Instead of discarding the pink juice that was removed when the vats were “bled”, the winemaker can turn it into rosé wine by allowing it to ferment.

  • Blending

Mixing a red and white wine will result in a pinkish wine, but this method of producing rosé is not commonly used. It is frowned upon in most winegrowing regions, with Champagne being a notable exception. Even in Champagane however, many high-end producers opt for the saignée technique rather then blending red and white.

The Birth of the White Zinfadel:

In the early 1970s, demand for white wine exceeded the availability of white wine grapes, so many California producers made “white” wine from red grapes, in a form of saignée production with minimal skin contact. The saying went the “whiter” the better. In 1975 Sutter Home’s “White Zinfadel,” (red grapes harvested to only produce white juice) wine experienced a stuck fermentation which is when the yeast dies off before all the sugar is turned to alcohol. In the hast of the wine making season and frustrated with the non-fermenting mixture, winemaker Bob Trinchero put it aside.  Then in two weeks he returned to the batch and upon tasting it he decided to sell this pinker, sweeter wine: the White Zinfadel was born.

Rosè is more expensive than a good comparable champagne due to the extra steps and uncertainties involved in making it.California, although lacking the great French character, tend to be more reasonable in price. Battling the American idea that “pink champagne” is sickly sweet and déclassé, California wineries have forged ahead with production of rosè. Sparkling rosé wines from

True rosè champagne , of course, can only come from Champagne, France, where it is made according to the classic méthode champenoise. The grapes (a combination of Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay) are pressed for their juice, which is fermented, then blended, then fermented again in the bottle with the addition of liqueur de triage (sugar and yeast). The wine is capped, then aged, riddled (the bottles are turned upside down to work sediment into the neck), disgorged (the sediment is removed by freezing the bottle necks), sweetened with a dosage (wine and sugar), and, finally, corked for shipping. Developed by the monk Dom Perignon in the late 1600s, it is the most elaborate winemaking process in the world and, in the case of rosé champagne, one of the most unpredictable.

All grape juice is white, regardless of whether it comes from red or white grapes. There are two techniques to give rosè champagne its hue which ranges from golden vermeil to pale peach to salmon pink to deep berry. The first is to  add still red wine (usually local Pinot Noir ) just before the second fermentation. The second is to leave the red/purple grape skins and pulp in contact with the mustChampagne Rosé, and the consumer must be prepared to pay accordingly. (contents of vat) for a short time. If the wrong amount of red wine is added, the cuvée can be full of undrinkable deposits and turn a bizarre color. And if the red grape skins are left to steep too long, the champagne can turn blue or brown or orange. The winemaker must be part scientist, part artist. Such expertise is rare. Only about 3 percent of all champagne production is


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