(A version of this rosé article appeared in a National Liquor News edition last year. It’s a very different tone to my usual posts, so tune out now if you prefer my usual grumpiness. But it covers off a few great producers and wines that I like, and rosé really is massive right now. Let me know what you think. Oh and images taken by Nic Duncan care of the Brave New Wine legends).
Rosé is the new Sauvignon Blanc
It has been almost eight years since the famous ‘Savalanche’ really hit our shores, the tidal wave of wine that saw Sauvignon Blanc overtake Chardonnay as the number one white wine in the country.
But there is suddenly a new wine in Australian fridges – rosé.
According to IRI MarketEdge data, Rosé grew a massive 59.8% in value and 49.5% in volume over the 12 months to September 2017, making it one of the strongest growing categories in the whole liquor industry.
More interestingly, it is premium products that have driven the value increase (which is unusual for pink wine), with IRI Aztec data showing that the super premium ($15-$20) rosé category doubled over the past year, an indication that the rosé driving force is not cheap wine (or a three day growth)…
Pale and savoury to the fore
Not only is rosé on the rise, but the style preferences are changing too.
Once upon a time, the only pink wine of choice was Mateus, with this sickly sweet, large volume Portuguese rosé enjoying a popularity that made it of the top ten wines drunk in Australia for decades.
In turn, that spawned a generation of sweeter styled Aussie rosé, to the point where the category earned a reputation as ‘lolly water wines’. In amongst the sweet dross, however, the best local rosé to emerge came from a handful of producers willing to make dry wines. Charles Melton Rose of Virginia and the Turkey Flat Rosé were the obvious champions, with their fuller, dark ruby coloured, Grenache-based form having obvious appeal to full bodied Shiraz and Cabernet-loving Australian palates.
More recently, the tastes have evolved again, with the move away from wines that were almost a light bodied red and embracing a style that is modelled on the classically pale pink, savoury and delicate rosé that is most popular in Provence.
Given that the south of France is the largest rosé producing region in the world, it is perhaps of little surprise that the Provençal style is now gaining traction. Or is just that Australia is simply following global trends, with the US in particular importing 0.4 million litres of Provence rosé in 2006 and 11.4 million litres in 2016.
The Rose Revolution
Back in 2010, when De Bortoli first launched their pale and savoury La Boheme Act 2 Rosé there wasn’t much love for the style though, with the winery sales and marketing staff believing that it would have to be sold at the cellar door as it wouldn’t work in retail.
But sell it did, and the La Boheme is now is the #1 Australian rosé in the $15-20 segment (and growing at 58.1% per year) and sells out every year. Part of the reason why La Boheme is so successful has to be because of the ‘Rose Revolution’ marketing campaign that De Bortoli ran to emphasise the appeal of dry, pale and savoury rosé.
As Leanne De Bortoli explains, it’s something of a case of ‘mission accomplished’:
‘We decided to run Rosé Revolution for 3 years to get it onto the radar and are delighted to see how the Rosé category has grown’ she said.
De Bortoli now have no fewer than five different pale dry rosé releases on the market, with their latest wine the Down The Lane Gris de Gris that sees Pinot Gris blended with a small amount of Pinot Noir.
Another producer to have serious rosé runs on the board is Angove, with the Nine Vines rosé now in its 15th vintage, with sales as strong as ever. Its evergreen popularity could be as a result of a gentle evolution over the years, as Matt Redin explains:
‘The style has changed a lot from when we first launched in line with the fashions of today’ he said.
‘(Nine Vines) has moved from a bright geranium pink wine to a much softer pastel pink colour and from being “off-dry” to totally dry’.
This year, Angove also launched an organic, dry rosé made entirely from Shiraz, plus the Alternatus McLaren Vale rosé continues to shine, with its blend of Tempranillo, Grenache, Graciano now containing a splash of Vermentino, which is a favoured component in the best Provence rosé (as rolle).
Trading up to rosé
What’s interesting about the explosion in rosé popularity is just how much it is biased towards premium table wines, as Pippa Merrett from Yalumba explains:
‘We’ve seen tremendous growth with wine >$12, with consumers willing to trade up in Rosé’ she said.
‘Accessibility to French Provençal styles at reasonable prices has helped consumers see beyond the high residual, lolly bombs of old and has in turn, allowed consumers to embrace premium Aussie rosé’.
For Yalumba, the future lies in tapping into their resource of old vine Grenache, and using wild fermentation, old oak maturation and time on lees to make the best rosé possible – as witnessed by their smart Block 2 Grenache Rosé.
The idea that consumers are going trading up to savoury rosé is echoed by Andrew Stark from Accolade Wines:
‘Similar to what we have seen in the US, rosé growth in Australia is being driven by existing wine drinkers taking the next step in their wine journey’ he said.
