Here’s a list of some of the celebrity rosés you’ll find on the market at the moment:
It’s one thing for a celeb to put their name to a product that’s hot right now, it’s another for a luxury leviathan to run their ruler over it as a major investment, expected to generate a return on capital for years to come.
Last year, LVMH, arguably the world leader in luxury goods, and whose portfolio of wine brands includes Dom Perignon, Krug, Yquem and Cheval Blanc to name just a few, announced the acquisition of Chateau Galoupet, a 168-acre rosé producing estate in Provence. Less than 6 months later, the group acquired a 55% stake in the 660-acre Château d’Esclans, a high-profile Provence rosé producer, best known for its Whispering Angel brand. And not to be outdone, fashion house Chanel, who already owns estates in Bordeaux, acquired the beautiful Domaine de L’Ile, another rosé producer, located on the island of Porquerolles, just off the Côte d’Azur.
No figures were released, but the dollars involved in these investments would have been hefty given the significance of the properties and brands involved. These investments underline the growing popularity and rising prestige of rosé wines, especially from that particular area of southern France. Deals like these, rather than celebs-own brands, confirm the permanence of rosé at our tables.
So how is rosé made? The juice of nearly all grapes is white, so the colour comes from the skin of the grapes and winemakers can do this in a number of ways:
1. Red grapes are fermented in contact with the skins. After 6-48 hours the partially fermented juice is squeezed out. Because contact with the skins is limited, the partially fermented juice is pink rather than red. Ferment is completed without the skins.
2. Some winemakers bleed off (saignée) some of the juice from their red ferments at an early stage, when the juice is just pink, and use this to make rosé. This increases the skin to juice ratio in the remaining red ferment - the aim being greater depth of colour and tannins. In this case rosé is a by-product rather than the primary aim.
3. Red grapes are crushed and pressed before fermentation takes place. The juice has just the lightest touch of pink and is then fermented like a white wine (ie. not on skins). This technique is sometimes referred to as ‘Vin Gris’.
4. Finally, but not often done, a winemaker may simply blend red and white wine.
So rosé is here to stay - great news for us in Australia where it’s so suited to our climate, our lifestyle and the way we entertain. Here are a few drops I’ll be enjoying this summer - two from Australia, two from the home of rosé – Provence, and a sparkler from NZ.
“… what I think is the best new-wave of small-scale Barossa wine companies to emerge at the beginning of the 21st century.” Max Allen.
“Peter Schell, a New Zealander transplanted to the Barossa, is one of the stars of the region, producing composed, elegant wines from vineyards across the region.” James Suckling.
A blend of 31% mataro, 29% grenache, 16% carignan, 14% cinsault and 10% ugni blanc. All the fruit is from dry-grown vines (ie no irrigation) in the Barossa, with an average age of 65 years old, although the oldest parcels range up to 120 years of age, which is simply incredible for a rosé. The fruit was handpicked and the bunches were crushed and left ‘on skins’ for between 6-24 hours prior to pressing. The resulting juice was then fermented using indigenous yeasts and matured on lees prior to bottling. Approximately 5% was fermented and matured in old French oak demi-muids, the rest in tank. It was bottled without filtration, sealed with screwcap and is 13.2% alcohol.
“It's true that this displays juicy fruit and an element of texture but it offers a lot more besides. It's spicy, slipped with pomegranate, pale salmon in colour, and carries highlights of orange peel and fennel. It works simply as a refreshing drink but those who stop to contemplate will be rewarded.” 94 points and Special Value Rating, Halliday Wine Companion.
“Excellent rosé. High drinkability, fair amount of texture, fruitiness, savouriness and more. Complex but not at the expense of straight-out more-ishness. Orange oil and redcurrant, pomegranate and woodspice. Such good mouthfeel, such good flavour.” 94 points, Campbell Mattinson, The Wine Front.
You’ll find this wonderful example of Australian rosé for $72 a bottle at the breezy Coogee Pavilion.
I can offer it for $23 a bottle
This is my pick for Aussie rosé for sure. It’s dry, delicate and refreshing - perfect for al fresco lunches or warm summer evenings.
Medhurst Estate was founded by Ross Wilson, who made his fortune as the former CEO of Southcorp and Tabcorp. Ross has a long association with the wine industry, in particular the Yarra Valley, and it was here he acquired a wonderfully positioned property in the mid 90s. With astute planning and admirable patience, Ross planted vineyards, built an incredible winery and more recently hired talented young winemaker Simon Steele (ex Brokenwood). Ross’s strategy of putting pieces into place for long-term success is paying off, with the winery receiving some serious recognition.
