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Pink wine. Simple, right? Well…

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Here is a selection of FAQs on rosé, covering the basics for an absolute beginner.

Want to know more? The book has the answers!

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Rosé, which means pink in French, is a wine with a pink colour ranging from almost white with a pink tinge to a dark pink, a touch lighter than a red wine. The colour comes from contact with the skins when crushed, in the press, or even with longer skin contact. Sometimes the grape juice is itself pink, from pink-fleshed grapes.

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Rosé can be made everywhere, although in some regions it is only a leftover from red-wine making. Just as some areas specialise in making red wine or white wine, so others make a lot of rosé. Provence is well known for its rosé, but other areas of France and many places elsewhere mke rosé too, some with rose of similar quality and in large quantitites. In some regions, quantities of rosé made may be so small that the wine is only available at the cellar door and not exported.

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Grapes for rose wine are usually harvested slightly earlier than for red wine to ensure fresh acidity. Free run juice is the palest juice; with some pressing, a darker colour is extracted. The juice can be left to macerate on the skins from a couple of hours to several days, to extract more colour and greater fruit and some tannic structure. The juice is then bled off the skins and fermented as for white wine, not on the skins. In the EU it is forbidden to make still table rosé wine by blending red and white wine, though this is permitted for rosé champagne.

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Since earliest times wine was not made to be a set colour. It came out white, pink or red depending on varieties used and blended together, and on the vintage. Not until the nineteenth century did the three colours became more defined, as the science behind winemaking became better understood..

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Yes and no! Colour does not indicate quality, but style. The darker the colour, the more likely the rosé will be fruitier and more structured. Well-made rosés can be dark or light, just as poor rosés can be dark or light.

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As with all other wines, rosé can range from being steely bone dry to as sweet and luscious as any white dessert wine. Many entry-level rosés retain some residual sugar to enhance the soft fruity character of the wine.

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Yes, they are all pink in varying shades and the terms seem to be largely interchangeable. A White Zin – basically a blanc de noir or white wine made from black grapes – could also be described as the palest of pale rosés. Blush used to refer to these very pale rosés, but today it is possible to buy a dark pink blush and the term is used to sometimes indicate whether the wine is dry or sweet. Overall it is safe to say that confusion reigns over the terminology.

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This very much depends on the origin and age of the rosé. A young, dry Provence rosé often has the freshness and minerality which makes it a great accompaniment to classic Mediterranean food – fresh fish, vegetables and garlic – as well as to sushi and some Asiatic food. With a bit of age, these rosés can take on hints of dried fruit and orange confit, and become better with cheese and meats. Slovakian Cabernet rosés are a dream with beetroot and goat’s cheese, rosé retsina with Greek food and for dessert I would choose a luscious Cabernet d’Anjou. I could carry on – the choice is enormous.

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As with all wines, some rosés are simple, fresh, fruity and made for easy drinking, others are complex, intense, able to age and generally described as a wine for connoisseurs. Serious rosés are still in the minority, sometimes made in small quantities, waiting to be discovered, but not easy to buy.

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On a hot day, I would recommend buying a fresh fruity rosé with good acidity and chilling it until it is ice cold. For a meal, I suggest serving a more complex rosé, lightly chilled. Some of the more weighty rosés, often with a darker colour, can be served at cool room temperature. The occasion and style of wine will determine the temperature.

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Only if you want to make a frosé. Then add sugar and lemon juice and serve in a pretty glass.

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The book has all the answers…

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