David 3 December 2015
Have you noticed the recent proliferation of articles on rosé? It seems this style of wine has at last found a place at the Australian table.
For years rosé has been a victim of wine snobbery, but as Australian tastes broaden, we’ve realised just how perfectly suited it is to our climate and the way we entertain.
The juice of nearly all grapes is white so the colour must come from the skin of the grapes. Winemakers 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, increasing the skin to juice ratio in the remaining ferment – the aim being greater depth of colour and tannins. In this case rosé is a by-product rather than the primary aim. The difference between this technique and the first is that only a portion (rather than all) of the partially fermented juice is used to make rosé.
3. Red grapes are crushed and pressed before fermentation takes place. The juice is just the lightest pink in colour 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.
Enough of the technical stuff – here are some drops I’ll be enjoying over summer. One an award winner from Australia and two from the home of rosé, Provence.
1. Château Riotor Rosé 2014
This wine is textbook Provençal rosé and an old favourite 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).
Château Riotor is located in the magnificent mountains west of Saint-Tropez, within the appellation Côtes de Provence. 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, paying 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 this year seems to be the first they’ve actually declared it.
The wine is a pale rose gold and very similar to the previous vintage. Crisp, dry, aromatic and perfumed, 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 acidity. Elegant and delicious.
“Light, bright orange. Red berries and tangerine on the perfumed nose and in the mouth. Juicy and focused, with hints of white pepper and bitter herbs emerging on the back half. Finishes chewy and taut, with a zesty mineral note adding lift and nervy cut.” Vinous Media, April 2015.
“Sometimes the rosé from Provence can be so dry it borders on bland but the good ones like Riotor have good texture with lots of crunchy red fruit plus crisp acidity, which keeps them interesting and refreshing.” One of Five Rosés to Consider This Spring, Sebastian Crowther, sommelier Rockpool. SMH Good Food, 20th October 2015.
Hard to beat for the money. Enjoy it at the Coogee Pavilion for $55 a bottle.
I can offer for $25 a bottle. Click here to order 2015 vintage.
2. Head Rosé 2015
I’ve always been impressed by the dedication and perfectionism of Alex Head and have offered several of his red wines over the years. For the past decade he has been reinterpreting the traditional big Barossa red in favour of something leaner and more Rhône inspired.
In a relatively short period Alex has received considerable recognition. In 2013 he was awarded trophies for ‘Most Successful Exhibitor’ and ‘Best Small Producer’ at the Marananga Show in the Barossa. His recent reds (2013 & 2014 vintages) have received several 95+ scores from the critics (Hooke, Halliday & Winefront) as well as being awarded gold medals and trophies. Alex has also been a finalist in the ‘Young Gun of Wine’ Awards 3 times since 2011 and Halliday rates him a 5 Star producer.
With his reputation built on his reds, most people would be unaware that Alex occasionally makes a rosé, but I think that’s about to change. His 2015 rosé recently won Best Rosé at the Royal Melbourne Wine Show – wow!
Alex only makes this wine in the right conditions. The handpicked fruit comes from two Grenache vineyards in the north of the Barossa. Unlike red winemaking, the grapes were pressed before fermentation. This ‘Vin Gris’ style sees juice in contact with the skins for the shortest time in the press – the result is the very light rose colour. The juice was then fermented to dryness with natural yeasts, like a white wine (ie. without the skins), in stainless steel to preserve freshness. There were no additions, although Alex did tell me he added about 5% Viognier to “give sweetness and texture without residual sugar.” Clever.
This wine is also a pale rose gold colour. You’ll find strawberries, lime and musk, with a hint of white blossom. It’s dry and unlike most Australian rosés, its finish is savoury and minerally. But what makes this wine so appealing is something common to all Alex’s wines – its mouthfeel. It’s hard to resist such a pleasant texture, weight and balance in the mouth.
“Pale gold with a touch of pink copper. The nose shows pink grapefruit, raspberries & strawberries. The palate shows restraint with delicate citrus, strawberry and a dry mineral finish. Perfect on its own or with seafood. Drink now or up to 3 years. 13.0% alcohol.” Winemaker’s notes.
Not surprisingly, the Melbourne result combined with the small quantity produced, means Alex has sold out. Luckily I managed to get my hands on some.
I can offer it for $25 a bottle (limited) Click here to order
3. Château de Pibarnon Rosé 2014
Bandol is widely recognised as the best viticultural sub-region in Provence and 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 50 hectares of vines.
Comte Henri de Saint-Victor purchased the estate, the highest in the Bandol appellation, in 1975. He then restored the house, acquired more land and carved terraces into the landscape to counter erosion and maximise water retention. With son Eric de Saint-Victor at the helm since 2000, Pibarnon remains at the top of its game literally and figuratively.
“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).
The 2014 blend is 65% Mourvedre, providing structure, power and aromatics, and 35% Cinsault for its texture and elegance. A highly distinctive blend, this 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. Fresh tangerine, melon and white flowers on the fragrant nose. Juicy and focused, offering intense citrus fruit and red berry flavors and a subtle hint of tarragon. Shows very good clarity on the finish, which features a suave honeysuckle quality and lingering stoniness." 92 points, Josh Reynolds, vinousmediadotcom, April 2015.
See how serious rosé can get?
I can offer it for $59 a bottle (limited quantity) SOLD OUT