Pretty in pink: How do they put the colour in rosé wines?

How to Drink Better: Darker does not mean sweeter, but a rosé with more colour will likely have more fruit too

Q: Rosé wine has enjoyed a surge in popularity over the past few years, especially when the sun comes out. But how is it made?

A: There are three different ways to create a pink wine. The easiest method is to mix a little red wine (less than 5 per cent) with some white. This is banned in most countries in Europe, although many rosé Champagnes are made this way, including some of the best.

The second method is by maceration. The colour part of a grape in lies almost entirely in the skin – try peeling a red grape to see what I mean. To make a red wine, a producer will leave the crushed grapes skins and juice together for days and sometimes weeks to extract colour and tannin. To make a rosé, a winemaker will simply leave juice and skins together for a much shorter period, sometimes a few hours, then run off the juice and begin fermentation. A producer can therefore control exactly how much colour is extracted. Most pale Provence rosé and the lookalikes are made this way.

A few producers make rosé by what is known as the saignée method; grapes that will eventually be made into red wine are very gently pressed and the first juice bled off to make a pale rosé. This concentrates the flavours in the remaining grapes and is used by high quality producers to intensify the flavour of their red wines. Saignée rosé can be very good.


Some grapes, such as pinot noir and garnacha, have very thin skins so a rosé made from these varieties will always be very pale. Others, such as cabernet sauvignon have much thicker skins and therefore add more colour. Many rosés are made from a blend of red grapes and sometimes white too. Remember that a darker rosé is not necessarily sweet but is likely to have more fruit.