Best rose wines for 2015

In the pink: varieties can be delicate or wham-bam.
In the pink: varieties can be delicate or wham-bam. Photo: Julian Kingma

This we know about rosé – it is not grape variety-specific. If you are a red grape variety, you're in. Lagrein is just as welcome as merlot or grenache or shiraz.

The Italians – the grapes, that is – have become popular in recent years, with Piedmont's nebbiolo and Tuscany's sangiovese making some deliciously super-savoury examples in this country.

And wouldn't it be nice to see more Spanish tempranillo rosé? Love the grape's tannic contribution.

Despite the name, rosé is not colour specific.

Shades can range from the merest suggestion of a blush to a full-on purple fit. Cerise, cranberry, fairy floss, fuschia, magenta, maroon, ruby, strawberry, peach, tangerine, salmon, vermilion and yes, rose – the flower. Half the pleasure in pouring a glass is its looks. It's vinous eye-candy. Throw in a few million bubbles and it's captivating in sparkling form.

Enthusiasts can be quite particular. I am waiting for a savvy wine producer, possibly French and possibly from Champagne, to trademark its rosé colour. If they can trademark the colour of their labels, why not the wine?

I suspect colour is largely behind the marketing of rosé as a drink for women.

It's a stereotype, to be sure, and it might just work – witness all the pretty labels – but it's brought about an image of rosé as frivolous rather than serious.

It's compounded when some winemakers choose to load their wines with sugar. You might as well drink grape juice.


Serious rosé does exist.

The better practitioners pick grapes with a rosé style in mind, generally early in the harvest to bring freshness and bright acidity to the finished wine.

Some rosés are made as a run-off during the making of a dry red (saignee style) but the more complex are built, constructed if you like, with detail. That might be the blending of different parcels of fruit, multiple grape varieties, barrel fermentation, lees stirring or any number of techniques. If it's a sparkling rosé or Champagne rosé the steps grow exponentially – base wines alone can number in the dozens.

Rosé is a summer drink. That much is clear. This summer it will take a bit of a pounding from moscato and popular new kid prosecco, but do not underestimate its ability to refresh and, importantly, to endure and elevateany number of food options as diverse as a samosa, roast duck to a Spanish frittata. It's a whiz with chilli too.

Rosé top 10: With bubbles

Bay of Fires Tasmanian Cuvee Rosé N/V (Tasmania, $27)

Bay of Fires is part of Accolade Wines and as such has access to sparkling wine dynamo Ed Carr. He likes his wines pitch-perfect and super-clean, with depth of fruit and silky autolysis complexity. Bay of Fires expresses the Tassie purity of fruit very well, with the fineness and delicacy, not to mention a brilliant acid line.

Calls for Orecchiette with tuna, spinach and lemon.

Blue Pyrenees Estate Brut Rosé 2008 (Pyrenees, $28)

Winemaker Andrew Koerner has worked 10 years to improve every aspect of his sparkling wine production from vineyard to winery. It shows. His 2008 (the last BPE vintage rosé to be made – from now on it becomes non-vintage only) offers rare insight into a mature sparkling rosé. Still loads of juicy fruit flavours there – cherry, red apple, citrus – but there is also richness and complexity. Texture too.

Calls for Roast duck in cherry sauce.

Bird In Hand Sparkling Pinot Noir 2014 (Adelaide Hills, $25)

Bird in Hand's biggest-selling wine is unashamedly all about the fruit. "We pick it a little bit riper than you would generally pick pinot for a traditional sparkling wine," says chief winemaker Kym Milne, MW. Fruit is indeed abundant, but this wine also shows herbal influences and a gentle savouriness, making it an excellent all-rounder.

Calls for Roast turkey with pistachio and cranberry stuffing.

Chain of Ponds Diva N/V (Adelaide Hills, $25)

This is a fruit-led wine made to please on price and taste. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, its versatility will bring in many fans. Green apple and citrus fruits on the nose (that's the chardonnay coming through), with sweet raspberry (that's the pinot noir) and some delightful florals add up to easygoing bubbly.

Calls for Spicy Spanish tortilla.

Chandon Brut Rosé N/V (Multi Regional, $32)

Sparkling wine specialist Chandon delivers a beautifully meshed rosé, one of the more complex going. Aged reserve wines and 80 base wines go into the making. Cute coral pink, with fresh-baked biscuit, floral, cherries on the aroma, a satin texture and a crisp effervescence, dry to close. 

Calls for Salt-and-pepper calamari.

Deviation Road Altair Sparkling Rosé N/V (Adelaide Hills, $30)

Hailing from the Adelaide Hills – the topographical label tells the story – this wine has a pale tea-rose colour that segues nicely into a delicate, brisk wine. Pinot noir characters to the fore on smell and taste – red apple, strawberry fruits – mesh well with a refreshing, bright acidity. Smart wine. 

Calls for Sugar-cured salmon.

Dominique Portet Brut Rosé N/V (Yarra Valley, $28)

Dominique and Ben Portet present a complex, stylish wine that's always a strong contender for best sparkling rosé in Australia. Unlike many, yeast autolysis has a major role here. Smell that freshly baked brioche, the raspberries, feel the texture, taste the savoury impact it wields with precision. This is a sparkling of great persistence.

