Rosé wine and art
Rosé wine and art: paintings by Smilja Radosav

Given how versatile it is, it’s surprising that we don’t pay more attention to rosé wine. Perhaps prejudice makes us see rosé wine as less serious than white or red wine? Or maybe it’s because we’ve all, at some time or other, tried one of those awful cloyingly sweet, sickly pink beverages and decided rosé wine really wasn’t for us? I confess I definitely fall into that category and was surprised in our recent tasting to see just how much such wines can vary.

How rosé wine is made

Rosé wine is made with red wine grapes. It has less colour than red wine because the grape skins, which give wine its colour, are in contact with the juice for a shorter time.

There are three main ways of making rosé wine, the first two being the most usual.

rosé wine
The colour of rosé wine varies greatly

Drawing-off (also called saignée or bleeding)

This process starts like red wine. Crushed, destemmed red wine grapes are put into a tank or barrel to macerate for between 6 and 48 hours so that some of the colour from the skins gets into the juice. The more time the skins are in contact with the juice, the deeper the colour. These wines are likely to have some tannins too, also from the skins. Then the juice (must) is removed from the skins and fermented in the same way as a white wine.

Direct pressing

The freshly harvested red grapes are pressed without any maceration. A small amount of colour is extracted from the skins during the pressing process. The must is then fermented like white wine. The result is usually a very pale coloured rosé with little or no tannin.


This is where a small amount of red wine is blended with white wine to make it pink-coloured. This is not common and, apart from Champagne, is not permitted in the EU.

Rosé tasting on the terrace

tasting rosé wine

On a hot summer’s day, a group of us recently got together to taste rosé wines during an al fresco buffet. We tried four rosé wines which served above all to show how diverse such wines can be. Many thanks to the tasting panel: Kate Whitlock, John Ewer, Kerry Dudman, Anne Dudman, Irina Axenova, Crystal Manafi, Carola de Rodt and Helen Conway. Thank you also to John Ewer for taking the photos.

Rosé wine from KoyleKoyle Don Cande Cinsault 2015, Itata Valley, Chile.

12.5% ABV. Available from Vinoteca in Chile at CLP8,490.

Made from 100% Cinsault grapes from dry-farmed old vines in Itata. The grapes were harvested early to retain their acidity and direct pressed. The must was fermented slowly at a low temperature. 20% of the wine was aged in used oak barrels.

This wine was a pale salmon colour. The nose revealed subtle citrus aromas, like lime. The wine was dry with light body, barely perceptible tannins, refreshing, crisp acidity and a light citrus flavour. This is a very light and refreshing wine, perfect as an appetiser on a hot day.

More information about Koyle.

J. Bouchon Reserva Rosé 2016, Maule Valley, Chile.

12.5% ABV. Available from Vinoteca in Chile for CLP$4,590.

This wine was made with 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% País grapes. The drawing off method was used, the grapes being macerated for 12 hours at 8°C. The must was then fermented at a low temperature for 30 days.

This pale salmon-coloured wine had a medium nose with savoury and herbal notes. It was dry with refreshing acidity, light body and some herbaceous and savoury notes of mushrooms. The finish was medium.

More information about Bouchon Family wines.

Tasting rosé wineRainstorm Silver Linings Pinot Noir rosé 2014, Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA.

12.5% ABV. Kindly brought from the USA by Anne Dudman.

This wine was made with 100% Pinot Noir grapes using a mixture of two techniques: 65% of the grapes were direct pressed to give it acidity and elegance, while 35% was drawn off after some skin contact to provide additional fruit and some structure. It was fermented at a low temperature.

This wine was a very pale orange colour. The nose was quite aromatic with classic Pinot Noir notes of cooked strawberries, earthy and mushroom notes as well as a touch of caramel and rose petals. This was an elegant wine, dry, with refreshing acidity and medium body. The flavours were again very classic Pinot Noir: red fruit, mushrooms and forest floor. A very versatile and food-friendly wine and the favourite in our tasting.

More information about Rainstorm Wines.

Comparing the colour of rosé wineDomaine de Crève Coeur’s Le Rosé du Coucou 2015 from the southern Rhône in France.

13.5% ABV. Available in Chile from Edwards Fine Wines for CLP$11,300.

This biodynamic wine was made with 60% Grenache and 40% Cinsault grapes , which were directly pressed. The must was then fermented slowly at a low temperature.

This wine was a mid-red colour, much deeper than many rosés. A very pleasant nose of red fruits, like cranberries and strawberry jam, together with some aromas of toffee. This was a dry wine with medium acidity, medium body and pleasant red fruit and toffee flavours. This wine would pair well with light dishes, such as white fish or salad.

