David 20 November 2014
Not long ago there was very little choice when it came to finding rosé in Australia.I can’t work out if no-one drank it because the stuff here was so ordinary or if there was no good rosé because nobody drank it. Either way it was definitely out of fashion. In the 1980s there were very few, if any rosés available. The only one I can recall was Mateus, a sweet Portuguese number in a distinctive squat bottle.
Thankfully times and tastes have changed. These days there are dozens of decent local and imported rosés to choose from that offer interesting and sophisticated drinking and they’re styles that really suit the Australian climate, cuisine and way of life.
There are several ways to make rosé, the most common are:
1. Juice is left in contact with the skins, which contain the colour and tannin, for only a shortperiod before being removed and discarded. The result is pink, rather than red juice, which is then fermented.
2. Some winemakers bleed off (saignée) some of the juice from their red ferments at an early stage and use this, imbuing the remainder with more colour and tannin.
3. Finally, but not often done, a winemaker may simply blend red and white wine.
I’ll be enjoying quite a few rosés over the summer so I thought I’d share a few with you. Three are from an area synonymous with rosé, the idyllic region of Provence in the south of France and one is from an exciting producer in South Australia.
1. Château Riotor Côtes de Provence Rosé 2013
Riotor is an old favourite of mine that’s hard to go past when you’re after an affordable rosé.
There are several appellations within Provence, the largest of which is Côtes de Provence. Situated here, in the magnificent mountains west of Saint-Tropez, is Château Riotor. 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.
As in previous years, this vintage is made from 50% Cinsault, 40% Grenache and 10% Syrah and it offers everything you’d expect from a classic Provence rosé. Delicate light peach in colour, this wine is crisp, dry and light, subtle floral notes mingling with white peach, melon and musk. On the finish it’s slightly savoury and clean, with plenty of fresh acidity. Elegant and delicious.
“Pale, bright pink. Lively and sharply focused on the nose, showing zesty red berry and blood orange aromas and an intense floral quality. Tight, mineral driven strawberry and redcurrant flavours display a refreshingly bitter edge and put on weight with air. This dry, nervy rosé finishes with excellent clarity and stony persistence. Textbook Provencal rosé.” Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar.
This is one of the best rosés around for this price and not surprisingly you’ll see it at a few places around town. Keep cool and try it at the Ivy Pool Bar for $12 a glass.
I can offer it for $22 a bottle. New vintage available - click here to order.
2. Guffens Rosé ‘Pourquoi Pas’ 2013
From an old favourite to an exciting new find…
This rosé is made by Burgundian winemaker Jean-Marie Guffens of Domaine Verget and Domaine Guffens-Heynen fame. An unusual and controversial character to say the least, Guffens is universally admired for his brilliant winemaking skills, yet despised for his incendiary flamboyance. Some of his commentson fellow winemakers are extraordinary, as wine correspondent and author Andrew Jefford notes: “To be a Belgian in Burgundy is bad enough, but to be a motormouth who talks about fellow winemakers in the same tender terms that boxers use to needle their opponents has turned Jean-Marie Guffens into a celebrated pariah.”
Referring to fellow winemakers as ‘one eyed kings in the land of the blind,’ hasn’t endeared Guffens to Burgundy’s establishment and consequently he has endured a decade of heavy-handed investigations by authorities into allegations of fraud. These involved raids on his winery and even incarceration, all of which came to nothing, with Guffens eventually being exonerated.
Disgusted with his treatment in Burgundy, Guffens, along with wife Maine Heynen, purchased a southern estate in 1997. While continuing to make Burgundian wines, Guffens essentially decamped to the beautiful (and aptly named) Château des Tourettes, located just outside of Apt in the scenic high country of Provence. Here he started making wine under the Guffens name, including this delicious rosé.
The fruit for the ‘pourquoi pas’ comes from carefully selected parcels in the vineyards that Guffen picks slightly riper than usual. It’s 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and is fermented in stainless steel to capture freshness, before being transferred to large wooden casks. Here it’s aged and nourished on lees (dead yeast cells) for about 7 months, adding a level of complexity to the wine.
While the vineyard lies within the appellation of Côtes du Luberon, Guffens doesn’t use the stipulated grape varieties and unsurprisingly doesn’t intend to. As a result the wine is labelled as IGP Méditerranée, the newish alternative to Vin des Pays, which is being phased out.
Guffens makes another rosé for a few dollars less than this one, but when tasted together it’s clear this is the pick. The few extra dollars are definitely worth it, giving much more complexity and intensity. Light salmon in colour, this wine really has some pizzazz with a citrus rind, tomato leaf and musk zing to it. It’s refreshingly concentrated and surprisingly intense for a rosé (which is what I like about it) and as it opens up you’ll find it becomes a little more creamy, soft and textured in the mouth. No critics’ notes for this wine as so few get to see it.
