Rosé – depending on your point of view that word will either delight you or send shivers down your spine. But gone are the days that rosé was all about sweetness. That old style mass-produced super sugary sweet excuse for a wine is largely gone. Sure there are still terrible versions of rosé out there, but there are also terrible version of everything else out there too……..like George Clooney doing Batman or Andrew Fafita being a shining example of how to behave at a junior footy match.
Thankfully those cordial sweet rosés are no longer the only option for the consumer to enjoy. Around the world rosé is making a comeback and Australian winemakers are knocking out rosé wines that are standing up to international examples from sparkling versions through to interesting super dry and savoury styles.
A rosé is a type of wine that has some of the colour from the grape skins, but not enough to be eligible as a red wine. The colours can range from light pale pink onion skin to near purple in colour depending on the wine making technique and the grapes that are used. There are three methods to making rosé: skin contact, the saignee method, and blending.
With the skin contact method the dark skinned grapes are crushed and the skins stay in contact with the juice for a short period of time. The longer the skins stay in contact with the juice, the darker the final colour will be. The juice is then drained off and the skins are discarded.
The saignée (French for bleeding) method will impart more tannin structure and colour to the wine than either of the other two methods. A portion of the grape juice is bled off to create a lighter rosé with the remaining portion staying in contact with the skins. This decreases the juice to skin ratio and will increase the amount of tannins that bleed into the left over juice.
Blending isn’t commonly used, unless it’s in Champagne and even then the winemakers tend to prefer the saignée method. Put very simply its taking a red wine and blending it with a white wine to create a pinkish rosé coloured wine. This generally creates a wine that is clumsy in the mouth, it doesn’t taste of anything really and struggles to have any interest on the tongue. Think of having it like veal marsala without the masala, it’s still tasty, but you know something isn’t right when it hits your mouth.
Rosé isn’t grape variety specific, as long as you are a red grape you’re good enough to be in. Australia’s winemakers have generally used Shiraz grapes which, depending on the amount of skin contact the juice has, will create wines that range in style from light coloured delicate wines through to spicy and savoury darker styles. However there are lot of other grapes that can be used, I often prefer my Pinot Gris/Grigio (it’s the same red grape used for both) to have a tiny blush in it from a little skin contact which gives it a savoury, fuller feeling in the mouth. Grenache can be used with success to produce either a spicy wine or one with soft, almost bubble gum flavours, Muscat grapes produce interesting, sweetish Moscato’s perfect for summertime drinking, even cabernet and merlot are used with success. The Italians – the grapes that is – have become very popular in the last ten years, with Sangiovese and Nebbiolo proving to be an excellent source, along with the Spanish Tempranillo grape, its high tannins make superb savoury and spicy wines.
My preference is at the still, dry end of the rosé spectrum, and this is where I think the Australian winemakers excel, creating wines that are best with food. With that in mind there are two things I look for when picking rosé:
- Always try to pick the newest vintage, it’s rare that a rosé will age, so don’t drink anything that is more than two or three years old; and
- Watch the sweetness level, less sweetness will give a drier style wine, and is better for food matching, while a sweeter wine is more suited as an aperitif or an afternoon drinker. If in doubt check the back of the label.
Here’s a couple to try:
Jacob’s Creek La Petit Rosé 2016 – a new release from the Jacob’s Creek team taking the modern approach to rosé. Its fresh and has some substance to it, red apple, glacé cherries, fleshy strawberries on the nose with the slightest aroma of something that reminds me of hessian, it sound off putting but isn’t. That fleshy strawberry is well apparent on the tongue, dry apple notes and finishes superbly dry with good acid structure and finesse. This $15RRP bottle was significantly better than the $35 French rosé at the tasting table.
Turkey Flat Rosé 2016 – consistently at the top of the Australian rosés, you can honestly have this with anything, from pork belly to kippers on toast or blackened prawns. Made predominantly from Grenache, it creates a wine that shows peach, and tangerine, it’s elegant with a fresh and clean finish. Perfect for summertime drinking, but if the weather’s not hot then turn up the heat of the food and serve it beside spicy Asian. About $20
Mojo Moscato – Mojo hit the mark here with this sweetish drop. The Muscat grapes produce a wine that has musk, lemon blossom and Turkish delight. A little bit of fizz in there, and at 5.5%alc it’s one that you can enjoy the 500ml bottle over lunch and still drive home, not that you will want to leave because this is far too easy to drink. About $15
Bird in Hand Pinot Noir Rosé 2015 – a wine with such a pedigree it was the official drink at Wimbledon for three years in a row, matched perfectly to those massive bowls of strawberries and cream they have there. Being made from Pinot it has seductive aromas of dark cherry and strawberry. Those notes are lively on the tongue with Turkish delight in there, and a touch of sweetness in the finish. This has got afternoon wine watching the kids in the pool over the school holidays written all over it. About $19