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WINE SAVVY: Try rosé for your springtime wine

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David Devere2 / 2

All grape juice is white, which is confusing because white wine is actually shades of green and yellow, while red wine is shades of deep brick to dark purple or black. But generally most people know that the two colors of wine are red and white, but then there is also pink which we call rosé.

Since all grape juice is white, winemakers have to soak the juice with the grape skins to extract the color. This is a process that is called maceration, and it can happen before, during and even after fermentation. The longer the juice sits with the skins, the deeper the extraction of pigments resulting in a more intensely colored wine.

The amount of extraction time and deepness of color is determined by the grape variety and the thickness of the grape skin. Thicker skinned grapes, such as syrah and cabernet sauvignon, will give off more pigment than thinner skinned varieties such as pinot noir. The amount of extraction time is carefully considered because it isn't just pigments that are extracted but also tannins and a group of complex flavor molecules know as phenolics. Maceration can last from a few days to a few weeks.

To make rosé (pink wine), winemakers can employ one of three different techniques. The first and most popular is to simply limit the time of maceration. In this method, during fermentation, the juice is removed from the skins and put into a new tank to finish fermenting. By limiting the time on skins, the wine is just slightly colored and comes out a lovely hue of pink.

The second method is called saignée (san-yay). This involves removing a small amount of juice from a fermenting vat. This new juice is pink and goes to a new vat to finish fermenting while the remaining juice finishes a complete maceration and is made into red wine. The benefit of making rosé in this style is that the flavors are often more intense, but it is more time-consuming and results in only a small amount of finished product.

The last method is blending. This is simply taking a small amount of red wine and adding it to white wine. It takes a very small amount of red wine to make white wine turn pink. This results in a rosé that has very little unique character or quality and is essentially dyed white wine.

Quality can be difficult to find in rosé wines. This is partially because they can be made cheaply but also because the American attitude toward rosé is often one of indifference or association with the well-marketed but often poorly produced white zinfandel. If the market isn't demanding good rosé, the producers have little incentive to supply it.

Traditional rosé wines are made in a dry style and exhibit young red fruit flavors. Generally, they should be consumed very quickly after bottling and will not benefit from aging. Any red grape can be used to make a rosé, but often the producers don't add the variety used to the label. This can make shopping for a rosé a hit-or-miss affair.

The most common rosés are from the south of France. These are made in a dry style using grenache, syrah and mourvedre grapes and have a pale pink color. The wine is crisp with aromas of strawberry, watermelon and rose.

White zinfandel is a rosé, but it is noticeably sweet. This can lead to a mouth-coating experience that is more similar to pop than wine.

Whichever rosé you choose, serve it well-chilled and serve it with a picnic lunch or an evening in the warmth of summer while chatting with friends as the barbecue happily sizzles. A bottle of decent rosé should cost about $10-$15.

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