A rosé wine is wine made from red-skinned grapes where the grape juice has only been in contact with the red skins long enough (usually two or three days) to give the wine a slight coloring. A rosé wine is a wine that could have been made as a red wine, but the wine maker decided to create a lighter wine instead — not just lighter in color, but also lighter in flavors, aromas, and tannins. The color of a rosé wine can range from just barely pink to dark and coppery.
The popularity of rosé wines has been increasing in America, possibly because they help bridge the gap between acidic white wines and tannic red wines. The fact that rosé wines can be either relatively sweet or relatively dry means that there are good rosés available for almost any occasion, from formal dinner to cookouts. All rosé wines are best young, though, so you should avoid vintages that are more than two years old.
Saignée & Rosé Wines
Although rosé wines are usually created from the start by combining grape juice and their red skins for a minimal amount of time in wine-making vats, some rosé wines are created as a by-product of the creation of stronger red wines. Sometimes wine makers will siphon off a bit of the grape juice from a vat creating red wine after just a short period of time, a procedure known as "bleeding" or "saignée."
The reason for doing this is that there will now be a smaller amount of grape juice mixing with the grape skins, thus concentrating the tannins and flavor compounds that will be imparted to that juice and the resulting wine. Rather than simply throwing out the pink grape juice siphoned off, it can be fermented on its own, creating rosé wines.
Rosé Wines & Blush Wines
Until recently it was more likely that wine drinkers in America would be more familiar with "blush" wines than with rosé wines. The label "blush" was created by Mill Creek Vineyards in 1976 as a marketing tool for a pink wine created from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. This wine was part of a practices among California wine makers trying to meet the large demand for white wines despite not having enough white grapes — their solution was to create whiter and pinker wines from red grapes.
The label "blush" caught on and came to be used by several American wineries for sweet, pink wines. In fact, any wine labeled blush today can be counted on to be among the sweeter of any possible rosé selections available to you. So if you are looking for a drier rosé, stay away from blush, but if sweet is what you need then blush is worth trying.
Rosé Wines: Dry or Sweet?
At one time rosé wines were generally drier, delicate, light wines but today both dry and sweet rosés are common. This means that there is a wide variety of types of rosé wines available to you, but it also means that you have to choose your rosé wine carefully so you don't get something too sweet or too dry for your purposes. This requires either knowing in advance what the wines taste like or knowing how to read the labels carefully.
The strongest indicator of how much sugar is left in a rosé wine is how much alcohol is in the wine — alcohol comes from sugar, so the more alcohol there is, the less sugar there will be left over and thus the less sweet the rosé will be. If the alcohol content of the rosé is between 12 and 15 percent, the wine will taste drier because little residual sugar is left over; if the alcohol content is under 12 percent the rosé will taste sweeter because more residual sugar is left over.