Who's for Rosé?

Who's for Rosé?

Rosé All Year Round

It is not that long ago that if I had a glass of rosé in my hand, then I would make sure that there were no cameras around in case someone shared with the world that I, Peter Lunzer had been drinking rosé.

It was probably Whispering Angel from Château d’Esclan, under the expert guidance of Sasha Lichine, who first convinced me that rosé could be a fine wine, as well as a refreshing drink. When in the South of France on a hot day, many years ago, some of the pink tinged ‘paint stripper’ was only acceptable on a blisteringly hot day and if it was chilled to within an inch of its life. Trying to bring any of it back to the tepid summers in the UK was nothing short of folly. 

Since the pioneering efforts of Mr Lichine, there have been many other examples of really high quality rosé production, including on the high volume side a great example from an old friend @StephenCronk, whose Mirabeau Rosé graces many retailers shelves in the UK (I think I may have advised him against producing Rosé in Provence but thankfully he ignored me!)

I have now tasted many different types of Rose over the years, from many countries and regions but we have found a firm favourite in AIX Provence.

The quality speaks for itself and at 2/3 the price of Whispering Angel, it seems to be something of a bargain. We also admit to admiring their pilfering the word AIX from under the noses of all the locals who have been producing Aix en Provence Rose for generations. (The word AIX has Latin associations with a Mandarin Duck - ingenious!)

Another thing we love about AIX is their enthusiasm for large format bottles. The owner Eric Kurver is on record as saying that his wine is made to be shared and what better way to start a party than with a few 3 litre bottles on ice and a few friends to help.

The new generation of properly made rose is worth investigating as a potentially pleasing alternative to white wine all year round - keep the battery acid for a blisteringly hot day on the south coast of France when anything cold and wet might be acceptable.

Thanks to its pretty pink hue and refreshing, fruit-forward style, rosé wine has surged in popularity in recent years. But despite its newfound fame, there are still a lot of misconceptions surrounding this type of wine. What grapes is it made from? Is it just a mixture of red and white wine? And what is orange wine?

If you're curious about how your favourite summer tipple is made, read on. We'll take you through the three methods that different blush wine producers use - and talk about some of our favourites.




Further information about Rosé production...

Is rosé made from red wine grapes or white?

Just how is Rosé wine made? How does it relate to white and red wines?

Rosé wine is made from red wine grapes - however, the grape skins are left in to steep for a much shorter time than they are for a red wine. Incorporating a little of this colour is what gives rosé its characteristic pink hue.

Did you know? The vast majority of wine grapes produce a clear, colourless juice - even well-known red wine grapes such as Pinot noir. The colour in red wine (and rosé) comes from contact with the grape skins during fermentation. Many white wines are actually made from red grapes, but the pressed juice is simply fermented without the skins being left in - Champagne being a notable example.

Rosé wines can vary hugely in colour, from a light peach to a vivid purplish red. The hue is determined by the grape variety used, and how long the skins are left in contact with the juice.

The three methods of rosé making

Skin contact

The most common method of rosé wine making is called skin contact or maceration. The red grapes are crushed, and then left to soak in their own juices for a short time (usually 12-24 hours), depending on the depth of colour desired. The grape skins, stems and seeds are then removed and the wine is fermented as normal.

During the period of skin contact, compounds such as tannins develop the flavour, colour and aroma of the wine - and also help preserve it. This is why red wines (which can be macerated for several days or weeks) can have such a long shelf life, whereas rosés are usually more perishable.

Provence is arguably the most famous region for rosé wine, and the majority of producers there still use this method. The wines tend to be very dry, light in colour, and with subtle flavours of summer fruits.


The second method is called saignée, which means 'bleed' in French. In this method, the rosé is actually a byproduct of making red wine.

In the saignée method, red wine is made as normal, but some of the juice is removed from the vat early on in the fermentation process. This 'bleeding' of the juice concentrates the flavours and colour in the remaining red wine. The juice can either be discarded or made into a rosé wine.

Rosé wines made with the saignée method tend to have more body, depth and colour than those made with the skin contact method. Many distinguished red winemakers produce rosé wine this way, though it only accounts for about 10% of their production.


The third method of making rosé wine is blending. This is where a small amount of red wine is simply mixed with white wine before bottling, resulting in... pink wine. This method is less popular among serious wine producers - many consider it to even be sacrilegious - as it gives the final wine less complexity and character. In France, they even have a law against it!

The exception to everything here is in Champagne, where a small amount of still red wine from the Pinot noir or Meunier grape varietals is added to the final blend (and the police aren't called). This is what gives sparkling rosé champagne its delicate pink colour. However, some rosé producers in Champagne still favour the saignée method.

The difference between rosé and orange wine

You may have also heard of orange wine, which is a very different beast to rosé (and it has nothing to do with oranges). Orange wine is actually white wine that has been made using the skin contact method - but the juice is in contact with the white grape skins for a long time, sometimes months. The maceration gives it a golden amber-orange colour.

In typical white wine production, the skins are immediately removed as soon as the grapes are crushed. But by leaving the white grape skins in contact with the juice for a prolonged period, orange wines take on a more robust body and tannic structure, similar to red wines.

So there you have it - everything you need to know about how rosé wine is made. If you'd like to see what special rosé wines we currently have in stock, take a look here. We also offer a range of other types of wines such as Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. Salut!