It's about time, surely, that we here in Oz embrace the proverbial Provencal powerhouse that is Rosé. The Yanks have done it, following the remarkable start out of the gate by the Poms, who're never far behind our Froggy friends. Pink is the new black. Somehow it doesn't have quite the right ring to it does it? But hey, just because there's no lovely alliteration, doesn't mean that we shouldn't embrace one of the most popular wine styles of the decade in the western world. We'd also be in the good company of Italy and Spain, two of the most food-orientated cultures from which much of our modern cuisine originates. Rather than bang on or speculate as to why we haven't seen the rise and rise of Rosé down-under, let's talk about the what and why of this food-friendly, climate-appropriate vinous beverage.
Straight-up, Rosé is delicious and affordable and highly drinkable. Associated with summer and frivolity, this wine style can also be a serious contemplation for other times of the year, given the right food. Although it obviously partners perfectly with crisp salads, sardines and other light summery fare, it can equally stand up to a juicy (not boxing) kangaroo fillet - depending, of course on the nature and heritage of the Rosé. Because just as oils aint oils, Rosé just aint Rosé. The spectrum varies not only by the dryness of the wine, but also the varieties used. The typical southern French Rosé from Provence is made mostly from Grenache, Cinsault and a smidge of other known (Syrah) and lesser known (Ugni Blanc) varieties, and is renown as being crisp and dry, with plenty of fruity overtones. But there are French Rosés that are off-dry (sweeter) and/or more savoury. Likewise the colour may vary from the pale Provencal salmon-pink through to outrageous hot-pink and almost Pinot Noir like in depth. Some are light-bodied, as one might expect, yet others have textural qualities that give them a sophistication beyond their innocent looks.
Winemaking, when it comes to Rosé, has a big role to play in the final product. Apart from the choice of varieties - and, let me just say, there are more than a few - there's the choice of maceration or saignee, and how long one might permit the vital skin contact to occur. Too little, and the winemaker risks producing an almost-white wine, especially after the fermentation process gobbles up an unpredictable amount of colour. Too much and you've got something that looks like a regular Pinot Noir or other similar light red wine. Tannic extraction is something else the winemaker needs to be wary of, because too much skin contact with certain grape varieties will rend your Rosé a failure. A delicate balancing act, for what is (or should be) a delicate, but interesting and ultimately delicious wine for Spring, Summer and Autumn.