Rosé is the perfect way to celebrate the sun setting on a tumultuous day. Well, what about a turbulent year!? As summer draws near, and the first year of a new decade finally comes to a close, I daresay we’re all going to need a little something extra…extra energy, extra vigour, extra verve, extra zest. Extra spark!? Yes! To properly celebrate all the small things, and bid 2020 bon débarras, Selector wine lovers are encouraged to track down a bottle (even a case) of refreshing Sparkling Rosé, this summer.
“Sparkling Rosés can have all the texture and complexity of a white Sparkling wine, with the added dimension of a fun colour and fine texture for bonus deliciousness!” exclaims Jeremy Dineen from Josef Chromy Wines, Tasmania.
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At a recent State of Play tasting, held at Selector HQ, a proficient panel of discerning wine professionals – including the new Wine Selectors Tasting Panel Co-Chair and Royal Sydney Wine Show Chairman of Judges, PJ Charteris – assembled to taste, evaluate, discuss, and appraise some 30 bottles of pink-tinctured fizz from across Australia.
The findings, far from conclusive, yet rather comprehensive, were also surprising, encompassing, and, altogether, unmistakably consistent between the wines and their judges.
As Selector publisher, Paul Diamond remarked, “There’s clear differences between fashion and style, especially among the more Chardonnay-orientated examples. I think the main takeaway is that when it comes to Sparkling Rosé, there’s something for everyone.”
At last, some good news.
From Grape to Glass
So, what makes a Sparkling Rosé? Well, a sufficiently proficient winemaker, at least one or more red wine grapes, and bubbles, of course. Just as with any white Sparkling wine, say, Blanc de Blanc, Prosecco, or Champagne, Sparkling Rosé wines often get their bubbles from either the tank, or ‘charmat’ method - whereby large pressurised tanks complete the secondary fermentation, to instil bubbles into the base wine – or traditional method (méthode traditionelle) – where secondary fermentation naturally occurs inside the bottle, trapping carbon dioxide and suffusing bubbles into the wine. The main difference between white sparkling wines and Rosé Sparkling wines is time on skins, known as maceration.
Red grape skins are left to macerate in juice for a short amount of time (4-12 hours) to extract colour, flavour, and some tannin. Then, when the ideal colour has been achieved, the juice is filtered off the skins and primary fermentation is completed like a white wine. All this occurs before the bubbles are added, which depends on the particular method used; either tank or traditional.
“I prefer to use the traditional method to bring bubbles to a wine, because I find that the mousse (head) and the bead that you achieve in a traditional secondary ferment is much finer and continuous. It also gives a softer more consistent mousse as you drink it, which is something I really enjoy. I find that the traditional method seems to bring more balance to the wine,” explains Rahona Valley winemaker, Lucy Kendall.
“Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay; the three classic Sparkling varieties, are often used to make Sparkling Rosé,” Lucy continues. “Pinot Noir gives lifted strawberries and cream notes, while the Meunier is used for mouth-filling, red fruited richness. Chardonnay provides elegance, texture and longevity.”
These three grape varieties are also prominent in many classic white Sparkling wines. When making Sparkling Rosé, most producers tend to, at least, use the delicate red berries of the Pinot Noir grape to bring out the blushing pink hues that make these wines so attractive. However, any red wine grape variety will work.
“A good Sparkling Rosé should be fresh, balanced, and refined. These are characteristics we strive for,” says Frogmore Creek’s senior winemaker, Alain Rousseau. “We use 90% Pinot Noir and only 10% Chardonnay to get an intricate and crisp elegance from our 42 Degrees South Sparkling Rosé. Pinot brings complexity, while Chardonnay brings freshness,” Alain says.
A Question of Complexity
Indeed, it was these qualities of freshness and complexity, particularly with the inclusion of Chardonnay into the blend, that endeared many on the Selector judging panel to their favoured examples of Sparkling Rosé wine featured amongst the line-up.
“I think, for this tasting, style clearly wins out over fashion. Certainly, the best wines seemed to adhere to a sense of balance between the acidity and residual sugar, whilst leaving in loads of pristine flavour from the fruit,” noted Wine Selectors Head of Wine Matthew White.
“I agree,” concurred PJ. “There were definitely wines that seemed to be driven more by fashion, particularly early on in the tasting. Many of the non-vintage wines, and those wines made with only one varietal, like Pinot Noir, or Sangiovese, to me, lacked a sense of flesh and carry.
“They had a real leanness to them. It seems only when Chardonnay is added to the blend that the wines give any indication of their ability for composure and complexity.”
This makes a hell of a lot of sense. Especially when you consider that the standard bearer for Sparkling Rosé wines, all throughout the world, comes from the iconic French Champagne house, Veuve Clicquot, the first known producer of Sparkling Rosé wine, way back in 1818. Their Rosé Champagne consists predominately of Pinot Noir for structure, Chardonnay for elegance, plus Pinot Meunier for texture, richness and flesh. Wines without the latter two varietals tended to struggle against the judges' quest for satisfaction.
