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Which Way Rosé?

With the temps popping 100 degrees over the last week here in Sonoma, Rosé has been the go-to wine for pool side and warm evenings dining outside. It's a wine that has always reminded me of my summer wanderings from beach town to beach town in Southern Italy. Chilled carafes of the local rosato, the perfect pairing for every aperitivo and every meal.

Those local winemakers knew their negroamaro, primitvo and bombino nero grapes would not only make great red wines, but could also be transformed into a lighter, refreshing wine for any season - summer in particular. So just how did they turn those dark, powerful grapes into delicious Rosé?

In most cases, a "short maceration" is the answer. It can be as short as a couple of hours cold soaking the fruit and juice to as much as a few days of skin contact, then drawing off the juice and fermenting. The length of skin contact drives the character of the Rosé with time adding richer, fuller red fruit and floral notes.

The drive-by version of the short maceration is called the "direct press", producing the lightest of Rosé. The red fruit is simply pressed and in the process a bit of color comes through. These Rosé wines are crisp with melon and citrus aromas.

Skin contact being a big influence on the intensity and complexity of wine aroma and flavors, another method which may be used is "Saignée" The red fruit is macerated and fermentation may even begin. At some point the winemaker bleeds off some of the juice to continue the fermentation for the Rosé. This approach sometimes focuses on the red wine, which by virtue of bleeding off some juice, becomes more concentrated. You don't see this style as often as short maceration, and it is more typical where big red wines are the main product. But there is a dual effect of imparting richer flavors and body to the Rosé as well if the winemaker is also focusing on creating a quality Rosé.

Finally, there's blending. Most often done with sparkling wines, a tiny bit of red wine is added to create the Rosé color and aromas. This is a common style used to make Rose Champagnes.

So which way is the right Rosé for you? Fuller and richer or crisp and light? Maybe with bubbles? Frankly, I'm enjoying them all much more these days, and while they live in my summer memories, I think I'll be putting them on the table all year around from now on. Cheers!

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