(in general and in South Africa)
Rosé wine is a pink wine which is made using red grapes. This wine has become increasingly popular since its naming in the 1980s, and it is now one of the expanding wine markets across the globe. The wine expanded into the American market with the development of ‘White Zinfandel‘, where it and other rosé wines were marketed under the name ‘blush’. This name is still popular in America and can be used in some wines made by Australian producers. However, in South Africa, along with the rest of the wine-producing globe, the name Rosé tends to be used for each and every type of wine.
There are two different ways to produce rosé wines. The first, most often used in France, is called Saignee, or Bleeding. This involves taking a small amount of the liquid from a barrel of fermenting red wine. This is done in order to improve its colour and tannin content. The liquid which is taken off is then fermented in another barrel, and becomes rosé. The second method, by far the most common and that used in South Africa, is known as skin contact. In this method, red grapes are stripped of their stems and crushed before being placed in a fermenting tank. Rather than laying there with the grape skins for several weeks, as red wine does, the skins are taken away quickly, sometimes only a few hours after crushing. This brief contact allows the wine to become coloured, but it does not turn it the dark red of wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is then turned into either a dry or a sweet rosé wine.
In South Africa, there are a number of different red grapes which can be used to make the rosé wine, although the traditional varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are by far the most popular. Grenache, Cinsaut and Shiraz will also work well and make a good rosé wine. There has been some interest shown by wine growers in the production of rosé wines, with 24 varieties registered in 2000, and other makers putting out more wines since that time. However, although the overseas market is as keen on rosé wines as ever, there seems to be a distinct lack of fondness for the South African rosé wine. It is possible that wine experts, who are often very dismissive of rosé, have hurt the sales of pink wines in South Africa.
Other factors may be the turning away from sweet wines which has been noted in other areas of wine drinking in South Africa. The sweetening of rosé with strawberry and raspberry has made it rather more like a ‘pop’ than a real wine, and this can be reflected in lack of interest in the rosé wines. In addition, the lack of effective promotion of their rosé wines by the South African wine industry means that many interested drinkers in the South African market have neglected what is a fantastic and pleasantly bubbly variety of wine.