Last Fridays champagne tasting left me thinking. Specifically about how a rosé is produced. I have always just thought of it being a product of longer skin contact, but after reading up on the Möet sparkling, I realized that blending is quite common too (or is it?). So, back to the books (Wikipedia) I went, to find out if there are more than these few methods. And here is what I found out…
Rosé can be made in three ways: skin contact, saignée and blending. When Rosé is the primary product, it is most often produced with the skin contact method. After the grape juice has been pressed, it is left for a number of hours unfiltered in the tank to gain color (and flavor). Typically we are talking about a number of hours or maximum a few days that the skin is left in. It is amazing what kind of difference just some hours can do. For example, our intense pink Peret Fuster Rose cava has been soaked with the skin only for eight (8) hours. The juice is then filtered, and the skins are discarded rather than left in contact throughout fermentation (as with red wine making).
When a winemaker desires to intensify the tannins and color in a red wine, some of the pink juice from the must can be leaked out at an early stage. This is known as the Saignée (in French bleeding) method. The red wine remaining in the vats is intensified as a result of the bleeding as it becomes more concentrated. The pink juice that is removed can be fermented separately to produce rosé.
Last but not least, the blending method. It is a s simple as simple mixing red wine to a white to impart color. This method is discouraged in most wine growing regions, especially in France. It is actually forbidden by law, except for in Champagne. Most high-end producers use rather the saignée method. But apparently Möet, whos NV rose champagne is a blend with 10% red wine, thinks it is a good idea (not!). To me this kind of feels like the rose is then a leftover product. However, there are some good examples as well, like the Billecart-Salmon NV Rosé, which I regard as one of the benchmarks of a good non vintage pink champagne. They make a highly acidic Pinot Noir that they add just a few drops to to the champagne to give color.
So what can we conclude? Check the method of production before investing in rosé. It is always good to know if making a rosé was actually the initial intention or is it more of a side product. Of course there can be very good side products as well. However, I believe there is a different taste profile that comes with a blend as opposed to skin contact. All in all it is of course about learning what kind of rosé you like. And for discovering that, go out and taste rather than just read about it!