Calls for Pan-fried garfish with taramasalata.

Jansz Rosé N/V (Tasmania, $34)

A vigorous, pulsing bubble, a creamy glide over the tongue, the scent of strawberry tarts, citrus blossom and tea rose colour – there is certainly a lot happening in a glass of Jansz non-vintage rosé. Definitely fruit-driven, the wine offers good drinking with or without food.

Calls for Risotto with clams and mussels.

Taltarni 2010 Taché (Multi Regional, $26)

Taltarni Taché was a pioneer of the rosé sparkling style. It remains a benchmark, with a three-grape partnership – chardonnay, pinot noir, pinot meunier – contributing a robust generosity. The flavour spectrum ranges from almond kernel to orange zest, with a pinch of savouriness for added interest.

Calls for Spicy fried quail with Sichuan pepper.

Yarra Burn Premium Cuvee Rosé (Multi Regional, $16)

Remarkably good for the teensy price, Yarra Burn rosé serves the Big is Beautiful wine market, with loads of flavour and personality. The all-rounder plays up its pinot noir component – quite confected and sweet berried – with a pleasant creaminess. What's not to like?

Calls for Salmon roe and creme fraiche blinis.

Rosé top 10: Without bubbles

Chalmers Family Montevecchio Rosato 2013 (Heathcote, $23)

We're not in familiar territory here, far from it. The lagrein grape from northern Italy is known for its high acidity. Make a rosé out of it and you have a highly acidic and astringent wine, no doubt about it, but this super-dry style comes into its own  with food, blotting up rich oily ingredients and cleansing the mouth.

Calls for Grilled sardines.

De Bortoli La Boheme Act Two Rosé 2014 (Yarra Valley, $23)

De Bortoli makes a big play for the rosé middle ground, appealing to those who like their pinot dry but not too dry, pink but not red, a touch savoury, a touch spicy but above all, with plenty of sweet strawberry and raspberry fruit character. Serve well chilled.

Calls for Quinoa, tuna and fennel salad.

Foxeys Hangout Rosé 2014 (Mornington Peninsula, $25)

Wham! This is a look-at-me kind of wine from the get-go. That electric magenta colour can't be ignored. Big flavours, too, with fresh cherries, plums and dusty musk. Do not expect subtlety. This is a strong wine with an attractive textural line, finishing dry.

Calls for Tandoori chicken salad.

Logan Hannah Rosé 2014 (Orange, $23)

Such a pretty, feminine wine from the name (Hannah is winemaker Peter Logan's wife) to the salmon colour, to the strawberry sherbet zestiness that lifts this rosé above the average, to the hint of sweetness – but not too much – to be found as the wine comes to a close.

Calls for Antipasto.

Madfish Shiraz Rosé 2013 (Western Australia, $18)

Great value here in this sunny, cherry, berry, red apple, dusty pink rosé that is strong in flavour while also highlighting some unusual spice and smoked meat kind of savouriness. Merges well into a dense, dry wine.

Calls for Mediterranean pizza with plenty of chorizo.

Mitolo Jester Rosé 2014 (McLaren Vale, $25)

Love cherries? The flavour of sweet macerated cherries is definitely a major attraction in this lively rosé made from the sangiovese grape. Sangiovese is well suited to its role here, being both a little savoury and a little confected.

Calls for Fish curry and coconut rice.

Stella Bella Skuttlebutt Rosé 2014 (Margaret River, $18)

Who says rosé is for wimps? Here shiraz, merlot and sangiovese converge to form a robust rosé packing a powerful punch.  Electric pink colour makes a grab for your attention, but this rosé goes on to exude real charm with florals, including roses, and ripe red berries. Tight and focused with clean, refreshing acidity.

Calls for Spanish frittata.

Tomich Up, Up and Away Rosé 2014 (Adelaide Hills, $20)

The epitome of summer, with an eye-catching label and hot cerise colour scheme, Up, Up and Away smells sweet in a confection, fairy-floss kind of way, which can often leads to a sweetish kind of wine but here it is only a flirtation of sorts. This is more of a fruit-salad kind of rosé, led by a good line of acidity.

Calls for Seafood cocktail (heavy on the prawns).

Ulithorne Epoch Rosé 2013 (Cotes de Provence, $34)

A little more expensive than most, Ulithorne delivers a serious rosé that appears shy at first but gradually opens to fill the mouth with a taste of the south of France: a mix of wild strawberries, dried herbs and an intriguing lemongrass savouriness. Warning: Delicate. Do not over-chill.

Calls for Paella or chicken and thyme sausages.

Pizzini 'Rosetta' Rosé 2014 (King Valley, $19)

Juicy, that's what this rose is. It's fresh and juicy, like sucking on a bunch of fresh cherries, and so refreshing but do make sure the drinking temperature is super cold to release that snap of acidity. Named after the Pizzini family matriarch, Rosetta, this delightful rose acquires its great charm from the sangiovese grape, modest alcohol (12 per cent), and let's call it a kind of dry, cranberry-citrus tang.

Calls for battered Garfish or baked baby snapper.