‘The Provence style is really resonating with Australian wine consumers as it perfectly suits outdoor social occasions while also delivering the complexity that involved wine drinkers are looking for’.
Giuseppe Minissale of Porters Liquor believes that rosé is a serious category too, predicting that shortly it will ‘be as large as NZ Savvy’,
Unsurprisingly, consumers on both sides of the ditch are embracing pink wine too, though many of the biggest selling NZ rosé styles have just a little more sweetness compared to the Aussie compatriots.
As a starting point, the first ever Oyster Bay Rosé was launched just last year based on Marlborough Pinot Noir. Similarly, Accolade released the Ta_Ku Sauvignon Blanc Pink late last year, that sees Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc blended with 6% Pinot Noir to deliver a wine that is proudly pitched as a ‘segment disrupter’, though it is more fruity white wine than anything else.
Not that it’s all lolly water for NZ rosé, as witnessed by the almost cult-like popularity of the Black Estate Treble. An intensely flavoured, co-fermented blend of Pinot Noir, Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay from the organic Black Estate Vineyards of North Canterbury, it is easily one of the most serious dry rosé you could imagine.
Despite the unusual style (and the $NZ30 pricetag), it sells out every year, with its own fan club who proudly take photos drinking the wine all over the globe.
More than meets the eye
As wines like the Treble show, there’s more to rosé than just dry and savoury vs juicy and sweet, as Tom Hollings of retailer Different Drop explains:
‘Paler roses have definitely been the trend, but what we’re seeing now amongst smaller Australian producers is more experimentation with rosé‘ he said.
‘These winemakers are sourcing high-quality fruit and putting more work in the winery to create more full-bodied and complex styles that are serious wines in their own right and more than just a light chilled summer drink’.
For a perfect example of the more interesting end of the Australian rosé, look no further than the latest releases from Brave New Wine.
This Great Southern based wine business is run by husband and wife team of Yoko Luscher and Andries Mostert (above), who proudly make ‘idiosyncratic, lo-fi wines’ that have real personality and spunk.
Their brand new release is a co-fermented Riesling and Grenache blend that is called ‘Noon Shine’ that sits in between light red and rosé. They also have a co-fermented, whole bunch Chardonnay/Pinot Noir rosé known as Maison Derrière which has an intriguing contrast between juicy fruit and drying tannins.
While the pair’s wines are unique, Andries spent twenty years making wine for much larger and more ‘conventional’ wineries so, as Yoko puts it, he ‘knows which rules to bend’. In other words, they’re fun and occasionally challenging wines, but also expertly made.
Indeed, there isn’t a guide for making glorious rosé either, as Yoko explains:
‘I think people will drink anything, any colour, cloudy, chunky, as long as it’s delicious’ she said.
‘The way to the future is via flavourtown baby. Lead the way, rosé!’
While the wines of Yangarra aren’t as provocative as those from Brave New Wine, they do illustrate a rare balance that comes from quality fruit and a low intervention approach in the winery.
As Peter Fraser explains, it all starts in the vineyard.
‘For us, the art lies in picking early and also not picking over cropped, inferior grapes’ he said.
‘Then there’s how you press, time on skins and having the right amount of time on lees, which builds texture and balance.’
Yangarra has just released a pet-nat rosé too, tapping into a wine style that sees plenty of rosé crossover.
‘It’s a bit of fun, not a serious wine (we leave that to proper sparkling producers!)’ Peter said.
‘But it’s important that this wine is still stylistically us. We want it to have a certain element of class to it – while it’s completely natural with no additions, it’s not too cloudy or funky’.
Around the globe
While home-grown rosé continues to stride forward, the pull of Provence can’t be ignored.
The price explosion of Domaine Ott attests to that, with the iconic amphora shaped bottle now found on bottleshop shelves for over $70/bottle. The wines of Chateau Miraval are almost impossible to find in Australia too, though the celebrity ownership (Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are fighting over who takes it as part of the divorce) factor can’t be denied.
Interestingly, it’s not just French rosé that is enjoying the pink wine boom, as Italian rosato and Spanish rosado booming too, as Joe Molinari of Combined Wines & Food explains:
‘Our best rosé performer at the moment is actually Italian’ he said.
‘Pasqua are one of the largest family owned wineries in Italy and they’re producing a drier style rosé with the pale pink French colour that has become so popular.’
Across the board it is apparent that the appeal of rosé goes beyond origin – the rosé explosion is as much about style more than anything else, with packaging and presentation just as important, as Molinari explains:
‘Don’t fall into the trap of just trying to retail cheap brands. Retailers need to have a good cross section of styles, prices and countries of origin’.
The only question that remains is whether this rose boom is just a fad, though Luscher doesn’t think so:
‘The rosé we’re seeing now just really compliments our lifestyle. They fill such a great brief – smashable, refreshing, chilled… what could be better as a lunchtime summer wine?’.