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Rosé Still On Winemakers Minds All Day As Industry Converged On Annual ‘Symposium’ Wine Convention In Sacramento

Susanne Nilsson/Flickr

Susanne Nilsson/Flickr

Vintners and grape growers converged on California’s capital this week for an international trade expo that's a big deal for the wine industry.

The Unified Wine and Grape Symposium sounds grand, but it's actually just a trade expo where industry reps network and swap notes about the latest trends. The annual gathering gives wine reps an occasion to meet, wine and dine potential clients, and find out about the latest technology in wine-making and marketing.

At a Symposium seminar in a Hyatt Regency hotel ballroom, a panel of vintners revealed the finer points of making California rosé. The room held dozens of wine grape growers and vintners eager to get a foothold in the rosé market, as the wine continues to surge in popularity.

One question for vintners was how long to let red grapes “sit on their skins” to capture the optimal rosé color. The hue can change after the wine is bottled.

As for rosé’s distinctive color, winemaker Hugh Chappelle with Sonoma’s Quivira Vineyards said there was a moment when it was trendy to make it as pale as possible. He’s glad that trend is history.

“People who have been doing it awhile are a little more skilled and savvy on extracting enough of what they want — aroma, flavor, color — but not too much,” he said.

“[There are] still a lot of new people in the market that have never made rosé before. Even big wineries that have never made rosé before and want to jump on the bandwagon," Chappelle added.

He says drier rosé wines came into the U.S. market in the late ’90s and early 2000s, at a time when sweet white zinfandel had peaked and fallen out of favor.

"A lot of people who had grown out of white zin saw something pink — and they didn't want to try it,” he said.

Since, rosé has gone way beyond shedding that stigma.

The last five years have seen a rise in sales of California rosé, according to Steve Fredricks, president of Turrentine Brokerage in Novato, which brokers bulk wines and grapes.

After consumers fell for Côte de Provence rosé imported from France, Fredricks says California wine producers were spurred to make their own versions from pinot noir, grenache, cabernet franc and other red grape varietals.

The trend could influence how California vineyard managers plant their acreage, as vintners from the Russian River Valley to Paso Robles strive to make a rosé that will stand out.

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