Harvest Series 5 --- Processing Red Grapes for Rosé

Aristo Wine

When rosé is made, it is almost always made from red grapes (an exception would be Pinot Gris, which is a white grape with highly pigmented skins).  The reason for this is that in order to get the salmon or pink color of rosé, the pigment from red grape skins is needed.  There are two ways to get the right color for rosé: harvesting the grapes early, and the saignée method.

If you are using the method of harvesting the grapes early, you would do this because white wines are generally not as high in alcohol or picked quite as ripe as red grapes are.  Although rosé is made from red grapes, it is treated as a white wine all throughout vinification.  Picking the grapes early allows for fresher, crisper, more aromatic wine.  Once the grapes arrive at the crushpad and are sorted, they are immediately pressed.  In some cases, the grapes are crushed and cold-soaked for a day or two to get even more color and body from the skins into the juice before pressing.  The pressed juice is then fermented cool just like white wine (see the Harvest Series blog on processing white wines).

If you are using the saignée method, the juice would be pumped or siphoned off of the skins after the grapes are crushed into must and cold-soaked overnight.  The juice would then be fermented cool like a white wine.  This method is used if you are not able to harvest the grapes early, not able to press the same day that you receive them, or if you desire a bigger rosé with more body or pigment.

Rosé is fermented and vinted like a white wine.  Depending on the style you’re after, it can go through malo-lactic fermentation or not, be barrel-aged or bottled young, or be aged sur lees or not.  Typically, though, they are bottled young, with crisp acidity, and no oak exposure.  They are meant to be consumed young, just like an unoaked white wine.

In the next installment of the Harvest Series, I will discuss how to make port dessert wine.