Pourquoi pas… why not indeed? It’s pretty hard to resist. You’ll find it at the très groovy Ester restaurant in Chippendale.
I can offer it for $27 a bottle. Click here for new vintage.
3. Ochota Barrels ‘Surfer Rosa’ 2014
South Australian winemaker Taras Ochota (pronounced Okota) is about as hot as you can get in Australian wine at the moment. Taras was awarded Young Gun of Wine 2013, picked up Best New Winery in 2013 in the Age/SMH Good Wine Guide and 5 stars in James Halliday’s Australian Wine Companion. Halliday also awarded his 2012 Shiraz 97 points, beaten only by Grange and Hill of Grace! Oh… and when Mick Jagger was in Adelaide a few weeks ago with The Stones, he spent a day hanging out at Ochota Barrels (read about it here).
Taras’ life has been shaped by surfing, music and wine – influences reflected in the names of his winery and its wines. He’s a groovy dude, top winemaker and an incredibly nice guy to boot! After playing in a band through the 90s, Taras made the move to wine in 2000, completing a degree in oenology then jumping in feet first to make wine for top local producers like Two Hands (Barossa) and Nepenthe (Adelaide Hills). He was also a flying winemaker in Italy (Puglia and Sicily) and worked several vintages in California.
There’s no doubt Taras can make good wine, (critic Nick Stock describes him as “having a unique flair and an innate intuitive gift for winemaking”) but what’s been exciting is seeing him branch out to find a unique direction with Ochota Barrels. Using tiny quantities and low-tech methods, this artisan operation creates luscious handmade wines unlike any other.
The fruit for the Surfer Rosa (named after the Pixies album) comes from a certified organic vineyard in Onkaparinga (surely one of the best place names around) planted with Grenache pre-WWII. I always think of this as McLaren Vale, however the vineyard is actually closer to the Adelaide Hills, making it a little higher and a little wilder. Taras picks the fruit for this wine from the end rows, much earlier than the rest of the vineyard, resulting in higher acid levels. It spends less than 24 hours on skins, imbuing it with the delicate colour and minimal tannin. The wine is then fermented to dryness with wild yeasts and no additions, after which it spends a short time in old oak. Only about 180 cases of this are made and it’s very difficult to come by.
Deliciously fresh, dry and savoury, this light rosey-pink wine features cranberry and musk flavours, and has greater density in the mouth than the previous two rosés. Good acid gives Surfer Rosa just the right weight, texture and balance. A real standout… and so drinkable.
“Bright pink; a sculpted, highly focused palate with red berries and citrussy acidity engaged in a duel within a ring of minerally acidity, the finish dry and bright”. 94 points, James Halliday.
“… spicy and pink smelling with just ripe strawberry and cranberry flavour, light chalkiness and creaminess cut through with bright, almost lemony acidity. Energetic, with chalk and citrus tang carrying the finish pretty long. Fetch me some Tapas.” 93 points, Gary Walsh – The Wine Front.
I can offer it for $27 a bottle (very limited quantity). SOLD OUT - Check availability
4. Château de Pibarnon Bandol Rosé 2013
And finally to the top of the rosé tree…
Bandol is widely recognised as the best viticultural sub-region in Provence. Pibarnon (along with Domaine Tempier) has a reputation for making the best rosé in Bandol. This idyllic place, 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 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.
“Two Stars – producteur de très grande qualité” (the equal highest rated producer in Bandol). Le Classement des Meilleurs Vins de France 2009
“Château Pibarnon… a great Bandol classic with wines of depth, balance and without peer in Provence.” Le Classement 2005, Bettane & Desseauve (bigwig French wine critics).
“Château 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, July 2003.
The 2013 rosé is 60% Mourvedre; providing structure, power and aromatics, and 40% Cinsault; providing texture, elegance and delicacy. It’s considered a highly distinctive blend and makes for a serious rosé, a step up from anything else in complexity, texture and freshness. As you would expect with a rosé of this quality, it’s made in a dry and textural style.
“Light, bright orange-pink. High-pitched red berry and cherry aromas are complemented by notes of lavender and chalky minerals. Juicy, refreshingly bitter redcurrant and strawberry flavours show excellent clarity and a mineral underpinning that gains strength with air. Offers a suave blend of power and vivacity, finishing with excellent cut and stony persistence.” 92 points, Josh Raynolds, Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar.
This rosé will easily stand up to some ageing, although I doubt you’ll be able to keep your hands off it.
I can offer it for $59 a bottle (limited quantity). SOLD OUT - Check availability