National Rosé Day, held every year on the second Saturday in June, (so 11 June this year), was started by a Swedish rosé house in 2014 to pay homage to this glorious wine. Livia Mokri toasts our own produce – from the palest blushes, to the softly sparklings

Did you know that Jimi Hendrix enjoyed a glass of rosé? As does HRH Queen Elizabeth? Possibly not. What is widely known, however, is that when the sun is shining and the sunbeds come out, it’s the perfect time to grab a glass of this summertime favourite.

But today you don’t actually need an excuse, like a sunny day, to crack open a bottle of what has fast become a year-round staple. And that Portugal produces some excellent examples is a bonus for us.

Here’s the background: rosé is generally made from red grapes (but not only!) and its colour depends on the length of time the grape skin stays in contact with the juice – a process as known as maceration. There are rosé wines that are semi-sparkling or sparkling, with different intensities of sweetness levels and dryness.

Rosés are produced across the world and can be made from almost any grape variety, both red and white, and the wines can be sweet or dry. But before discovering the various types of Portuguese rosé wines, let’s take a look at the production process.

Rosé wine is produced mainly from red grapes, but in a white wine production method. First, the grapes are harvested and sorted and then crushed to obtain a juice that’s as pale as possible. This process is called direct pressing. Then the must is soaked on the skin in a fermentation tank for a short time. Since the colour of the grapes is in the skin, the contact time with the pulp determines the intensity of the colour, so before the wine can turn red, the skin is removed. The wine is stored in containers for a short time to settle and stabilise, before being clarified and bottled.

Dry rosé wines are characterised by citrus and red fruit aromas. They are usually consumed young and are pale pink in colour. In Portugal, the best examples of dry rosé wines come from the Lisbon, Douro, Beira Interior, or Vinho Verde-producing regions where temperatures are at the coolest.
Soft, medium-bodied rosé wines have more intense colours and ripe fruity aromas. Salmon pink in shade, they are consumed young. In Portugal, you can find them in the warmer regions such as Tejo, the Alentejo, Setúbal Peninsula, and the Algarve.

Sweet rosés are fruity wines, with residual sugar content. These wines are characterised by flavours of ripe fruits, and varying colours from salmon to ruby.

These are soft wines that are generally semi-dry or semi-sweet. Without doubt, the best-known example in Portugal is Mateus Rosé.

While some of the rosés in Portugal are well known and much loved, certain regions of the country, where rosé has not been a focus, are now discovering and experimenting with its production.

But let’s start this particular journey by discovering the areas that are established as rosé producers…

The Minho region produces the famous Vinho Verde wines. This isn’t only the biggest wine region in Portugal, but it is also the coldest. It’s difficult to find grapes that ripen perfectly in this area, so the winemakers are faced with a constant challenge. From Minho come light, fresh wines, with a nice level of acidity and low alcohol content. Other than white wine, they produce rosé and reds from the Vinhão grape (in the Douro Valley it goes by the name of Souzão), which is a type of red grape that appears dark blue.

A bit south from there, you’ll find the world’s most famous area for the production of fantastic Port wines, the Douro region, and it is here where the emblematic Portuguese Mateus Rosé is made.
The rosés here can be light and fresh, or even full-bodied with notes of red fruits. These wines are made from the same variety of grapes that make Port, such as Tinta Roriz, Tinta Cão, Touriga Franca, and the Touriga National.
Besides Mateus, there’s another very famous wine produced here, called Lancers. Both of these wines were created during World War II when the production and sale of Portuguese wine collapsed. But the producers in the Douro combined their forces and created these two wines. The Lancers is lighter in colour, with very fresh aromas. It’s an easy-to-drink, friendly wine.
Try enjoying your rosé wine with a ‘Francesinha’, the typical Portuguese sandwich, originating from Porto.

Let’s travel a bit south, to the Alentejo where the climate is hot and dry in summer, and cold in winter. It’s a mostly rural region, where the lands are poor, but they offer wines that are recognisable by their aromas of spices and ripe fruits. The rosés from this region are mostly earthy, with more intense colours and light tannin.

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