Pink wines, also known by the French term rosé – the accent over the ‘e’ indicates the word is pronounces as rose-aye – have become fashionable in the past few years.
Not that they haven’t always had their fans, and what is the phenomenally successful ‘white’ Zinfandel but a rosé wine?
When I started going out to dinner in restaurants pink wine was the easy way of settling the food matching ‘problem’ since the thinking was that pink being half red and half white would ‘go’ with everything. Portuguese pink brands Mateus Rosé and Lancers were very popular, and with their slight sparkle, an unthreatening pleasant sweetness and a noticeably shaped bottle, these wines sold in their millions to new drinkers, like me.
Now a new wave of serious pink wines, often made completely dry, are available and ask to be taken seriously. Of course there are places where pink wines have always been fashionable. Rosé’s are the local wines of Provence, in southern France, and I remember being surprised to see a bottle of pink wine on every table in a packed restaurant the first time I was there.
Pink wines are not usually made by blending a red and white wine, although that was how Mateus Rose was produced and most pink Champagne is white wine coloured with a measure of Pinot Noir.
But the standard way is to start making a red wine and remove the juice from the grape skins before fermentation is complete and when the desired pink colour is reached. Remember that red wine extracts its colour from the skins of red skinned grapes during fermentation because the juice of the grapes is clear.
In order to intensify the colour of red wines winemakers sometimes draw off some juice so there is a greater ratio of red skins to remaining juice. This is what Sutter Home winery in Napa Valley did back in the 1970s and they sold the clear wine as white Zinfandel. It was dry and not wasn’t particularly popular. But a few years later fermentation in one of the vats stopped early before the wine was deep red, and before all the sugars had converted to alcohol. When the bottles of this pale pink off-dry wine went on sale the public loved it. The following year, and ever since, they’ve made it on purpose: sweeter and with a definite pink. And so ‘white Zinfandel swept the market.
What is your favourite pink wine, please share on our forum.
Peter F May is the author of Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape: Odd Wines from Around the World which features more than 100 wine labels and the stories behind them, and PINOTAGE: Behind the Legends of South Africa’s Own Wine which tells the story behind the Pinotage wine and grape, also available for the KIndle.