Spring has sprung in Western Washington. And what a perfect time to drink pink as Brian Carter Cellars celebrates the release of the first wine from the 2020 vintage, our Abracadabra Rosé. This delicious Sangiovese-based blend is the perfect complement to sunshine, friends, and spring cuisine from salads to salmon.
Gone are the days of Grandma’s sweet rosé, welcome a new era of European dry-style rosé. Ours is a high acid, almost bone-dry version with mouth-filling flavors and a stunning electric pink color guaranteed to rock every day into bliss. As I often say, “Open a bottle of Abracadabra Rosé and, I guarantee that the sun will come out…Well, eventually it will!”
Just a few notes on how rosé wine is made. There are three basic techniques:
- Pick and press reds with or without skin contact.
- Saignée of crushed red grapes.
- Adding red wine to otherwise pale pink or white wine.
The first technique, is the most traditional and the most common which allows you to pick the grapes at ideal ripeness for rosé.
After picking, the grapes are either crushed or go directly to press. If you want to extract the most color from otherwise low color grapes, the crushed grapes can be allowed to sit in contact with the juice for up to 24 hours before pressing. This is the primary technique used at Brian Carter Cellars although we have so much color in the Sangiovese we use, we put the grapes into the press whole cluster with no crushing and no skin contact. This gives us a lower astringency and a less aggressive finish to the wine.
The second technique, called saignée (French for bleed) is also used at Brian Carter Cellars, although it only accounts for about 25% of the final wine. This is where we take larger berried varieties harvested for a red wine such as Sangiovese, Grenache, and Mourvèdre, and after crushing we ‘bleed’ a percentage of the juice off the skins to give a higher ratio of skins to juice. The saignée process gives us red wines left in the tank with a darker color and more extract and at the same time gives us some rosé material that has extra body when added to the ‘pick and press’ derived juice. To further enhance the final wine, we generally ferment the saignée in neutral barrels on the lees where we get added mouthfeel to the final blend.
The third technique for making rosé where a small percentage of red wine is added to white wine is the most common method used in Champagne in the production of sparkling rosé. While this technique is sometimes used in this country, it is not as common for making high-quality rosé.
A final comment on two common rosé wine myths:
1) Rosé should only be consumed in the spring and summer
2) Rosé should always be drunk within a year of their release.
At least for me and many of my friends, drinking rosé is something we do all year long. It is just too good not to. Also, depending on the wine and the food being paired with it, the wine can evolve into something more complex and more serious with time, which is why I stow away a bottle or two to drink a year or more after release.
Drink Pink My Friends!
Brian Carter, Winemaker
We at Brian Carter Cellars believe in making and selling wine in the most earth friendly way. Sometimes this means making wine by hand using humans instead of machines. That is why 100% of the grapes we use are hand harvested. Once delivered to the winery the grapes are hand sorted before fermentation. All of the red fermentations use hand punch downs in small fermenters instead of pump overs in large tanks.
Sometimes it means minimal intervention during winemaking such as using native fermentations instead of inoculated yeast. We also believe in using oak barrels not added oak extracts. While we do use sulfur dioxide in order to avoid oxidation and microbial spoilage, we monitor the levels carefully never adding more than is necessary.
This type of minimal intervention is also used by my growers in the form of Integrated Pest Management or IPM. IPM means carefully monitoring pests or disease and only using pesticides when really necessary to preserve the crop. The growers I work with realize that when you spray pesticides it not only kills the undesirable pests but often kills their predators and the predators of other potential pests as well. Once you apply pesticides there is often an explosion of bad bugs down the road that leads to more and more pesticide use. My growers realize that the vineyard is an ecosystem that, when well maintained, works with minimal intervention. Using IPM means being out in the vineyard more, paying attention to what is happening and mostly doing nothing else. This results in a healthy balanced vineyard.
Brian Carter Cellars believes in sustainability both in the winery and in the vineyard. I believe that the best earth friendly programs are under the ‘sustainability’ moniker because sustainability takes into account all aspects of the environment including the health of the vines, the other organisms living in and near the vineyard, the air, the water, the people and even the business itself. Unless you pay attention to all of these, any of them can bring the process of growing, making, and selling great wine to a halt.
Unfortunately, while programs exist in other states, up to now there has not been a sustainable certification program here in Washington. I am, in fact, on the Sustainability Committee of the Washington State Foundation, a charitable organization supporting the industry through many ways, including scholarships. One of our long-term missions has been promoting the sustainability of the industry. The Sustainability Committee was formed to help bring a Certified Sustainability program to our state. The good news is due to hard work of many industry members we are almost there! In fact, in 2021 the first vineyards in the state will be entering the pilot program and by 2022 we should have grapes harvested that are fully certified. Brian Carter Cellars is committed to having all of its vineyard sources certified in the next 5 years. This will be a game changer. Expect to see our labels with a “Washington State Certified Sustainable” emblem prominently displayed in the not-too-distant future.
In the meantime, enjoy Brian Carter Cellars wines knowing we are doing our part to keep the planet safe and of course, the wines delicious.