Sometimes it seems like the world of wine has had a line drawn in the sand. On one side there are fruity and light white wines and on the other side there are the structured and more tannic reds. But occupying the no-mans-land between these two different worlds is Rosé. Neither a true white or a true red, this pink juice shares characteristics of both.
All red wines draw their color from the skins of the grape and in this sense Rosés are no different. There are several different techniques that winemakers use to achieve the distinctive style of Rosé. Sutter Home's technique which it uses to produce their um...ubiquitous...*ahem* White Zinfandel is the product of a winery accident where red wine was accidentally added to a white wine tank and to this day, most of the Rosés on the market are produced by simply blending red and white wines. Alternatively, when the winemaker’s intent is to produce a Rosé from the beginning, grapes are harvested at very low Brix to achieve a light wine with low alcohol. Unlike red wines that are fermented along with their skins throughout the entire process of primary fermentation, Rosés are only briefly in contact with their skins before they are pressed, often only for as short a period as a few hours.
Deerfield uses a traditional approach to making Rosé. Deerfield produced a Rosé in 2009 and our latest one, the 2010 Checkerbloom Rosé, was just released this past week. Deerfield uses a traditional process known as Saignée (which means "bleeding off") to make our Rosé. In this process grapes that are picked at a high Brix, which have too much sugar that will likely produce a wine with too high alcohol yet beautiful ripe fruit flavors, are macerated and some of the juice is "bled off" to reduce the skin to must ratio. This extra juice is ideal for creating a Rosé. Rosé can be made out of many different varietals or a blend. The juice we use to produce our Rosé was bled off of our 95 point Old Vine Zinfandel which invariably is harvested at high Brix. Already colored by its contact with the skins, we treat the juice quite differently than either a normal red or white fermentation. We ferment at a low temperature to slow the process, and in neutral oak barrels which is typically a treatment we reserve for Chardonnay. The barrel fermentation develops softer tannins and lengthens the mouthfeel. Even though this wine is fermented without its skins like a white wine, we use a strain of red wine yeast that is known to accentuate the fruit character. This is what makes our Rosé stand out - it has bold fruit flavors and body, yet it is light and approachable.