While researching and writing the book Rosé All Day (Abrams, spring 2017), I observed that many wineries were turning out similarly disappointing rosés. And I was surprised and delighted by wines that elevated the rosé conversation by exploring the boundaries of the genre.
What, then, are the differences between a sub-par, a good, and a great pink wine? I keep the following criteria in mind as I taste rosés today. (For a more in-depth explanation of the following outline, head over to medium, where I have also posted some nice photos.)
signs of quality in a rosé
- Acidity, fruit and alcohol are in balance
- The majority of the fruit has been farmed and harvested specifically for rosé production
- Saignée, if used, is just part of the recipe
- The mouthfeel is textured, whether with spritz, silkiness or light tannin
- The wine holds up to one year of cellar age, even if it is made in a “drink-now” style
- The packaging is alluring, because presentation plays a key role in rosé’s identity
some common rosé blunders
- Alcohol overpowers fruit and acidity
- The pursuit of pale color and translucence has stripped flavor and identity from the wine
- Too much sulfur, added as a preservative, has imparted a foul odor
- An overly expensive, heavy glass bottle is used — especially when the quality of the wine does not warrant such a splurge
- Overripe fruit makes for raisin-y flavors
- Use of a cork results in TCA taint and/or oxidation
- Use of commercial yeast makes for overly candied aromas and flavors
rosé-making moves worthy of praise
- Lees aging and stirring, to naturally enhance texture
- Fermentation and aging in vessels other than stainless-steel tanks, such as subtle oak barrels, cement tanks or amphorae
- Allowing malolactic fermentation to happen
- Allowing spontaneous, natural-yeast fermentation to happen
- Experimenting with whole-cluster fermentation
- Attention to subtle design detail in packaging
- A back label informing the consumer of the grape content, the vinification process, and the location of the vineyard site
questions we should ask of rosé makers
- How can you express typicity and terroir in your rosé?
- Could you aim to make a wine that can withstand, at minimum, a couple of years of cellar age?
- If your rosé veers significantly from the standard style, should your back label make note of this fact?
- Are you comfortable with the negative environmental impact of that onerously heavy glass bottle?
- Why not use screwcaps or glass stoppers as closures?
- Should you alert consumers that clear glass rosé bottles should be stored in a cool, dark environment?