“Certainly those wines that tended to lack any sense of depth, and fell more on the fashion side of the spectrum were usually composed of only one varietal,” Wine Selectors Tasting Panellist Dave Mavor observed.
“Although, having said that, there’s definitely an element of enjoyment to be found in most of these wines, depending on what you like.”
The Vintage Advantage
While Non-Vintage (NV) examples made up the majority of the tasting, of the top five wines, four were vintage sparklers; the oldest bottle being from the 2009 vintage, made by Tasmanian flagship sparkling wine producer, House of Arras.
The fifth was Swift's Sparkling NV Brut Rosé, grown on a site 1000m above sea level in the Orange region of NSW – a sure standout amongst the top wines. In fact, most judges were in agreeance that this Swift Sparkling was one of the more approachable wines of the entire line-up.
“Interestingly, Chardonnay is actually the dominant variety in this wine, at about 65%,” explains Drew Tuckwell, winemaker at Printhie Wines. “Reason being, it brings the vibrant citrus flavours and acid structure that I love to see in these wines, while the Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier components add a delicious depth of red fruit characters… We want to make Sparkling wines that go beyond the pop and fizz of simple aperitif wines, to produce wines of real character and personality,” he adds.
Aside from the clear distinction between style over fashion, the jury is still out on what really defines a Sparkling Rosé wine. These blushing pink bottles may not be as revered – yet – for the refinement typically allied to more traditional Sparkling whites.
Nonetheless, you’ll be hard pressed to find one you don’t enjoy. Certainly, there’s a Sparkling Rosé tailored to everyone’s tastes, and they sure are a lot of fun to drink, which, surely, is a small thing worth celebrating!
Reviews from the Tasting
Chartley Estate Sparkling Rosé 2015
Tamar Valley, RRP $38
A bright aromatic lift of raspberry, watermelon and bread shop leads to a layered, fresh and juicy palate with mouth-watering texture and yeasty complexity. Complex and long with savoury persistence through to a red apple-like finish.
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Arras Rosé 2009
Tasmania, RRP $121
Pale golden yellow with bronze and orange highlights, this aged expression shows intaense toasty development over melon and fresh herb notes. Generous with brioche-like richness, abundant depth, weight and length, and refined acidity providing freshness and balance.
Bay of Fires Tasmanian Cuvée Sparkling Rosé NV
Pipers river, RRP $46
Pale onion skin in the glass with a fine bead. Very lifted bread shop and red berry lift on the nose, while the palate is amazingly complex in a medium-bodied frame with peach, strawberry and brioche, beautifully fine acidity, creamy mousse and a refined finish.
Swift Sparkling Brut Rosé NV
Orange, RRP $40
This pale onion skin coloured Sparkling features a nose of apple, red cherry, sourdough and mushroom aromas.
Fine-boned and deliciously savoury, it has power and elegance, showing apple and red berry fruit, hints of baked bread and sea spray, very fine acidity and a creamy mousse and mouthfeel.
Grant Burge Sparkling Rosé NV
Adelaide Hills, Alpine Valley, Eden Valley, RRP $30
Pale salmon orange in the glass with aromas of ripe red cherry and dried herb with dusty mineral notes. Bright peach, melon and raspberry with a rich and supple texture, some nutty elements and hints of wood smoke, savoury acidity and light, drying phenolics.
Chandon Vintage Brut Rosé 2013
King, Yarra Valleys, RRP $42
Presenting a mid salmon colour with an orange hue. Toasty development on the nose provides mature complexity, while the palate is full and generous with good balance of fresh red fruits and secondary development, soft yet focussed texture and excellent line and length.
Brown Brothers Sparkling Brut Rosé NV
King Valley, RRP $25
Bright and lifted brioche and ripe red berry perfume. Elegant, velvety and savoury with layers of watermelon, red berry, white mushroom and musk. The mousse is creamy, the texture mouth-watering and the finish soft and persistent.
Deviation Road Altair Sparkling Brut Rosé NV
Adelaide Hills, RRP $38
Cherry, cranberry, apple and crispbread aromas introduce a dry, fine and savoury palate with a precise line of acidity from start to finish. A refined core of white and red fruit and lovely crunch throughout. Fine yet complex, making for an excellent aperitif style.
Ninth Island Sparkling Rosé NV
Tasmania, RRP $25
Vibrant pale pink with a salmon hue.Refined aromatic lift of lemon peel, watermelon, cherry and cranberry. Intense, vibrant and generous with a creamy mouthfeel and lovely ripe red fruit depth. Fine acidity and crisp fruit persistence with excellent balance of sweet and savoury characters.
