New Zealand through rosé-coloured glasses
Rosé is on a roll, according to a number of wine retailers. It is probably no coincidence that the wines are also better than ever with a wider range of styles than I’ve previously encountered.
Wine show judges and wine critics seem to regard rosé as a second-class citizen. In the past, it has been rare to find a gold-medal wine in the rosé class. I recall chairing a wine show a couple of years ago when a panel of judges awarded a silver medal score to a particularly good rosé. I asked them how the wine could possibly be improved. It had intensity, a perfect balance, an ethereal texture and an incredibly lengthy finish. They upgraded their score to gold, which was exactly where it deserved to be.
Rosé suffers from the reputation of being a “by-product” wine. Most are produced by draining juice from the skins after a period of contact and when the colour has gained a light pink tint. That process, known as saignée (bleeding), tends to boost colour and flavour in the red wine thanks to a higher skin to juice ration. An increasing number of producers are dedicating sections of their vineyard to rosé production, which I believe has contributed toward a rise in quality.
Pinot noir is the variety of choice south of Hawke’s Bay while the Bordeaux varieties and syrah are more likely contenders in the northern regions. Pinot noir rosé tends to be delicate and ethereal while wines made from Bordeaux varieties and syrah are typically richer, bolder and more textural.
Two out of my top five wines were made from pinot noir grown in Central Otago and Marlborough while the others used syrah, cabernet sauvignon, merlot or a blend using grapes from Waiheke Island and Hawke’s Bay.
The 2017 Terra Sancta Bannockburn Pinot Noir Rosé from Central Otago, a previous gold-medal winning wine, was my top choice. It’s a dry rosé that manages to offer charm and personality as well as power.
2017 Church Road Rosé from Hawke’s Bay is a bold and slightly sweeter blend of merlot and syrah with impressive flavour intensity. A perfect match for Thai curry, it was the least expensive of my top five wines.
The 2017 Mud House Burleigh Pinot Rosé also represents great value. Like the Church Road wine, it has a similar level of sweetness but represents a more charming and delicate style.
The last two wines are from Waiheke. The 2016 Postage Stamp Wines Genevieve Rosé is made from syrah grapes in a bone-dry (but certainly not austere) style. It’s a charmer and very food-friendly.
The last wine is a dessert wine, the 2017 Dunleavy The Nectar Late Harvest Rosé, is made from botrytis-affected cabernet sauvignon grapes. It’s a wine of impressive purity and power with generous sweetness supported by ripe acidity.