Let’s talk abut Rosé

From the light & delicate floral aromas found in Pinot Noir dominant rosé wines, to the more boisterous examples made with the famous Bordeaux varieties, Rosé is as diverse as any wine style & there are some damn good examples being produced in the New World worth exploring. 

Just about any red wine can be used to make rosé. In fact, one of the biggest factors that determines what red wine grape is used for rosé is the wine region it is made in. In the most iconic region of Provence in the South of France the most common red wine grapes used are Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre because they are the most widely planted red wine grapes in that region of France. In Rioja, Spain, rosé tends to be made from Tempranillo and Garnacha (the spanish term for Grenache).

New Zealand & Australia’s rosés tend to follow the same trend and are produced using the same grape dependent of the specific winery’s location. For example in the South Island, the most common variety to make rose wine with is Pinot Noir because it is the most commonly planted red variety in the New Zealand and the South Island’s most planted red wine.

In places in the North Island like Hawke’s Bay and Auckland it is most common to find rosés with a slightly darker colour made using the common red wine varieties such as Merlot, Cabernet Franc or Cabernet Sauvignon.

In South Australia one of the more popular rosé grapes is Grenache. It also happens to be one of the top 5 red wine varieties planted in the region according to the 2018 SA winegrape crush survey.

Some of our favourite examples and the dominant grapes used are below:

Wooing Tree, Blondie Rosé 2018 – Central Otago, Pinot Noir

This wine shows delightful aromas of peaches and cream, with red berry, stone fruit and a hint of honey on the palate

Esk Valley, Rosé 2017 – Hawke’s Bay, Merlot

A dry style Rosé with aromas of strawberries, red fruits and a hint of spice. Full flavoured, elegant and delicious

Ochota Barrels, Surfer Rosa 2017 – Mclaren Vale, Grenache

A bright crunchy nose with red fruits and spice. The palate has a savoury dimension balanced supported by cherries and cranberries. It finishes bone dry.


Something we are asked often! In short, the difference from the pretty pink colour we are used to seeing in the more delicate rosés, to the deep blood red coloured rosés, all comes down to how much contact the juice has with the grape skins. Shorter contact means lighter pink colours, longer contact means we will see deeper reds closer to the colour of red wine. There are three and a half methods to making rosé (we are counting Frozé as a half method here). The most common is the limited skin contact maceration, but you can check them all out below!

Limited skin contact maceration/direct press

This is by far the most common way of producing rosé. In fact when someone is to ask “how is rosé made” the direct press, limited skin contact method is most likely the answer given. This method is when red grapes (almost any variety can be and are used) are crushed in the same way any red wine begins and the juice is left in contact with the grape skin to start a process called maceration. Maceration is the technique used to extract flavours and colour from the grapes skins, it’s a crucial step in red wine making AND rosé wine making, because it is responsible for the range of pretty pink colours.

Typically a red wines maceration period can last from 4-10 days, whereas rosé can be for as little as 4 hours depending on the style the winemaker is after. The salmon pink, red fruit flavours and high acidity examples that have made the region of provence in southern france famous tend to have an extremely short skin contact period.

Saignee method – The bleeding of the grapes

The bleeding of the grapes is a method that a lot of rosé fans scoff at because it is often thought of as an opportunistic approach. It relies on using the juice that’s a by-product of making big, rich textured red wines.

Let’s be honest here… the critics do kind of have a point! But the process itself does help create more concentrated flavours when making red wine and it’s used in some of the great red wine making regions of the world including: Napa Valley, Barossa Valley and the Rhone Valley in France.

The process of making Saignee is fairly straightforward, it begins the same way any red wine begins with crushing red grapes and leaving the juice on the skins to begin the maceration process. During the maceration process a small amount of juice is “bleed off” which leaves less juice remaining (increasing the skins to juice ratio) and giving the winemaker the ability to make wines with more concentrated flavours and richer favourable colour from more skin contact with the juice.

The juice that is bleed off in this process has two options. Either the winemaker tips the juice down the drain – and let’s be frank, no owner or accountant would want to see their valuable juice go straight down the drain! Or option two, turn it into rosé!

Because red wine’s colour is derived from the pigments found in the skins, the short amount of skin contact with the juice before the juice is bleed off will impart colour to the juice destined for rosé wine. Saignee rosés tend to be bolder, unctuous and with a deeper colour closer to blood red rather than the famous salmon pink.

The reason for Saignee’s differences is the winemaker’s primary objective is to create premium concentrated red wine and the grapes are picked when the fruit is ideally suited for the red wine flavours instead of the typical rosé aromas of strawberries, watermelon and rose petals.

Blending Method

Although a common misconception of how most rosé is made, the winemaker simply mixing red wine with white wine until they find the right pink colour they’re after, the blending technique is in fact used. Although it is only legally allowed under Europe’s PDO regulations in Champagne – because they love doing things differently there!

In the New World the blending technique isn’t restricted by Old World laws and is used in a similar way to Champagne in most countries to make sparkling rose wines. However, even then it is by no ways a common method and certainly not for table wines.


This is just a bit of fun, taking a light refreshing summer drink like a rosé and supercharging it by adding ice, fruit and if you’re feeling really adventurous a splash or two of vodka. Don’t worry, no judging here… There are tons of quick recipes online for frozé – one of our favourite ways to do it here at Specialist Cellar HQ is to grab a bottle of rosé, we like to use Rogers & Rufus but any will do; then the next step is adding your favourite frozen fruit – a great combo is Strawberry and Raspberry. You will need about 6 cups of fruit for each bottle of rose added to the mix. Then you blend! In seconds you will have a pretty pink frozen drink to help you get through the British summer! If you want to add a little more sweetness put a little sugar in the mix (we won’t tell).


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