How to Make Rosé

Rosé is made from red grapes, it is not a blend of red and white wine, as many people think (not in Bordeaux anyway – it can be a mix in some places).  Here, we can use one of two different methods, and sometimes both in the same year, depending on the harvest quantity and overall ripeness.

The first is called ‘saignée’ or ‘bled’. The principle is to ‘bleed’ a portion of a red wine off before it has turned red. Juice in a red grape is clear, and it needs contact with the skins to give colour and flavour, so at harvest time the juice, pips and skins all go into the tank, to make a red wine.  For the red, the skins stay in the tank for the full duration of the sugar to alcohol fermentation, about 2 weeks.

For the rosé, 8 to 24 hours after harvest, if you run some juice out of the red wine tank it will have started to pick up some pink colour.  The pink juice is then fermented separately, as if it were a white wine (ie juice only – no skins), then is fined, left to settle and bottled late winter or early spring.

The second method is called ‘rosé de presse’, where, instead of starting to make a red wine and taking part of the juice to make rosé, the batch of red grapes are used exclusively for rosé. The grapes are placed directly into a press, left an hour or two and then slowly pressed (a similar effect to treading by foot, incidentally). The action of pressing causes the clear juice to turn pink, and then the remaining skins are taken away. The juice from this method is often paler that from the ‘saignée’ method, and the wine more delicate. Fermentation progresses the same way as above.

The choice of method does depend on various technical aspects in each year – we simply try to choose the best for each year that will produce the fruitiest wine with no ‘hard edge’. So, if you see a Chollet rosé that is a bit darker (or paler) one year compared to another, now you know why!

Down at the Vineyard

May and June are our busiest times in the vineyard as the vines grow rapidly, they go from buds to small shoots to full size in a matter of weeks and to support all that growth there are a number of jobs to be done.  The mature vines need the wires raising to support the growth and then they need trimming.  We trim to prevent each each row overshadowing the rows next to it, and it also helps the vine to push more energy into the grapes instead of into the foliar growth –  you can see a before and after photo below.

before-raising-wires     after-raising-wires

The new vines we planted in April, fortunately weren’t damaged by the late frosts as they hadn’t yet sprouted.  Now they are growing well and have pushed out 3 or 4 shoots, this needs to be pruned back to 1 strong stem.  You can see in the photos below the same new vine before I removed 3 excess shoots and with then with just 1 strong shoot remaining.  This shoot then needs to be tied to the support post – then repeat 1,156 times!!

new-vine-2        new-vine

Another job at this time of year is protecting the vines against mildew.  As we are organic we can only use a copper/sulphur mixture.  This coats the leaf and will last for 10 days or 20 mm of rain.  Non-organic / systemic treatments will last for 14 days no matter the amount of rainfall.  We don’t spray pesticides but instead use pheromone diffusers which are attached every 5th vine throughout the vineyard, these encourage the pests (specifically the European Grape Vine Moth) to go somewhere else to lay its eggs.

The other non-stop job is the weeding, at this time of year when the ground is dry and hard we have one mechanical tool to use – the brush, this brushes any tall weeds away from underneath the vine.


When it rains again and the ground softens we will re-plough to keep the ground decompacted, aerated and grass free.

Frost Update – June

It seems incredible that less than 2 months ago we were looking at a wintry scene of frost, shortly followed by the severe damage to the young shoots and grapes, as reported in our Spring newsletter. We have had a pretty warm Spring since, and a heatwave early June with temperatures in the high 30’s. This means the vines have quickly re-grown new shoots to replace the frost-damaged ones, but not always grapes, unfortunately.

In the areas undamaged by the frost, the vines are growing well, business as usual, apart from a touch of mildew, but nothing sinister as yet. In the damaged areas, it is a mixed bag. Certain areas have grown new shoots and foliage but no grapes, some have grown new foliage and a few grapes, and some (the partially damaged ones) have developed straggly bunches of grapes, a phenomenon called millerandange which occurs when some grapes in a bunch fail to properly form. The new foliage is also growing extremely rapidly, causing a bit of extra work trimming and tidying up.

Where we do have new grapes, they are of course somewhat behind the grapes that were undamaged.  A first for us, we have some grapes at ‘petit pois’ stage (see below right), and others still flowering (below left), all within the same area of vines. That’s about 1 month difference, which if maintained until the harvest, will cause severe headaches – we cannot afford to throw under ripe grapes into the mix, neither can we leave grapes to over ripen whilst waiting for others to catch up.

cab-sauv-late-flowering-2                  cab-sauv-grapes-june

The vegetal cycle will be shorter for grapes that came later, as the days are longer and warmer by definition, so that one month gap between the maturity of original and re-grown grapes will narrow. However, we still need a good, hot summer to narrow that gap to around one week, which can be managed.

Vegetarian and Vegan Wine

You may be forgiven for thinking that wine is automatically vegetarian – after all it’s just fermented grape juice. However, it is not as simple as that, as there are a number of animal-based products that are permitted for use in winemaking, including gelatin (from boiled animal bones), isinglass (fish bladders) and other milk and egg-based products. These products are used for fining, a process which traps heavy organic particles that are suspended in the wine, which then sink to the bottom of the tank. After fining, the wine is pumped out of the tank, leaving the suspension behind. This process clears the wine and stabilises it to a degree.

We at Chollet don’t always fine the wine, as in certain years the wine will settle naturally, and in those years where it does not, we use a clay-based fining agent for the white, and a pea-protein for the red. Therefore, no animal nor dairy-based products are used in the making of our wine, meaning it is vegetarian and vegan friendly. Being certified organic is not enough – it is down to the approach of each winemaker (organic and non-organic). Not always easy to know therefore – although an increasing number of supermarkets and other suppliers are including this info for their range of wines.

As there is no official certification for vegetarian or vegan wine, however, there are still open points of debate. For example; if an animal based product is used, but is not (in theory) in the final, bottled wine, is that OK (for vegetarians)? Most people would say no in my experience, as the product was used to make the wine, and also there may well be trace elements left over, but some would be OK with that risk.

Also, what about the use of egg and milk-based products in fining? In theory, OK for vegetarians but not for vegans. But, still debatable for some.

Finally; what about the use of animal-based fertiliser out in the vineyard (meaning the waste products of animals). It is for sure a natural and environmentally friendly way to use manure from chicken, cows or horses, particularly sourced locally – but some ‘hard’ vegans would object. That one, I am afraid, we are guilty of in some years, as we use guano as a fertiliser. In other years, we use a ‘green fertiliser’ such as leguminous vegetable planted between the vines to replace nutrients taken by the vine.

Given all that, we can comfortably say our wine is vegetarian and vegan friendly. We are listed on Barnivore, which is ‘the’ list of vegan wines, and the wine is served in vegetarian restaurants.

We are always happy to receive feedback on subjects such as this, or anything else we raise in our newsletters, so don’t hesitate to drop us a mail or leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you!

vegetarian-symbol       vegan-symbol