Off-dry / Semi-sweet rosé wine
Rosé wine is a growing market in South Africa, and it is being produced by some good wine makers. This compromise between the sophistication of white wines and the fruity body of red wines is made using red grapes which are stripped of their skins before fermentation. This produces a lighter colour, which can range from very pale pink to a dark, almost violet shade of red. The rosé wine sensation caught on in the 1980s, with many in Europe and America learning to love this light, easy-going wine, particularly as a midday or afternoon companion. Wine makers in South Africa have gradually cottoned on to the interest in these wines, and have started producing their own version of this classic variety.
The majority of rosé wines are sweet or off-dry wines. This is partially because the biggest grape used by rose wine makers is the Zinfandel. In fact, a number of rosé wines are actually called ‘White’ Zinfandel, and tend to be very light bodied with a sweet taste which is suitable for picnic lunches or tea with the vicar. Although rosé wines can be very dry indeed, they may also be crisp and full of acidic varieties which add complexity to the wine. Most South African rosé wines tend to be sweet simply due to the high fruit content of the wines, which is placed there to underline the rosé colours produced naturally during fermentation.
Rosé wines can be made sweet simply through the process of a later harvest. Somewhere between the full ripeness of the red grapes, and their turning into Noble Rot raisins lies the sweetness which should be included by everyone who wants to enjoy the flavours of a rosé wine. The sugars can add to the alcohol content, though, so wine producers will often go around this and add sugar to the wine at the end of the process, before bottling.
Sweet rosé wines can have a number of different fruits added to them, depending upon the wine-maker’s selection. By far the most common fruit is strawberry, and indeed it is hard to find any kind of rosé wine, dry or sweet, that does not have some hint of the big red berry. However, rosé wine will have complementary flavours added to the strawberry, particularly raspberry and citrus fruits. For a drier taste to the sweetened wine, some makers will add a touch of cranberry, but this is not for everyone. There will also be aromas of rosés and other pink flowers which can be used to emphasise the rosé nature of the wine.
Many South African wine drinkers prefer the sweet rosé wine to its drier relation, possibly because they do not want too close a resemblance to red wine. The sweetness in a rosé wine is not cloying, but can make it a suitable accompaniment to a variety of foods, including chicken and turkey, and some fish dishes. A sparkling sweet rosé can be good fun with a tray of chocolates in the evening, too.