Your Quick And Easy Guide To How Rosé Wine Is Made

Your Quick And Easy Guide To How Rosé Wine Is Made

Ever Wonder How Rosé Wine Is Made?

You’re not alone! There are so many different colors, styles and names for rosé that it’s worth looking into all the various ways these wines are made.


This will be the first of several educational pieces in The Glorious Grape’s Rosé In May series. I’ve also got some fun, entertaining articles up my sleeve for you as well. You can read more about what to expect be heading over here for a quick introduction.


Now, let’s jump right in and learn how rosé wine is made!


The History Of Rosé

  • In ancient times, red wines were more similar to rosé than the hearty, deep-hued and tannic red wines that we drink today.   Lighter colored wines were more desirable and considered to be of a higher quality than wines that would see longer skin contact and have darker hues.
    • A great example of this can be seen in Clarets – today, these Bordeaux style red wines are dry, dark in color, and present concentrated flavors.  In the Middle Ages, however, Claret wines (clairet in French) were actually light-bodied, fruity and easy drinking.


  • From about the 5th Century through to the Middle Ages, Champagne was producing still, pink colored wines made from Pinot Noir.  These wines were made to compete with popular red wines from Burgundy, but the climate of Champagne would result in grapes whose juice was low in sugar, high in acidity and thin-bodied.  In some cases, elderberries were added to improve the taste and darken the color of the wine.


  • After Dom Pérignon was able to perfect the technique of making truly white wine from red grapes in the 17th Century, some of these “white wines” would be re-colored with red wine to produce rosé for those who still wished to consume pink wines.


Related:  Rosé Wine Reviews


Techniques For How Rosé Wine Is Made

There appears to be disagreement regarding the exact number of winemaking techniques when it comes to rosé. Some sources don’t discuss decolorization, because this process is rarely used. Some sources separate vin gris from the direct press method, even though technically speaking, they are they exact same. Other sources also classify clairet and blush wines as distinct varieties, even though these styles are made under the techniques described below.

Direct Press/Vin Gris

  • Like the ancient winemaking practice described earlier, red and white grapes are pressed immediately after harvesting so as to limit skin contact time.  Although the contact time is extremely short, pigment from the skins is still released in small amounts, and the resulting juice is a very pale pink.


  • Vin gris (French for grey wine) specifically refers to the light pink-grey juice that is produced after the direct pressing of red grapes only.


An example of vin gris, a style of rosé wine.
An example of vin gris, a style of rosé wine.   [Image: The Key of Kels]


Limited Maceration

  • Perhaps the most popular and widely-used method of rosé production.


  • Similar to the direct press method; however, the juice is allowed to macerate with the skins for a period of time in order to impart more color and flavor.  This period can vary between 6-48 hours.


  • A longer maceration time will produce a darker rosé with a fuller body.  Some modern clairet wines from Bordeaux are made with this method, and the resulting wine is more red than pink (hence the classification Bordeaux Clairet vs. Bordeaux Rosé)


The various shades and styles of rosé wines
Three Bordeaux rosé wines – Crémant de Bordeaux Rosé (sparkling), Bordeaux Rosé (still) and Bordeaux Clairet.  [Image: Planet Bordeaux]



  • French for “bleeding”, the Saignée method is a result of red wine production.


  • When a winemaker is looking to concentrate a production of red wine, he or she will “bleed” off some of the juice early on in the maceration process.


  • Instead of throwing out this liquid, as many winemakers do, some will use it to produce a rosé (or clairet) wine that is richer and fuller than a direct press or limited maceration rosé.  However, this liquid can sometimes vary in quality, and therefore some winemakers are critical of this method of production.


  • Despite many who claim that White Zinfandel and blush wines are not actually rosé, this is incorrect.  In 1975, Sutter Home used this method to concentrate their Zinfandel red wine.  The juice was intended to be vinified and marketed as a vin gris, due to the increasing demand for white wines during a shortage of white grapes.  However, the yeast did not survive the vinification before it was able to fully convert the sugar to alcohol (called a “stuck fermentation”).  The resulting product was a sweet, bright pink and extremely fruity wine that ultimately was marketed as White Zinfandel.




  • Like the direct press method, blending is also a historical technique used to produce rosé.


  • In this method, red wine is blended in small amounts with white wine, in order to produce various colors and flavor profiles.


  • Blending is actually prohibited in European winemaking, with the exception of Champagne production.  Here, blending is considered an art form, and how rosé Champagnes are produced.


  • Some New World winemakers utilize blending as well (if permitted in their regulations).




  • A method that is often ignored because it is rarely used, if at all, in quality rosé wine production.


  • Activated charcoal is used to remove the color from a red wine until it reaches the desired color.


  • This method is not favored because it will also remove other components of the wine, such as tannins, which strip the wine of its flavor.



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Do you know the method used to make your favorite rosé wine?  Leave me a comment below, I’d love to hear!




The Glorious Grape breaks down everything you need to know about how rosé wine is made. Learn the five main winemaking techniques that are used to produce your favorite summer sipper with this quick and easy guide.


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