A decade or so ago, when I was doing a weekly newspaper column, it was a miracle if the “powers that were” would let me write on the subject of rosé. No one bought it. No one wanted to drink it. And editors certainly didn’t believe that anyone wanted to hear about it.
Words by drinks writer, Ken Gargett
The exception was at cellar doors, where once punters tried it, it would move in truckloads. Unfortunately, the style that most wanted – off the bus on their vineyard tours – was sickly sweet; unlike those wonderful rosés we enjoyed on the all-too-rare trips to Southern France – crisp, clean and full of flavour.
Oh, how times have changed…for the better.
Now (with great delight), I receive numerous examples of rosé every week, in all manner of colour and style. Even some of those Southern French rosés sneak through from time to time.
So, which grapes and regions should you be looking to in shops and bars here at home, for those leading the charge in rosé? And what is the Aussie rosé style exactly?
To answer the first question – pretty much all of them – varieties, districts and styles. There is hardly a red wine variety not turned into a rosé by someone in this country, and I can’t think of a region that doesn’t make numerous examples of rosé either.
Some are the merest pale pink, while others verge on almost dark red. There are still pleasantly sweet rosé styles made – some much better than others – but most of the rosés you’ll find today are designed to drink when fresh (as close to when it was made); range from bone dry to a little residual sweetness (sugar); and offer the clean, crisp finish we love so much of Southern French rosé.
So, if you can’t find a rosé to happily slurp your way through at the moment, then it’s likely you simply, really do not like the stuff.
Enough talking, let’s taste. Here are five different examples of rosé, from five different regions and five different grapes. Our warm climate surely makes this style of wine a must (even if the seasons are changing) and at the price points below, unbeatable. These are all 2017 wines and they’ll be with us for a while yet. Drinking them when young – so now – is recommended, though, there are several that show an amazing ability to age. That said, as rosé is almost always packaged in a clear bottle, you need to store it in the dark; light will spoil your wine as quickly as heat.
$20/13.5% ABV (that’s alcohol by volume)
If you ever want to catch your friends out in a blind tasting, then this is your wine – Australia’s only example of a 100% rondinella, I believe. This variety of grape is a minor contributor to the red wines of Valpolicella in the north of Italy, near Verona. Here, it is doing well in the Hilltops region of NSW. Freeman also makes a blend that includes this grape, which is worth chasing. This effort has a faded orange colour, lifted aromatics and even a tiny hint of complexity. Bright flavours of cherry, plums and dried meats. Good acidity and length. There is more to this than your average rosé. I love it. 92 points.
A nice vibrant pink. Pinot noir is ideally suited for use as a rosé and this wine shows why. And nowhere in South Australia manages to grow and make pinot anywhere near as well as the Adelaide Hills. This wine has attractive cherry and raspberry notes, hints of spice and a nicely balanced drive and length, which lingers through to a slow, gentle fade. Lots to like here. 90 points.
The King Valley, where the sangiovese grapes in this wine were grown, has proven itself as somewhat of a hot bed for quality Italian varieties in Australia; even if sangiovese was intended more for use as a hearty, savoury red than a rosé (you can find plenty of those). No matter, it works very well here. It’s pale sunset in colour. It has dry herbs and a hint of charcuterie on the aroma, plus appealing autumnal flavours and lots of freshness. Decent length. I like this a lot (have I said that too much?!). 89 points.
Made from Barossa grenache, this rosé is a lovely pale pink. It’s fresh and aromatically lifted. Clean with red fruit notes on the nose. A hint of salami. And then nicely balanced on the palate with that crisp, clean finish and juicy acidity we love so much of in Southern French rosé. This is a really good Aussie rosé. Perhaps it falls into that quintessential Aussie rosé box? 92 points.
Nebbiolo from the Adelaide Hills ensures that this will be a wine of interest. Beautifully packaged. The colour is the last hint of light from a summer sunset. Dry herbs and spices here. Rose petals. Mid-length with good, juicy acidity. This is a good food style of rosé. 91 points.