Rosé wine (vino rosato in Italian) is a positively ambiguous product with a very attractive colour, halfway between a red and a white, but without being either one or the other. Rosé wine is a stand alone product, with own visual and organoleptic characteristics. Its name derives from its typical pink colour, easily found in various shades and tones: copper pink (or onion pink), salmon pink, light pink and light red.
If you can not resist the temptation of comparing it to its older brothers, because of the desire for cataloging, you can say that it visually reminds the red wines, from which it inherits the colour, while at organoleptic level it is more similar to the white wines. The fact remains that, in recent years, it lives of a certain reputation and it is increasingly requested in many situations, from aperitifs to dinners, and is especially popular in summer for its freshness and lightness.
The key phases of rosé vinification
Let's say it immediately to avoid misunderstandings: the rosé wine, the real one, does not come from a blend of red and white wines, but from a precise vinification technique, which consists in limiting the maceration phase, that is the time when the marcs are in contact with the must.
The preparatory phase of the must, in a rosé wine, is very similar to the one of the red vinification. Once the grapes are harvested, they are transferred into the cellar where are they are destemmed and crushed. These two mechanical operations allow to obtain the must, a dense and turbid liquid, which is composed of the crushed grapes pulp, the skins and the grape seeds. At this stage, particular attention must be paid in crushing the grapes, as there seeds breakage could cause the escape of the tannin, that is not suitable for this kind of wine.
Short maceration of the marcs
The duration of the maceration is the "brake" to use in order to obtain a rosé wine, stopping the transfer of colouring substances from the skins to the must before they turn it into a red wine.
Usually, in a red wine, the marcs are in contact with the must for one or two weeks, but in rosé wines this period is reduced from a few hours up to a maximum of two days. Depending on the duration of the maceration, different shades can be obtained, from pale pink to very intense pink, very similar to a red.
Separation of the marcs
The maceration phase of rosé wines takes place before the fermentation starts, at the most until 2 days since the the grapes have been crushed. The separation between must and marcs can be made in two ways: with a mechanical separation or using the technique of bleeding.
The bleeding technique deserves a little attention, since it is more particular than a normal separation: it consists in taking a certain quantity of must from the container where you are preparing the red wine, usually 20-30% of the total, and vivifing it like a white wine. In this way you can obtain, on the one hand, the must of the rosé wine, on the other hand, the must of a red wine, more concentrated in terms of scents and organoleptic substances.
Once the maceration and separation phase have been completed, the must is fermented in steel or fiberglass containers, rarely in wood, likewise to what happens in white vinification.
Once racked, the wine is ready to be sold and drunk; rosé wines are not suitable for ageing or refining in bottles, processes that would alter the characteristics of aromatic freshness and acidity. In general, it is preferable to consume rosé wines within one or two years.
Question of maceration
The maceration is the key process that gives the wine its typical colour: during this phase the must (i.e. the future wine) is in close contact with the marcs that, depending on the grape variety, release a certain quantity of colouring and organoleptic substances.
Rosé wine distinguishes itself from the red one precisely for the management of this phase: when the maceration lasts less than 48 hours, the whole process of wine making is called rosé vinification. If it lasts more than 48 hours, the process is called red vinification.