More information about Domaine de Crève Coeur.

Have you had any rosé wine experiences you’d like to share? Any you particularly liked or disliked? I’d love to hear from you.

You know how you build pictures of places you’ve read about but never seen? Well, when I think of Alsace and sniff the pure fruity aromas of its wines, I visualize a Sound of Music type of landscape, all green mountain meadows and blue skies, maybe even Julie Andrews skipping among the vines. I expect I’m somewhat off the mark – after all, this is northern France we’re talking about. However, it is a region with a special climate, protected from the wind and rain by the Vosges mountains. Alsace wines are known for their own special style: single varietals with pure, fresh fruit expression and elegance. Most Alsace wines are white but I’ve heard about some outstanding Pinot Noirs – here’s hoping I can find one to try soon.

I recently tried two different varieties from Alsace, both by biodynamic producer Josmeyer, purchased in Chile from Edwards Fine Wines.

The grapes for both these Alsace wines were grown on clay-rich soil with silt, sand, pebbles and loess, so reasonably well-draining. They were hand-picked and whole-bunch pressed very slowly, enabling the production of clean must and some skin contact, perhaps accounting for their pale golden colour. The must was fermented with its natural yeasts in stainless steel and then settled in stainless steel, to retain the fruity aromas and flavours. It was lightly filtered and bottled in the early spring following harvest. More information from the producer’s website.

Bottles of Alsace wine
Kitty is always quick to get in on the action

Josmeyer Mise du Printemps Vu Par Isabelle 2015 Le Pinot Blanc, 12% ABV


This pale gold-coloured wine displayed lots of pure, fresh fruit aromas, particularly golden apples and pears and some soft citrus aromas, like limes, together with a honeyed note. There was a hard-to-pin-down note that added a complexity into the otherwise pure fruit – a smoky quality maybe? Bacon fat?  It was very subtle, not unpleasant but rather interesting.

This was a dry wine with high acidity and fairly full body – more akin to a Chardonnay than the weedy body of a Sauvignon Blanc, for instance. In the mouth, it was fruity, featuring flavours of apples and pears, a hint of waxy lemons, a honeyed note and that subtle savoury hint that was apparent on the nose. The wine had a pleasing texture – smooth and enveloping – but cut through with the zing of zesty acidity. The finish was surprisingly long.  This wine would be a great alternative to a Chardonnay, for instance to go with fish or chicken dishes.


Alsace wine - GewürztraminerJosmeyer Les Folastries Gewürztraminer 2011, 14% ABV



This pale gold-coloured wine had the wonderful, exciting aromas so typical of Gewürztraminer, one of the most aromatic of all wine grape varieties. Think roses and orange blossom, spices like ginger, tropical citrus notes of pineapples and sherbert lemon, together with Turkish delight, like you just walked into an old-fashioned sweet shop.


This wine was off-dry with medium acidity, medium body and quite intense flavours of spices, like ginger, tropical citrus aromas (pineapple, pink grapefruit, lemon sherbert) and floral notes (rose, orange blossom). The finish was quite long.

This was a lovely wine but, as is common in Gewürztraminer, it was a little lacking in acidity. This makes many Gewürztraminer wines less refreshing and a little less exciting to drink than other,  more acidic wines, like Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc or Riesling.

Gewürztraminer wines often have a touch (or more) of sweetness, which makes them a good alternative for sweet and sour dishes and Oriental food in general. My friend Smilja regards this variety as the perfect pairing for Chinese food, for instance.





I was unable to find any Chilean Pinot Blanc wines to try alongside the version from Alsace. However, Chile does produce a small number of Gewürztraminer wines, though they aren’t always easy to track down, so I was taste the following Chilean Gewürztraminer alongside Josmeyer’s version.


Alsace wine - GewúrztraminerViña Casablanca Nimbus Single Vineyard Gewürztraminer 2015, Casablanca, 13% ABV

This pale lemon-coloured wine had a pronounced nose featuring citrus fruit aromas, like pineapple and sweet notes of Turkish Delight and spices like ginger, but rather lacked the complexity of the Alsace wine’s aromas.

In the mouth it was dry with medium acidity, medium body, medium flavour intensity with citrus and spice notes. The finish was medium. Less complex and elegant than the Alsace wine, this wine would work well as a fresh, aromatic chilled drink to enjoy while watching the sun go down.

For details of other French wines, check out these posts:

Tasting French wine – Bordeaux and SW France

Tasting French wine – Loire Cabernet Franc

Tasting French wine – Loire Chenin Blanc

What do you think about Gewürztraminer?  Have you tried one you especially liked?