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Australian Rosé Awakening Member Tasting

Don’t call it a comeback. Rosé has been around for years, if you’ve known where to look. Unfortunately, many people think of Rosé as the sickly sweet style their auntie, or grandma likes to drink poolside at family gatherings. And, despite it being 2017, some men are still frightened of Rosé’s pink colour...perhaps someone in marketing could put a ‘B’ in front of it? But why pander? Let them miss out. There’ll be more for you and me! 

Rosé is one of the wine world’s greatest gifts. Versatile, it goes with just about any meal, at any time of day or night. Refreshing, a well-made Rosé has the ability to slake a thirst like no other wine. And, delicious – these days, Aussie winemakers are crafting Rosés that are a pure pleasure to drink. 

 

It's All in the Grape

Rosé can be made from just about any red wine grape variety there is. In Australia, the more common varietals used to make Rosé include ShirazPinot Noir, and Grenache. But also, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. In Provence, the historical home of Rosé, winemakers will blend grape varieties, such as Cinsault, Mourvédre, Syrah (Shiraz), and Carignan, to create gorgeous examples of this pale pink wine.

Just like red wine, Rosés pick up their colour from the skin of red wine grapes. The winemaker can determine the depth of colour in the wine by deciding how long to leave the juice in contact with the skins – the shorter the time, the lighter the colour. This can be done using a number of different techniques. The maceration method allows the crushed skins of the red wine grapes to ‘steep’, or macerate, in the juice for a short period of time, before the skins are removed and the entire tank is finished into a Rosé wine. 

Another method is called the Saignée (‘san-yay’), or the ‘bleed’ method. This involves ‘bleeding off’ a portion of the juice – while the remaining goes on to make red wine – into a separate vat to finish fermentation. This technique can result in some really lovely examples. Another way to make Rosé is by mixing white and red wine together, although, this rather crude method is generally frowned upon and doesn’t usually make for a very nice tasting wine. 

The colour of Rosé can range from the lightest shades of pale onion skin pink to salmon, coral, hot pink, and ruby red; generally speaking, the darker the colour, the more intense the wine. Primary fragrances and flavours of Rosé depend on the type of grape, or grapes, used, but will typically sit along the spectrum of red fruits and florals, melons and zesty citrus. Sometimes, you’ll find pleasant green characters, like rhubarb or strawberries with their leafy green tops still on. 

Summer Lovin' Rosé

American novelist, Jay McInerney once remarked of Rosé, “Anyone who starts analysing the taste of a Rosé in public should be thrown into the pool immediately.” Perhaps, because it is pink in colour and frivolous by nature – a wine destined to be drunk sooner than later – Rosé invites such mockery from wine ‘experts’ and pundits. Which is not to say that all Rosés won’t age. Some do, for a few years at least, but, like a hot summer romance, most just aren’t made to last. Indeed, Rosé is made to be drunk on warm days; outdoors, in the shade, with a lover, or with friends, some food and a gentle breeze. Fortunately for us, here at Selector we had all of these things (minus the pool) on hand when seven lucky Wine Selectors Members joined Wine Selectors Tasting Panellists Nicole Gow and Adam Walls, plus Hunter Valley winemaker Andrew Duff from Tempus Two Wines, for lunch at Carrington Place in Newcastle, to taste and discover the colourful and refreshing state of play of Australian Rosé.

“Up until a few years ago, Australian winemakers made Rosé as an after thought,” Adam told the Members at the tasting lunch. “Whereas now, the wines are being made deliberately, with designated parcels of fruit that have been picked specifically to be turned into Rosé.” 

The Members, along with the Panellists, blind tasted through 16 Rosé wines, over four brackets, and recorded their tasting notes accordingly. The wines were selected from right across Australia, with examples from the Yarra ValleyAdelaide Hills, and Hunter Valley performing well. Winemaker Andrew Duff, whose 2016 Tempus Two Copper Series Rosé won the trophy for best Rosé at the most recent Hunter Valley Wine Show, was impressed by the diversity of Rosé wines in Australia now, and said that balance was the key.

“It was great to see the different regions, side by side, all contributing to the different styles of Rosé,” said Andrew. “There was a lot of balance in the examples we tasted. None were too sweet, many were dry, but still expressed lovely fruit forwardness with delicacy.”

Australian Rosé - Fresh Converts

After a bashful start, the Members soon took to the tasting like yeast cells to sugar, and started fermenting their own thoughts about Rosé.

