The Many Colors of Rosé
How we classify the rainbow of pink wine—from Rosé All Day, a new book from wine writer Katherine Cole.
The world’s sole rosé research facility is located in the town of Vidauban, halfway between Nice and Marseille, in Provence, the world capital of pink-wine production. Created in 1999 by the Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins de Provence (CIVP), the Centre de Recherche et d’Expérimentation sur le Vin Rosé does a great deal with a very small budget.
Every year, the center’s scientists analyze a thousand samples of rosé wines from more than twenty different nations for composition, color, aroma, and flavor. The staff also vinifies two hundred experimental rosé micro-cuvées annually, measuring all the possible outcomes that can arise from changing just one variable at a time. Professional winemakers, experts, and consumers all taste and rate the center’s experiments.
But no matter how often aroma, flavor, and biological composition are discussed, the bottom line at the Centre du Rosé, as it’s nicknamed, is color. Rosé stands apart from all other wine styles in its breathtaking diversity of hues, tints, shades, and tones.* A wine that is any color from nearly clear to sunflower yellow to purple can qualify as a rosé. So during analysis, each sample is plotted on a color chart.
In an effort to categorize and illustrate their findings, the researchers at the center have developed a number of color guides. There are gel samples, displayed in wineglasses and vials, that display the spectrum of the majority of Provençal rosés: mandarine, mangue, melon, pêche, pomelo, and groseille. There are also more expansive printed color charts and fans that resemble the visual swatches developed by Pantone and used by paint companies.
The spectrum found in samples culled from all over the world is surprising and represents the startling diversity of this wine style. Broadly speaking, northern nations such as Germany, Switzerland, and Austria produce the palest rosés, while southern Europe—Italy, Greece, and Spain—make the darkest pink wines. However, Provence and, increasingly, the rest of southern France, has adopted a style of wine that teeters precariously close to translucent, shaded with mango and gray. “Today, if you want to make a successful rosé, you have to get the color pale and you have to have some salmon hints,” the winemaker Jean-Baptiste Terlay of the Languedoc’s Gérard Bertrand confides. “If it is too pink, it looks like there is something wrong.” But it’s dangerous to generalize.
Just when you think you’ve identified a trademark regional tint, you come across a wine that looks nothing like its neighbors. The capacity for diversity and surprise is one of rosé’s strengths.
*Strictly speaking, a hue is one of the twelve primary, secondary, and tertiary colors. Tints are whitened colors, while shades are darkened colors. Tones are muted colors.
Reprinted with permission from Rosé All Day by Katherine Cole, published by Abrams © 2017.