Ross is a major fan of rosé, so much so that in 2000 he had a dedicated rosé vineyard planted with shiraz and cabernet. Most estates treat rosé as an afterthought.
Similar to previous vintages, the 2020 is a blend of 56% cabernet and 44% shiraz. Vines are low-yielding with fruit handpicked then left overnight in a coolroom to ensure it was cold for pressing the next morning. This minimises both oxidation and colour development. Only 500L per tonne of juice was obtained, usual rates are around 700L/tonne, showing just how softly the fruit is squeezed. The gentle pressing not only explains the pale colour, but also means this wine is more expensive to make - even though it’s still sold at such a good price. Five percent of the ferment took place in old French oak, the rest in stainless steel. The wine was fermented to dryness and bottled with light filtering and minimal sulphur. It’s 13% alcohol and sealed with screwcap.
The wine is clear, bright and very pale copper. On the palate it’s clean and bone dry, with subtle notes of strawberry, musk, honeydew and coconut, finishing long with delicate savoury notes. Its depth, weight and smooth mouthfeel belie its pale colour. Simon has balanced the acid in this wine so well it gives it freshness and vitality without being tart or linear. Its beautiful structure and integration set this wine apart - so generous and drinkable.
“Delicacy with length” is how Simon describes this wine. “Very pale copper with a bright vibrant pink hue. Deliciously elusive fresh fruits including strawberry and raspberry are supported by hints of fennel and white blossom of jasmine. The palate is savoury and refined with a supple creamy texture. The finish to the wine is superb, fresh fruits and a long chalky delicate phenolic edge that is trademark of this single vineyard wine.” Winemaker Simon Steele’s notes.
Everyone I show this wine to absolutely loves it.
I can offer it for $25 a bottle.
Riotor is textbook Provençal rosé. It’s a perennial favourite of mine and here's why: "Had a blind tasting last year with over 40 rosés at all price points. And not only was this (Riotor) the best in show, it was also the least expensive.” Michael Madrigale, Head Sommelier, Bar Boulud and Boulud Sud (acclaimed New York restaurant group).
Riotor is one of the best Provençal rosés for the price.
Château Riotor is located in the magnificent mountains west of Saint-Tropez, within the Côtes de Provence appellation. This beautiful estate has been owned for four generations by the Abeille family, who also own the famed Château Mont-Redon in Châteauneuf-du-Pape (southern Rhône). Since 1988 they’ve worked to extensively renovate the vineyard, winery and chateau, which has paid off handsomely in the quality of their wines.
The blend is pretty much the same every year: 40% grenache, 50% cinsault, 7% syrah and 3% vermentino (white). I’m told there’s always been a bit of Vermentino in the blend but they only started declaring it in the last few years. The wine also spends a few months on lees which gives it a pleasant silky texture. It’s 13.5% alcohol and sealed with screwcap.
The wine is a pale rose gold. Crisp, dry and aromatic, you’ll find white peach and cranberries, mingling with melon and musk. On the finish it’s clean and slightly savoury with hints of white pepper and plenty of fresh sherbety acid. Elegant and delicious.
“Pale brilliant pink. Lively, mineral-accented orange zest, strawberry and floral scents show very good clarity and pick up a spicy nuance with aeration. Nicely concentrated yet lively on the palate, offering incisive red berry, blood orange and floral pastille flavors underscored by a dusty mineral quality. Shows sharp delineation and cut on the finish, which hangs on with strong tenacity.” 91 points, Josh Raynolds, Vinous Media, August 2019
Hard to beat for the money. You’ll find it at all the best places around town, but I reckon you can’t go past a bottle for $75 down at Lotus Barangaroo.
I can offer it for $25 a bottle.
Unfortunately a lot of people associate pink bubbles with cheap and nasty, no doubt due to the plethora of sub-$10 pink fizzes at your local liquor giant. But it’s important to realise that for many champagne houses eg. Krug, Dom Perignon and Louis Roederer (Cristal), rosé is their best quality offering.
Located in Central Otago, Akarua was established in the mid-90s by Sir Clifford Skeggs, a real character and man of the sea, who made his fortune in the New Zealand fishing industry. The Skeggs family spared no expense in their pursuit of excellence, the result being that Akarua is now recognised as a top tier Central Otago producer. And while their pinot noir gets a lot of attention, their award-winning sparkling wines have also received significant praise.
“Based on recent performance, Akarua is arguably the country's best method traditionelle producer at present.” Paul Tudor MW.
“Akarua is fast-becoming a benchmark New World fizz, whether it’s the blanc or rosé.” The Drinks Business, leading UK online magazine for the drinks trade.
