Hello everyone! With harvest just around the corner, I wanted to put some thoughts of mine and others out to everyone planning on making rosé this year.
Rosé Project Update
There were twelve rosé wines entered into the project this year, which were first entered into the wine competition. The main cultivar we saw used for Illinois-grown rosé was Chambourcin, but Corot noir, Marechal Foch, Petite Pearl, and Frontenac gris were also used to make rosé wines for the project. At this time, we have not narrowed the range of cultivars, and have also allowed for gray-fruited grapes (gris) to be included in the project. After the competition, a group of Illinois winemakers, along with other wine industry professionals, were invited to participate in peer-evaluation of the rosé wines submitted to the project. The goals were to select the wines most appropriate for the project while also looking for commonalities among the chosen group.
We ended up with seven of the twelve entries being approved for the project. Common descriptors for these wines included: attractive, strawberry, fruity, floral, lively, and crisp. Among the final seven, there was still quite a bit of diversity among the group; the color range was wide (but not browning), the sugar to acid ratios were highly variable, and alcohol varied as much as 2% abv.
Here are the chemistry ranges of the finished wines:
pH: 3.03 – 3.33, Titratable acidity: 6.9 – 11.1 g/L, Residual Sugar: 0.0 – 20.0 g/L, Alcohol: 11.0 – 13.1%
As we head into harvest 2017, we’re going to continue to use the existing set of criteria as guides for the project (here is the most recent update on the parameters). At this point, the single most important criteria for acceptance into the project will be inherent quality. It was discussed at length by the group that it is critical we hold the wines in this project to a very high standard of quality, and for the good of the industry it is essential that we commit to this high standard moving forward.
The biggest issues I’ve seen are oxidation/short shelf life and sulfur issues. This year, Luke Holcombe of Scott Labs gave a great presentation on oxygen management at the 2017 IGGVA Annual Conference. For your review:
Also, I have a handout on preventing and treating sulfur issues in wine:
Another speaker at our conference, David Breeden of Sheldrake Vineyards in the Finger Lakes, agreed to share his thoughts on high-quality rosé production.
Tips for a Fabulous Dry Rosé:
- Harvest appropriately! You’re not making a red wine which might benefit from riper tannins and higher alcohol. Think in terms of fruit flavor ripeness, and alcohols around 12%.
- Cold-soak, Saignée, or blending: decide which method will get you the rosé you want. Cold soak and Saignée are more traditional, but saignée can lead to rosé which has more red-wine-like character than you might want.
- Pick a yeast which will help emphasize fruitiness, but still ferment to the dryness you want: Vin13, Rhone 4600, GRE, Actiflor Rosé are all likely choices.
- Ferment to an appropriate balance point—all of alcohol, acid, and residual sugar matter (you’re making a dry rosé, not blush)!
- Worry about color. There’s a HUGE range of colors acceptable in the market for dry rosé, but it has to be bright and attractive…work hard in the winery to keep it that way.
- Think about CO2 levels—a little more CO2 than you’d leave in other table wines can help make your rosé refreshing.
- Bottle and enjoy!!
Also, I asked some Illinois winemakers to share their thoughts on their rosé production:
Karen Hand, Blue Sky Vineyards (2017 Governor’s Cup Winner for Blush/Rosé)
“We want our Rosé to be fruit forward and complex. What we do for our rose is pick Chambourcin early based mostly on the TA. We also make several cuts on the press and separate the juice and ferment separately. We do this with at least two different pickings. This allows us to experiment with blends to make the best Rosé we can. We also believe this adds to the complexity of the wine. The wine that we don’t use gets blended into a sweeter blend of wine. Nothing is wasted. It just takes more time and we spend a lot of time evaluating the blends as well as getting feedback from lots of people before we make our final blend.”
Mark Wenzel, August Hill Winery/Illinois Sparkling Co.
“We are constantly consulting with those in the industry with more experience than us, so the 2017 production attempt is going to be different than what we did in 2016. We utilize the expertise at Enartis Laboratories for guidance in our rosé production. The following is a recent Technical Newsletter they have written on Rosé winemaking: http://www.enartis.com/upload/images/07_2017/170720010823.pdf
Our style of the LaBelle rosé is to be clean, light, refreshing, and delicate. That is what we like about the rosés from Provence which has inspired us to do this. We have used clean and even-ripened Chambourcin grapes grown by Kaleb Wilson at Cunningham Vineyards. 2016 grapes were picked @20 brix on 8/30/16. Sulfite is added to the grapes at the vineyard, chilled down in a cooler, and a refrigerated truck delivers them overnight to our winery. We get this light color from Chambourcin by doing a very light whole berry pressing (no crushing). We remove the first 5% off the press, and then start collecting the juice until about 65%. Each pressing takes about 3 hours. This yields the very light color and flavors. Dealing with light color, Enartis had told us that a lighter rosé is going to be at much greater risk of oxidation than a darker rosé. We utilized many of the techniques listed in the guidelines from the newsletter. We constantly monitored sulfite levels. We bottled the wine 2/2/17 utilizing a mobile bottler. In 2017 we are potentially looking at harvesting earlier. We are going to modify our press cycle. Our yeast and early additions have not yet been determined as we are in discussion with Enartis on this. We feel the 2016 wine is aging well at this time, but we feel in 2017 we would like to have a little more fruit. This may be done in pressing and/or our fining methods.
Our style of the White Chambourcin has always been to be semi-dry and fruit forward. The White Chambourcin is whole berry pressed and it is from the 1st 5% of the pressing and the final 35% of the juice/pressing. Oxidation is always a concern for us so we frequently monitor our sulfite levels. This wine undergoes a steady cool fermentation, and once it is done we clean it up and make sure it is stable before bottling. This wine was bottled 11/3/16. We feel the 2016 is aging well at this time, but we would like to see the wine a little lighter in color. This will be done by changing our press fractions. We will also be incorporating more products from Enartis based off their guidelines.”
2018 Illinois Bicentennial
Lastly, I wanted to mention again that 2018 will mark the Bicentennial of the state of Illinois. To commemorate this event, Illinois will be declaring Illinois rosé to be the official wine of the Bicentennial. This dovetails nicely with our project.
In order to help producers make the best quality rosé wines for 2018, it will be important to make rosé the focus of our regional roundtable meetings. My goal is to schedule two of these workshops – one for Nov/Dec, and another for Jan/Feb. Additionally, if you wish to participate in the 2018 program, it will behoove you to plan your production schedule accordingly – you’ll want to have wines finished and bottled in early 2018, certainly by Spring. More information on the bicentennial program, and the promotion of Bicentennial Rosé, will be provided by the IGGVA soon.