Red, white or rosé?
Above all, wine is about sensory impressions.
When tasting a vintage wine, three distinct senses are involved.
• Sight: Sight is the first sense to come into play, allowing you to appreciate the colour of the wine. For ordinary drinkers, there are three colours – red, white and rosé (pink). In fact, these colours can be broken down into 17 different shades and qualities.
• Smell: Your nose will first tell you about the aromatic quality and intensity of a wine, but its role does not end there, because the nose continues to work when the wine is in your mouth (via the retro-nasal passage).
• Taste: When the wine first enters your mouth, you will notice its temperature, density, astringency and, if it is a sparkling wine, its effervescence. Following this initial stage, you will pay attention to a wine’s range of flavours, its balance and forthrightness, and its final note (or ‘finish’).
Red, White or Rosé: Why These Colours?
The colour of a wine depends on two factors – the colour of the grapes and how long they macerate. The colour of the grapes is crucial, because white grapes do not make red wine, which is logical enough. White wines are made from grapes with white pulp, whereas red wines are made from grapes with highly coloured skins. If not all white wines are the same colour, then that is due to the specific variety of grape used (as is the case in red and rosé wines) as well as to other methods of winemaking and the level of sugar. But what aboutrosé? Rosé is in no case a blend of red and white wines. The recent debate over this subject has angered the makers of this sweet nectar which, it should be recalled, is probably the oldest type of wine in history.
In order to understand the difference between red wines and rosé wines, you need to know a little about methods of winemaking. Once the grapes have been harvested, they are crushed in order to release all the juice they contain. The entire grape (skin, pulp and seeds) is placed in a vat, and natural yeasts on the surface trigger the fermentation process. Sugar is thereby transformed into alcohol, and this maceration process draws out the colour contained in the skin. This first, alcoholic, fermentation is followed by malolactic fermentation, which reduces a wine’s acidity even as it strengthens colour and brings out aromas. The recipe is the same for both red and rosé wines, but the macerating time differs. In addition, when making a rosé wine the skins of the grapes are removed before malolactic fermentation begins. The latter plays an important role in so far as it might be deliberately halted in order to retain a certain acidity or fruity taste for white and rosé wines.
Rosé, an historic wine once spurned by Wine Specialists
The first thing to realise is that various laws – national, European and international – have only one definition of wine, making no distinction between red, white and rosé wines. Long considered a second-rate wine because it is fruity, light and served chilled, rosé has now become highly popular among consumers. This success has enabled rosé wines to enhance their image and become more widely known. Even wine specialists are now showing renewed interest, especially since the making of a high quality rosé, with the right balance and fruitiness, is a difficult task.