This release of Akarua Rosé is a blend of 63% pinot noir and 37% chardonnay. The fruit was handpicked and the wine made made in the Tradtional Method (ie same way they make champagne). Primary fermentation was carried out in a mixture of tank and old oak barrique. A small amount of the pinot noir is fermented like normal red wine (with skins) to give it colour. The wine undergoes secondary fermentation in bottle and spends a minimum of 18 months on lees. The finished wine is 13% alcohol.
If you’re looking for a great introduction to sparkling rosé, this is a beauty. Since its release in 2012, it’s received numerous awards and extensive praise (more than I’m used to seeing for a rosé), including several trophies and gold medals. Here’s a selection:
A beautiful pink/red hue in the glass. Its aroma hints at strawberries with complex nutty, yeasty notes. The palate shows a strong pinot noir influence, a lovely creamy mid-palate carrying to a long, savoury and deliciously dry finish.
“Lifted red berry perfume of raspberries and fresh strawberries, together with more complex notes of strawberry jam on brioche toast. The palate is richly creamy with red apples, red nectarine skin and fine persistent bead. Great length and mouthfilling texture, balanced with fine acidity. A food matching sparkling wine with nuance and intrigue.” Winemaker’s notes.
“A light copper-coloured wine with initial restraint that opens up to a cacophony of aromatic florals and fruits. The palate is generously filled with classic berries and cream, toasty baking spice and caramel underscored by a fine line of acidity.” No. 2 Sparkling Wine, 5 stars, Cuisine Magazine Sparkling Wine Tasting, Oct 2019.
I love it.
I can offer it for $35 a bottle
And finally, the real deal. Decanter Magazine’s Andrew Jefford, describes Bandol as the ‘one true Grand Cru’ of Provence.
While its name is taken from the small chic seaside town of Bandol, the appellation’s vineyards lie just inland. Nestled in the hills you’ll find beautiful villages surrounded by vines; the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean in the distance. Here, a collection of elevated, south-facing amphitheatres capture the sun to create a unique microclimate. Bandol gets an average of 3,000 hours of sunshine a year compared to Burgundy, which gets around 2,000 hours in a good year and only 1,600 in a dim one. Despite all this southern French sun, Bandol’s proximity to the Mediterranean and its persistent Mistral wind, means this warmth is tempered, ensuring coolish nights and making it ideal for ripening grapes.
Pibarnon is considered one of the benchmark rosés of France. The idyllic estate, with its amphitheatre-style setting, lies high in the mountains above the Mediterranean Bay of La Ciotat, between Marseille and Toulon. Its beautifully restored Provençal country house is surrounded by about 50 hectares of vines - stunning.
Comte Henri de Saint-Victor purchased the estate, the highest in the Bandol appellation, in 1975. He then set about reinvigorating it, restoring the house, acquiring more land and carving out terraces in the landscape to minimise erosion and maximise water absorption. With son Eric de Saint-Victor at the helm since 2000, Pibarnon continues to excel.
“The rosé is unfailingly one of the most savory in Provence. The red is robust when young but develops a range of subtle, typically Mediterranean aromas, together with very fine tannins that places it amongst the greatest of all the French wines.” Bettane and Desseauve’s Guide to the Greatest Wine of France 2011 (big cheese French critics).
“Two Stars - producteur de très grande qualité,” (the equal highest rated producer in Bandol). Le Classement des Meilleurs Vins de France (big cheese French classification).
Chateau de Pibarnon vineyards overlooking the Mediterranean. The vines are planted on restanques (traditional Provençal dry-stone retaining walls) up to 300 metres above sea level.
“The wines are gorgeous and offer classic examples of the appellation.” Robert Parker, Feb 2014.
“Chateau Pibarnon is one of Bandol’s best estates. All (wines) are of very good to outstanding quality and are some of Bandol’s most well-crafted bottlings.” Wine Spectator.
The 2018 rosé is a blend of 60% mourvèdre and 40% cinsault. It’s fermented using natural yeasts and sees no oak.
“Glistening orange. Pungent cherry, blood orange and floral scents, along with suggestions of succulent herbs and chalky minerals. The Chateau de Pibarnon Rosé 2018 has weighty red berry - citrus fruit and candied lavender flavors show sharp delineation and pick up a deeper peach note with aeration. Silky and broad on the impressively long finish, which leaves a refreshingly bitter orange pith note behind.” 92 points, Josh Raynolds, vinous.com
This is serious stuff. You can taste the best Bandol has to offer at the superb Mr Wong, for $150 a bottle.
Or you can enjoy it at home for $69 a bottle.