Kreglinger Sparkling Rosé 2016
Pipers River, RRP $75
This Tasmanian stunner has a very pale orange blush with a strong mousse. Aromas of candied citrus peel, cherry, strawberry and hints of white pepper on the nose. It's light, dry, crisp, fresh and youthful with grapefruit acid intensity, and subtle grilled nuts, vanilla and spice notes. Still youthful and bright.
Stefano Lubiana Brut Rosé 2015
Derwent Valley, RRP $58
From the beautiful Derwent Valley, this Sparkling is mid salmon in the glass with an orange hue. It opens with complex toasty aromatics and subtle floral lift. Soft and full-flavoured entry with good depth, weight and abundance, nutty complexity and a refined finish.
Pirie Sparkling Rosé 2016
Tamar Valley, RRP $48
A nose of white mushroom, forest floor and green herbs introduces this pale to mid orange/pink coloured wine. The palate is rich, creamy and complex with developing mushroom, baked earth and sourdough characters alongside ripe yellow melon and refreshing acidity.
Taltarni Cuvée Rosé 2013
Victoria South Australia Tasmania, RRP $26
A pale salmon orange coloured stunner with lightly nutty aromas over citrus peel and red berry. Quite rich and flavoursome with a ripe core of fruit and nutty development adding complexity, citrussy acid freshness and creamy persistence. Silken, complex and long.
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Azahara Sparkling Rosé NV
Victoria, RRP $18
Presenting a bright pale salmon colour in the glass with aromas of vegemite over forest berry and dried flowers. On the palate, it's nutty and complex with some funky notes of bready autolysis and smokey dried herb. Dry and savoury with good flavour persistence.
Gapsted Wines Limited Release Sparkling Pinot Grigio Rosé NV
King Valley, RRP $25
This pale pink coloured beauty features alpine strawberry, red cherry, rosewater and musk aromas. Elegant, with a soft mousse and good balance of red berry fruit characters, and green apple-like acidity, lovely melon texture and a vibrant finish.
Josef Chromy Sparkling Rosé NV
Tamar Valley, RRP $32
Bright pink with a very fine bead, it shows lovely delicate detail with bright strawberry, white mushroom and bread shop. Very pure and bright with long and fresh, finely-framed white strawberry and excellent balance and persistence. Flavours are satiny with umami softness and a long, dry finish.
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42 Degrees South Sparkling Rosé NV
Coal River, RRP $24
Pale salmon with a pink hue, this Tassie standout has a nose of leafy red berry sorbet. Soft and full entry of melon and red berry fruit in a generous frame with appealing drinkability from start to finish. A good example of the style and a flavoursome all-rounder.
Rahona Valley Sparkling Rosé NV
Mornington Peninsula, RRP $30
Pale salmon in the glass, featuring a nose exuding cherry, cranberry, redcurrant and brioche aromas. Refined and elegant with tightly-wound yet ripe acidity driving the red fruit core with attractive bread dough and cashew complexity and a mouth-watering finish.
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Jansz Premium Rosé NV
Tasmania, RRP $30
Opening with a clean lift of cranberry, pomegranate and subtle bread dough aromas, this bright pale salmon orange coloured Sparkling has a palate that's bright, crunchy and fresh with a focussed mix of red berry fruit, apple and faint dried herb notes, bright acidity and a fresh finish.
Blue Pyrenees Estate Dry Sparkling Rosé NV
Pyrenees, RRP $26
Savoury aromas of red berry fruits, sourdough and rose water lead to a rich and dry palate in a full-flavoured frame with vibrant blood orange and pink grapefruit, slatey minerality, salty umami notes and vibrant, mouth-watering acidity.
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Apogee Deluxe Vintage Rosé 2016
Tamar Valley, RRP $75
Mid salmon in the glass with a pale orange hue. An elegant and perfumed nose with subtle, lifted aromatics leads to a palate that has a full yet refined entry with layers of apple, brioche and toast characters, silken texture and focussed acidity driving a long and persistent finish.
Clover Hill Tasmanian Cuvée Rosé NV
Tasmania, RRP $34
Aromas of strawberry, watermelon rind, toast and bakers spice introduce an elegant yet powerful palate with a fine, creamy mousse and layers of exotic spice, ruby grapefruit and sourdough. Savoury with minerally complexity on the long, evocative finish.
Woodbrook Farm Brut Cuvée Rosé NV
Mudgee, RRP $20
Pale salmon in the glass with aromas of cherry, strawberry and watermelon aromas. The palate is crisp, bright and dry with good fresh red berry fruit depth, creamy mouthfeel and fine, minerally acidity. A clean and refreshing aperitif style.
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Clover Hill Cuvée Exceptionnelle Brut Rosé 2014
Pipers River, RRP $65
Delicate strawberries and cream with biscuit and toast. Well structured and elegant with complex red fruits and strawberry frappe, French pastry, sourdough and biscuit complexity, fine acidity and a supple mouthfeel. Drinking close to its peak.