FAQ’s from the Tasting Room: What is Rosé (And Which One’s for Me)?

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Lately it seems wherever I turn I find rosé wines, made from all different types of grapes, and in every shade of pink imaginable. It’s the hottest wine on the market right now and many wineries can barely keep it in stock through the summer. So it’s no surprise that the majority of questions we are asked in the tasting room have to do with rosé. Specifically – what exactly is rosé and how do I find what I like in this sea of pink?

When answering the “what is rosé?” question, I typically try to focus on 2 key elements: what it’s made of and how it’s made. First things first, rosé isn’t a type of grape. But it is a pretty large category of wine. It’s similar to categories like red wine and white wine in that it can be made from many different grapes and in every conceivable style. But when it comes to the “how,” there are actually a number of ways to make it.

At Lieb Cellars we use a traditional method called maceration to create our high quality rosé. Maceration is simply the act of letting the juice and skins of the grapes sit together after they’re destemmed and crushed. This allows the juice to soak up lots of color, flavor and tannins making the eventual wine taste more robust.  For example, when we make red wine, we let the juice and skins hang out for 2-3 weeks.  But when we make rosé we use the same process but only leave the juice and skins in contact for a few hours. This makes the wine both lighter in color and in flavor.

Some producers use a  process called saignée. During the saignée process the juice is bled off after short contact with the skins, except this time the remaining wine is made into a more concentrated red. But in this process the rosé is of secondary importance – a by-product – and as such it is usually sold for a lower price.

Red grapes can also be whole cluster pressed to create lighter style rosés.  In this process, the entire cluster of grapes, stems and all, are delicately pressed to extract lightly flavored juice as opposed to destemmed and crushed.

Finally, although this method is highly frowned upon in winemaking circles, simply blending white and red grapes together is occasionally undertaken and can produce something slightly resembling rosé.

So how do you know which rosé is right for you? Most Americans  are familiar with  “blush” wine. This would be your White Zinfandels and other inexpensive, simple, and sweet pink wine (usually made by the maceration method but then adding sugar and other additives). If you’re looking for this type of wine use the term “blush” and tell the salesperson you like White Zinfandels. But if you prefer something drier and higher quality, which is my personal preference, keep your eye out for French rosés from the Provence region.  Better yet, stop in at one of the many great local wineries on the North Fork where most of the rosés, including Lieb’s Bridge Lane Rosé, are dry.

Luckily for you Lieb also packages our Rosé in a convenient 3L box, and a 20L keg if you and your friends are especially thirsty.

Remember the one thing we all preach here at Lieb – that there is no wrong answer.  One rosé isn’t necessarily better than any other, and it all comes down to personal preference. So when in doubt, grab a glass and try it! That’s the only way you’ll know if you like it. But don’t give up the search! It’d be a shame to miss out on this popular, versatile warm weather treat.

Happy hunting, and cheers to spring!

Anthony Mattis

Tasting Room Captain, Brand Ambassador & Certified Sommelier