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When is a rose not a rose?

When is a rose not a rose?

Close-up of rose wine on white background. Stock Unlimited

 By Mark Vickery

A rose is a rose is a rose……, but when is it not a rose?  A thorny question, but one that has an answer! When it is a wine!

A couple columns back, I referred to rose wines and now I’d like to expand.  First off, the wine is pronounced ro-zay, but you knew that. Now that that’s settled, how in the world is the stuff made, you ask since pink grapes don’t exist in nature? Well, get out your notebooks ‘cause we’re going to have a quiz on this next week (not really, I just want to create a feeling of panic to keep you on your toes!).

A rose is made from the same red grapes that produce red wine. When the juice is pressed out of the grapes, it has a slight pink tinge.  It becomes a red wine by throwing the skins back into the juice. That’s where the tannin and color and character come from – the skins. But if you pull the skins out before it becomes fully red, then you have a rose.

Each winemaker chooses how long to leave the skins in, according to his or her own preference, but generally, it’s a day or two. Then the skins are removed and the wine is allowed to ferment. Fermentation occurs when yeast feeds on the natural sugars in the juice.

The length of fermentation is also up to the winemaker; the shorter the fermentation period, the sweeter the rose. Sweet-domestic roses have been given their own category name- blush wines – and are very sweet. White Zinfandel is the best-known blush wine and is very popular among sweet wine lovers.

But what if you don’t want a sweet rose? Dry, fruity roses have grown immensely popular over the last few years as people have discovered how versatile and how good these wines are. Hanging out at a barbecue, waiting for the burgers to cook? Sip a rose. Wondering what to serve with a salad? Serve rose. Spicy, grilled shrimp? Yep. Rose.

With warm weather, chilled roses are especially appropriate to drink on the deck or patio. What should you expect to taste or sense in a rose? In the lighter colored ones, look for hints of apple, watermelon, and floral aromas. Dom Lafage Miraflors is a great example. In fuller bodied roses, think hints of black raspberry and strawberry. Remember, I’m talking hints here. Sokol Blosser, U.S., is a good bet.

Rose is a great quaffing wine because it’s easy-drinking and lower in alcohol. Rock star Sting drinks it during concerts, I’ve heard. So there you go.

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