Rosé needs more respect
I’ve just finished a tasting of over 80 mostly NZ Rosé samples plus a handful from France, Australia and Spain. At its best Rosé can be terrific, especially when served well chilled with smoked salmon and a crunchy salad on a balmy summer day. At worst Rosé is insipid, confected and sometimes slightly bitter wine. There’s a big gap between those two extremes.
What became clear to me as the tasting progressed is the fact that too many wine producers don’t take Rosé seriously. They might mention vineyard sites, clones and the use of whole clusters in their Pinot Noir but when it comes to Rose too many winemakers are reluctant to mention such fundamentally important factors as grape variety(ies) or whether the wine achieved its colour by skin contact, saignée or by blending a little red with a lot of white.
The best wines are made by producers who do take Rosé seriously. In the relatively rare instances where a vineyard is designated to produce Rosé, rather than the more common practice of running some pink juice off crushed red grapes slightly before or at the beginning of fermentation, the wines are inevitably superior because the production process involves more commitment.
In general terms, you can divide New Zealand Rosé into two styles: those made from 100% Pinot Noir (a slight majority with a definite South Island bias) and those made from other varieties including blends (these tend to be more common in the North Island).
Pinot Noir Rosé tends to be delicate, with purity, but they can lack richness, complexity and texture. Wines made from Merlot (a popular option in the North Island) with or without the help of other varieties such as Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon are usually richer, more textural and are perhaps closer to the Southern French wines, often regarded as the benchmark for Rosé.
I don’t have a clear preference although on this occasion my top two wines were based on Pinot Noir. They were Two Rivers 2015 L’ille de Beaute Rosé (tasting), a dryish, flavoursome wine made from Marlborough grapes grown specifically for Rosé production; and the pure, ethereal Terra Sancta 2015 Rosé (tasting) from Central Otago.
My two favourite non-Pinot Noir wines were Clearview 2015 Black Reef Blush (tasting), Hawke’s Bay, a scented and succulent wine made mainly from Chambourcin grapes; and The Hay Paddock 2015 Gypsy Rose (tasting) from unspecified grapes (I would guess Syrah) grown on Waiheke.