“I haven’t always liked Rosé, because I’ve found it to be light and lacking flavour” said Luana Genua. “After today, however, having learnt a bit and tasted so many examples that were all so different, I think it’s safe to say I’ve been converted.”

The tasting was a chance for the Members to experience Rosé in a relaxed setting, with great food, and to speak to industry professionals, which led to more than a few new discoveries. 

“I love Rosés, especially when they’re crisp and dry, and not too sweet,” said Amy Bruniges. “I discovered today that Rosés are really good with all different types of food, and I loved how easy they were to drink.”

“I consider myself to be a red wine drinker, and I thought Rosés were always just sweet wines,” explained Todd Settle. “But I’ve been surprised by how many examples we tasted today that I found very drinkable and enjoyable.”

Tasting Highlights

A couple of firm favourites emerged across the whole Panel, which included Bird in Hand’s 2016 Pinot Rosé from the Adelaide Hills, the Yarra Valley’s Seville Estate The Barber Rosé 2016, and the trophy winning Tempus Two 2016 Copper Series Rosé from the Hunter.

With so much pleasure to be found in a glass of Rosé, it would be hard for anyone to attempt a serious analysis of such a fun-loving wine. To do so would surely strip it of its joyful and blushing vibrancy, and we’d all deserve to be thrown in the pool! Yet, to not conduct a tasting like this, with such an impressive line-up, paired to good food and great company, would be just as foolish, because, as everyone realised, you never know what you’re likely to discover!

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Rosé revealed – how is it made?
The time is ripe for Rosé – spring afternoons and evenings are perfect for relishing the refreshing, savoury characters of fabulous Australian drops. But, as you sit back and sip its deliciousness, do you ever wonder exactly how Rosé is made? Up until a few years ago, Australian winemakers made Rosé as an afterthought, says Tasting Panellist Adam Walls . “Whereas now, the wines are being made deliberately, with designated parcels of fruit that have been picked specifically to be turned into Rosé.”  As Hunter Valley winemaker Mike De Iuliis explains, “There are two distinct keys to making quality Rosé. First is the variety that is being used, and second is timing of harvest.” There are many different styles of wine and as Mike describes, “Rosé is quite a personalised wine and at De Iuliis, we are looking to produce a style that is bright, fresh and vibrant. We also try to produce a drier, more savoury style that is built around texture and acidity rather than sugar and fruit.”  So, how is Rosé made? The Maceration Method Just like red wine, Rosés pick up their colour from the skin of red wine grapes. The winemaker can determine the depth of colour in the wine by deciding how long to leave the juice in contact with the skins, typically anywhere from 2 to 24 hours – the shorter the time, the lighter the colour. The amount of time a winemaker leaves the juice in contact with the skins, Hunter Valley winemaker Mike De Iuliis explains: 

“It depends on the variety you're using. With our special release Rosé, which is made from Grenache, the fruit is harvested by machine and then transported to the Hunter Valley (from the Hilltops). This time on skin is about long enough (approx. 8-12 hours), to pick up the colour that we like and also the flavour profile that we are looking for.”

- Mike De Iuliis, De Iuliis Wines - Hunter Valley
There are different techniques used for this process, including the maceration method, which allows the crushed skins of the red wine grapes to ‘steep’, or macerate, in the juice for a short period of time, before the skins are removed and the entire tank is finished into a Rosé wine.  The Saignée Method Another method is called the Saignée (‘san-yay’), or the ‘bleed’ method. This involves ‘bleeding off’ a portion of the juice – while the remaining goes on to make red wine – into a separate vat to finish fermentation. This technique can result in some really lovely examples. Saignée expert Andrew Margan is a strong proponant of this style:

When making rose using this method we soak the unfermented grape juice on its skins for about 48 hours and allow the juice to soak some colour and flavour out of the skins before we run just 10 % of that juice off into another tank and add yeast to ferment it like a white wine. Cold fermentation ensures that the fruit flavours and aromas are conserved in the finished wine.The key is to make sure you drain off the juice at the right time. Because we have much softer tannins here in the Hunter and we obtain ripeness of flavour at lower alcohols we can make a saignee style rose that does not require any residual sugar and has enough richness of flavour without being too high in alcohol to make a dry rich Rosé

