Rosé Wine - A Potted History

Rosé has a long history as being known as the preferred choice of wine. And there’s reason to believe that the earliest red wines were closer in appearance to today’s rosé. The result of a lighter pressing process, this preference lasted well into the Middle Ages. Even as clarets from Bordeaux were beginning to gain the world's attention, pale rosé-coloured wines remained most prized, known as the vin d'une nuit or "wine of one night”.

The story of champagne is very alike. Naturally very pale red or pink even, winemakers were known to add elderberries or other red fruit to produce more striking colours to stand out. It wasn’t until the late 17th century that the Champenois learned to produce truly white sparkling wines.

Pressing grapes to extract the juice can be done using a wine press, by hand or even by the sheer weight grapes themselves. Most wineries first crush the grapes to remove the berries from the stems, except in the case of champagne in which the grapes are whole cluster pressed to produce a lighter juice. Then a period of fermentation and pressing begins. For red wine, the grapes are left to ferment first to allow maximum skin contact between the juice and grapes. For white wine, fermentation is done afterwards. It is this difference in the process that gives wines their colour and taste. In the case of rosé, the time left to ferment can last anywhere from 6 hours to 2 days, depending on the desired style, as opposed to red wines which are left for weeks or even months.

French rosé from the warmer regions of Provence and the Rhône Valley are a clear favourite throughout the world, accounting for around 30% of all rosé producing countries. Some of the world’s most famous celebrities enjoy and produce their own rosé wines too. In 2008, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt leased and then later bought Château Miraval in Côtes de Provence to produce the exquisite, award-winning Miraval rosé. With its champagne-style bottle, it stands out from the crowd. No doubt that’s why its initial 6,000-bottle run sold out within 5 hours.

Kent and Sussex counties that are now exciting wine regions led by producers such as Gusbourne, which looks set to take British rosé and other wine types to all-new heights. Just recently, their Rosé Brut won the Platinum award in the 2021 Decanter World Wine Awards and the company is currently undergoing a funding campaign to raise £7 million to expand its exports.

With its breadth of history and versatility alongside a wide range of dishes from smoked salmon to chargrilled aubergine, rosé has found its place as the best wine to enjoy through the warm summer months or under the cold winter sunshine.

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