Spanish rosé, also known as rosé, is one of the most diverse wine varieties in the country. In Spain you can find light rosés to enjoy on a hot summer day, as well as deeper and more complex ones that pair perfectly with a wide range of delicious Spanish dishes.
Although rosé is not as popular in Spain as its darker red and lighter white siblings, it is produced by many winemakers, with a booming export market in Canada, the United States, Switzerland and other parts of Europe.
“The situation in Spain is that rosés are not as popular here as in other places,” says Esther Pinuaga, a winemaker at the organic winery Bodegas Pinuaga, in Toledo.
“I think it’s because they were traditionally considered minor wines… but it’s quite sad because in Spain we have very interesting and different ways of making rosés.”
As a result, Pinguaga exports approximately 98% of the rosé it produces, something he hopes will change in the coming years.
Luke Darracott and Roque Madrid of Madrid & Darracott, a wine shop in the Spanish capital, agree.
“Spain is largely a country of red wine, followed by white wine, followed by sparkling wine… outside of the hot months, rosé does not fly off the shelves,” they say, adding that “rosé consumption is on the rise.”
Despite the doubts of the market, there is a long tradition of rosé production in Spain, from Mallorca to Catalonia. However, there are some regions that stand out, according to Darracott and Madrid.
They say that the most appreciated and historically known regions are Navarra, Cigales, Rioja and León.
Although style variations exist throughout the country, there are generally three different methods of production.
“This means that when the red grapes are harvested, they are pressed directly, so they are not macerated with the skins. This means that you get a very, very light colored wine,” says Pinuaga.
This direct pressing method creates pale “onion skin” wines, which are excellent as an aperitif on hot, summer days and can be served with very light cheeses, such as Gomero, a creamy goat cheese from the Canary Islands.
Due to the speed of the direct pressing method, these light rosés are less expressive and have a lighter aroma. Although pale pinks, such as those produced in the Provençal style, are in fashion at the moment, Pinguaga says consumers “don’t have to be afraid of color.”
“There are Spanish grape varieties where the skin has a lot more points of colour… this means that the good local rosés that are made using the bleeding method tend to be darker in colour, but this does not mean that they are sweet”.
What is “bleeding”?
The bleeding method
Pinuaga uses the bleeding method to create their wines, using two grape varieties widely used to create Spanish rosés, Tempranillo and Garnacha.
Although Darracott and Madrid suggest that “any red grape can lend itself well to rosés, from the light, Pinot Noir-like Mencía to the large, effervescent Monastrell, they say that “the superstars in Spain are undeniably Garnacha and Tempranillo”.
To create his rosé, Pinuaga says his team lets both varieties sit in the skin for about six hours. Then, he says, “we remove it from the skin and then it ferments without the skin.”
This method creates rosés with more “structure, intensity and volume,” he adds.
Wines that are best suited to be served with foods such as fish, cheese and the classic Spanish lentil stew, Lentejas. “Rosé wines also go well with most pasta dishes,” say Darracott and Madrid.
Due to the longer maceration time, these wines tend to have a richer, deeper color and are traditionally made in the Navarra region of northern Spain.
Another way of producing rosé wine, which is deeply rooted, is claret. It is about letting the red and white grapes settle together and have contact with the skin: “Since there is a high proportion of white, that is why they have a lighter color,” explains Pinguaga.
Cigales, a small town near Ribera del Duero, is famous for making claret, and its rosés are said to be more intense and structured.
Darracott and Madrid suggest that, due to their “freshness and acidity on the palate,” rosé claret wines can accompany just about anything.
They say this includes anything “from barbecue foods such as grilled meats, vegetables, and burgers (plus accompanying sweet and savory sauces) to salads and fish, especially grilled or in red sauces.”
And with the variety of rosé wines produced throughout Spain, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to try different pairings.