A Seignée by any other name

Our towering, a little too red roséBy god, I think summer’s coming: with the help of Garagistes Kate, George and Hal, I just bottled a rosé bled from our merlot this past fall.

Rosé is almost always made from red grapes, but instead of crushing and then letting the juice and skins ferment together, the goo is sent to the press lickety-split before fermentation is even cleared for take-off. Since all the color in a red wine is got from the grape skins, you can play with how deep a shade of pink you get by leaving the juice in contact with the skins for a longer or shorter time.

In our case, I “bled” (or to use the French winemaking term, made a “seignée” from) the merlot tank about 4 days after we crushed. My hair-brained idea was to increase the proportion of juice to skins in what was left, potentially coaxing more flavor out of what’s typically been a bland merlot. The stuff I siphoned out (about 10 gallons) I made into a rosé.

Now, because I was (ahem) making it up as I went along, this one probably stayed a little too long on the skins. The result is a darker, redder wine than a typical rosé, but on the plus side, it’s also correspondingly more lusty and flavorful.

One odd thing about this ruby vroom is that it took for-friggin’-ever to ferment. That’s in part because there wasn’t a lot of mass to preserve temperature, but whatever the reason, the yeasts (a strain sensuously named “71B“) took nearly 2 months to window shop through the sugar.

And in fact, the penny-pinching bastards didn’t actually complete the sale, so this rose’s a little on the off-dry side: about 1/2% or so residual sugar, which isn’t Sauternes-sweet but it isn’t Chablis-dry either.

But ladies and gentlemen, I ask you: what are we looking for in a rosé, anyway? Layers of complexity and an heirloom you can sip with your grandkids a quarter century from now? No, the time to live is now, on a hot summer afternoon, lying on the deck with your lovely and incidentally clothed significant other. A bouquet of rosé — served icy-cold to dial back the sweetness to a lush ripeness — is just the thing to get that party started.

Good god, people. Take me to the bridge!

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