- Andrew Margan, Margan Wines
Blending: Another way to make Rosé is by mixing white and red wine together, although, this rather crude method is generally frowned upon and doesn’t usually make for a very nice tasting wine.  Colour and Characters: The colour of Rosé can range from the lightest shades of pale onion skin pink to salmon, coral, hot pink, and ruby red; generally speaking, the darker the colour, the more intense and sweeter the wine. Primary fragrances and flavours of Rosé depend on the type of grape, or grapes, used, but will typically sit along the spectrum of red fruits and florals, melons and zesty citrus. Sometimes, you’ll find pleasant green characters, like rhubarb or strawberries with their leafy green tops still on.  What varieties are used to make Rosé?
Rosé can be made from just about any red wine grape variety there is. In Australia, the more common varietals used to make Rosé include  Shiraz ,  Pinot Noir , and Grenache . But also,  Merlot  and  Cabernet Sauvignon . In Provence, the historical home of Rosé, winemakers will blend grape varieties, such as Cinsault, Mourvédre, Syrah (Shiraz), and Carignan, to create gorgeous examples of this pale pink wine. Now you know how it’s made, it’s time to drink to Rosé’s pink perfection and fill your spring with some delicious drops.  
Wine
Know Your Variety – Australian Grenache
Having claims to its origins in both France and Spain, Grenache is most famously known in Australia as part of a blended trio with Shiraz and Mourvedre . But, Grenache is starting to break out and go solo with some superb single varietal wines from South Australia. To help us learn more about Australian Grenache, we reached out to experts Kevin Glastonbury of Yalumba and Nathan Hughes of Willunga 100 . Australian Grenache Infographic Origins
In Spain it is known as Garnacha, in Sardinia it’s Cannonau and in France, where the variety carpets the Côtes du Rhône, it is Grenache. So, where does Grenache actually come from? It’s complicated. Spain has perhaps the strongest claim to producing the first vines, but this is hotly contested and constantly revised by wine academics . It is, however, France where the variety is most famously grown with Grenache forming an integral part of the classic Rhône blend. In the Côtes du Rhône, Grenache is the star and must make up at least 50% of their prized blend along with Syrah (Shiraz) and Mourvedre. Grenache in Australia
Grenache is a variety that relishes warm climates and improves as the vines grow old, which is why the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale , two of Australia’s oldest regions, produce some of the best expressions. The Barossa, in particular, has blocks of wine with Grenache from 1850 still producing wines, each and every year.

Grenache is a red grape variety that relishes heat and can relatively easily produce ripe, full styles of wine. Perhaps Grenache was grown initially on sites that were more akin to producing a generous crop for fortified winemaking. But, now many wineries are searching for more finesse and picking these Grenache blocks earlier and seeking red fruit rather than riper black fruit flavours. The majority of Grenache in the Barossa is not trellised; it is grown as a bush-vine. These bush-vines tend to take care of themselves, allowing more air flow and light penetration. The Barossa and McLaren Vale are considered the two leading regions for Grenache in Australia. And it is always a great debate as to which consistently produces better quality wine.

- Kevin Glastonbury, Winemaker, Yalumba Family Vignerons
Tasting Notes With a similar weight and tannin structure to light to medium bodied Shiraz, Grenache is light on the palate and is all about purity of fruit. With aromas like pomegranate, wild strawberries, violets and red fruits and a palate that’s restrained and fine in texture, it is often blended with Mataro/Mourvedre, which provides a heightened element of spice and tannin. But, with careful oak treatment, Grenache can produce be a splendid single varietal wine.

South Australia has old vines, this resource cannot be understated. We work with vines ranging from 50 to 90 years old. Grenache is extremely reflective of where it’s grown. In McLaren Vale, we see lighter bodied, more aromatic styles from Blewitt Springs and Clarendon. Down on the flats of Tatachilla, we see a far heavier, richer, full-bodied styles.

- Nathan Hughes, Willunga 100
Grenache food pairing   The heightened alcohol, medium tannin and low acidity that characterise Grenache mean it will work well with a range of dishes from game through to lighter dishes. For Kevin, the perfect match for Grenache is simple - “Pizza, always”. But, he is also fond of pairing it with “Sticky glaze duck with rocket and pear pizza. Pork belly, with buffalo mozzarella, balsamic onion, oregano and radicchio.” The notes of red plum, black cherry and raspberry also mean that Grenache is also a great match for many Asian-style dishes as long as they aren’t too spicy. As Nathan Hughes from Willunga 100 describes, “I love how lemongrass, soy and coriander work with Grenache.” Recommended Recipe: Stefano Manfredi’s roast spitchcock with bread and truffle stuffing Recommended Recipe: Bocconcini, cherry tomato and basil pizza
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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