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Rose wines, often referred to as blush wines or written rosé, are wines typically made with red grapes but that have a much lighter color than red wine due to the way the wine is made. The actual hue varies depending on the grapes and winemaking method involved; most of these wines have a pink, purple, or orange color. Rose wines may be produced in a number of different ways, and these wines can be sweet or dry; traditional European varieties tend to be dry, while many produced in the US are on the sweeter side.
The Difference Between Red, White, and Rose
One of the main differences in how wines are made — what makes one red, one white, and another rose — is how long the juice is in contact with the skin of the grape. In most cases, the grapes are different as well; pinot noir is a red wine grape, while chardonnay is used for white wines. The color of the final product, however, is strongly dependent on how long the juice is left in contact with the skin of the grapes. Roses are usually made with red wine grapes, but the skins and other solids are removed from the juice after just a few hours or days, leaving the final product a much lighter color than red wine, and with a less intense flavor.
How Wine Is Made
There are several different ways to make rose wine, and the method used does affect the final product. One of the most common is the limited maceration method, in which the grapes are crushed to make a must, and the juice and other solids stay in contact for some period of time. After the desired color is achieved, the must is pressed and the juice is fermented separately. Another method, called presse or "pressing," presses the grapes first until the juice reaches the appropriate color before being removed for fermentation.
The bleeding method, also called saignée, is another way to make the wine. In this method, some of the juice is removed from a vat of red wine early in the winemaking process. This results in a more intense red wine, while the light-colored juice bled from the vat is used to make rose. In some cases, the term saignée is reserved for those wines that are crushed by their own weight; piled together in the vat, the weight of grapes on top combined with the natural fermentation within the grape crushes those on the bottom, releasing the juice. Wine that is produced when the grapes are crushed mechanically may be referred to as "run off."
Rose wine may also be made by blending red and white wines, but this is relatively rare. Champagne is perhaps the most common wine made with this method, although pink champagne can be made using the limited maceration method as well. Many roses are blended wines, meaning that they are made from more than one type of grape, but the blend is for flavor and character, not simply to make a white wine turn pink.
The limited contact with the grape skins tends to give these wines a lighter, fruitier taste with fewer tannins. In general, the wine does not have as complex a flavor as a true heavyweight white or red wine — even if made from the same grapes. Rose wines are also typically at their best within a few years of production. Unlike red wines, this variety should be served chilled, making it a good choice for spring and summer drinking. It often pairs well with lighter dishes as well, such as seafood, chicken, and Asian foods.