What is Rosé?
They say when you’re invited to a New Zealander’s home, the first thing they do is take you back outside again. That’s why, with its bright, fruity flavours and zesty acidity, Rosé is perfect for our love of outdoor entertaining.
Not surprisingly, Rosé is named after the wine’s colour, and comes from the French word rose, meaning pink. Rosé delivers the freshness of a white, with the delicious berry fruit flavours of a red.
The secret to good Rosé lies in ‘skin contact’. All juice, no matter the grape’s colour, runs clear. A wine’s colour comes not from the juice, but from contact with the grape’s skin. As the juice and skins soak together, colour from the skin bleeds into the juice (a process known as maceration). With Rosé, juice and skins soak together for a very short time – anywhere from a few hours to a few days. The longer the contact, the deeper the colour.
Interestingly, after World War Two, Mateus Rosé from Portugal (arguably the world’s most famous Rosé), became hugely popular in Europe and the USA, boosting the profile of the Rosé style.
Rosé styles vary wildly. The wine can range from very sweet to very dry. Any dark-skinned grape varietals can be used to make Rosé wine. Varietals most often used include Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Malbec, Tempanillo, Sanviovese and Zinfandel. Pinot Noir produces a pale Rosé, the colour of a brown onion, while Grenache produces vibrant, dark pink Rosé.
Primary flavours of Rosé include red berry fruit (strawberries, raspberries, cherries), boiled lollies, honeydew melon, rhubarb, rose petals, tomato leaf and citrus zest. Freshness is the secret to Rosé’s popularity - they are typically charming ‘drink now’ wines, peaking within six to 18 months.
Pairing with food
Rosé wine pairs well with almost any food. The trick to picking the right Rosé for the right food is thinking about what you would match with the white and red equivalents. Very light, dry Rosé wines will pair well with food that suits Sauvignon or Pinot Gris: light salads, light pasta and rice dishes, fresh seafood and spicy Asian match well. The bolder, medium-bodied Rosé wines pair very well with rich and spicy cuisine, like Indian curries, Mexican and spicy Thai. Tart, tangy, acidic goat’s cheese pairs well with dry, light Rosé. A gooey Camembert is a great match for fruity Rosé that isn’t too sweet. Mature, hard cheese will pair perfectly with the more savoury Rosé wines such as those made from Cabernet Sauvignon.
Notable regions for Rosé
New Zealand - In New Zealand, you can now select from more than 150 Rosé wines, made from fruit grown from Northland to Central Otago. Pinot Noir, Merlot , Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah are the varietals most commonly used in New Zealand to produce rosé wines. Central Otago, Marlborough and Wairarapa Rosé wines are mostly made from Pinot Noir. Good examples are typically fresh, lightly sweet and crisp. Those from the Hawke’s Bay, Gisborne and Auckland are generally Merlot-based, fuller-bodied and drier.
Australia - Australian Rosé wine used to have a reputation for being simple, sweet and pleasantly coloured, but boring and not at all sophisticated. However, attitudes, along with the quality of the wine, have changed for the better in recent times. All regions produce Rosé, but the more prominent regions include the Barrossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Adelaide Hills, Yarra Valley, Hunter Valley and Margaret River.
International - French regions, known for red wines, produce a variety of excellent Rosé wines from the dominant grapes in the regions. Provence crafts more Rosé than any other style, and is famous for it. Spain, notably the Navarra region, produces Rosé wine known as Rosado, primarily made from Tempranillo, Grenache and Merlot fruit. Rosé is made throughout Italy, with the style and grape varieties used changing depending on the region and local climate. In America, Rosé is often called ‘Blush’. In the 70s and 80s, Californian ‘White Zinfandel’, a paler, sweeter rosé coloured wine was a huge hit, significantly boosting awareness and acceptability of Rosé.