A reader asked what the difference is between a rose wine and the much belittled white zinfandel since rose wines are becoming much more popular and are being produced more widely by wineries. So I asked my favorite Wine Geek and this is what he said:
The short answer is that while both wines are made in much the same way; White Zinfandel is sweeter and pinker than most roses which tend to be dry and range in color from onion skin to deep-salmon to candy apple red.
The long answer: Rose wines have been made in France for centuries. Wine Writer Tom Stevenson postulates in the Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia that Rose has been made for more than 2600 years. The best come from Tavel in the Rhone Valley and Bandol in Provence. Rose is made from many different old world grapes, but some of the most comonly used grapes in French Rose are Grenache, Mouvedre, Syrah and Cinsault.
White Zinfandel, which was first made in California by Bob Trincheroof Sutter Home Winery, was the result of a fortuitous accident. And, as the name clearly states, is made from Zinfandel grapes. In an effort to create a richer Zinfandel from his vineyards in Amador County, Trinchero removed 550 gallons of juice from the fermenting tank to allow a higher skin to juice ratio. The theory was that this would make the resultant Zinfandel wine “richer” (Think Kool-aid here…the less water to powder…the richer the flavor).
But Trinchero had a problem, he now had 550 gallons of white juice on his hands and no place to put it. So he made wine and sold it in 1973 and 1974 under the name White Zinfandel; while the wine had its trademark pink color it was also dry. In 1975, a “stuck fermentation” (the fortuitous accident) resulted in a higher than normal amount of residual sugar being left in the wine, and the rest is history. It is estimated more than 10 million cases of White Zinfandel are sold each year. While it has been somewhat vilified by wine snobs, (Adult Soda Pop) it should be remembered that many wine drinkers today first started with White Zin and graduated to more complex varietal wines. I personally make a habit of shaking the hand of any White Zin drinker…after all that means they are not drinking beer or spirits! In addition, the creation of White Zinfandel helpt to save many of California’s oldest Zinfandel vineyards from being re-planted.
The rest of the long answer: The best Rose’s are dry, and range in color from a very pale vin gris color to deep red. They are made in three ways:
- Bleeding: Black grapes are allowed to press themselves under their own weight. The resulting juice is fermented and results in a very fresh flavored, fruity rich wine.
- Pressing: Black grapes are pressed just long enough for the juice to take on the color of rose. The result is not as rich as bleeding.
- Limited Maceration: Made in the same way as red wines, but the skin contact with the juice is cut short to create the appropriate color and flavor profile.
The really quick answer: White Zin is sweeter and pinker than traditional Rose, but both are refreshing, fruity, delightful and best enjoyed on a warm summer day.