Rose is not a specific grape or region. Instead, it is a category of wine, much like “red” and “white” are categories of wine. Rose is named after the pale red color of the wine, and refers to any wine which is pink / light red in color. White Zinfandel is a great example of rose wine. This style of wine is also refered to as a blush wine.
Traditionally Rose wines are made from red wine grapes. All grapes are white on the inside. Its only the outside skin that is white or red. The reason red wines are red is that, during the winemaking process, the wine makers let the red skins “sit” on the wine juice. The red color then soaks from the skins into the resulting wine. The longer the skins stay in contact with the juice, the darker and rich the color becomes.
Therfore by letting the skins stay in touch with the juice for only a very short period of time. The winemaker is able to produce the light pink/blush color.
Rose wines can vary greatly in their quality, this in large part depends on the way it is produced, which is based on specific techniques of vinification. There are three types of roses production methods: one that is “bled” (saignee), one that is “pressed” (pressurage) and one that is in minimal contact with the skins (limited maceration).
Limited maceration is by far the most common method used. The process involves the early removal of the skins which limits the pigment in the wine producing a lighter or Rose color wine.
For “bled”, or Saignee, roses the winemaker extracts a certain quantity of red juice, from a vat of fermenting red grapes, which is then put in steel vats during the fermenting process. This method allows wine producers to increase the concentration of a red wine that may be overly diluted due to excessive juice in the grape or a premature harvest. This explains why so many wine producing regions make this type of rose, which is often of an mediocre quality.
The other technique, “pressurage,” involves the pressing of dark skinned white grapes to obtain a sufficient blush color. After the pressing, the process of vinification is the same as it is for a white wine. Note, however, that blending white and red wines to make rosé is forbidden, except in the Champagne appellation.
Not all rose need to be sweet. Rose can be made in any style from sweet, to dry, depending on the winemaker's aim. There are many rose from France which are traditionally pink, and traditionally quite dry.
The production of Rose wines is thought to date back to the production of Claret in the Bordeaux region during the fifteenth century. The grapes, which were mostly white, were crushed by foot and left to ferment overnight. The extracted juice was then transferred to a barrel to continue the fermenting process. The longer the juice remained in contact with the skins, the darker the color of the wine, these wines were pink, or Rose in color.
Rose wines practically disappeared in the nineteenth century, and didn't really re-appear until the second half of the 20th century. The 1960s saw a revival of this wine, when it became the wine of choice for the middle class. The wines then gained a following in the United States when two Portuguese imports, Lancers and Mateus became popular for their soft, sweet flavors. The American market quickly grew and they began producing their own “blush” rose style wines. The Rose market is still the fastest growing sector of the American wine market.
Almost all of the world's winemaking regions produce roses. France is probably the most famous country for the production of these wines due to their long-standing tradition of rose making.
The main regions in France producing rose wines are:
Bandol: This one of the best known rose producing regions for the US market. Here the main red variety from which rose is produced is Mourvedre. Reds and whites are also produced, with red wine claiming the majority. The mineral-driven rosé wines sourced from Bandol's limestone vineyards are also among the most structured.
Palette: whites, reds and roses are produced in equal quantity here. This area is probably most famous for the Chateau Simone, which is a historic producer with its own AOC within Palette. Chateau Simone makes one of the most age-worthy roses in the world. Grenache is the main variety of grape used here.
Tavel: This region is arguably the capital of French rose and is the only AOC in the country that only produces rose wine. This area is home to some of the most legendary and long-lived Rose wines.
Reuilly: Rose wines are produced using the Pinot Gris grape in this area, which is vinified on the skins to produce mineral-driven, light rose.
Rose wines are made in a variety of countries and continents, from a variety of grapes, using different techniques, which leads to a huge variation in the aromas and flavors of the wines– and definitely in the dryness and sweetness of the wines. The flavor of these wines tend to be a more subtle version of their red wine varietal counterparts. Light fruit flavors generally consist of cherry, raspberry and strawberries with some citrus and watermelon often present. The light fruity sweeter style Rose pair well with poultry dishes such as chicken teriyaki, or lemon chicken. Try the drier styles with curried salmon cakes, Prosciutto Panini, or Peri Peri chicken.