Rise of once-hum­ble rose ev­i­dence of chang­ing tastes

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Indulgence - James Halliday

IN the up­com­ing 2008 edi­tion of my wine com­pan­ion, there are tast­ing notes for 166 roses that scored 87 points or more, leav­ing a sim­i­lar num­ber that scored less. Five years ago it was hard work to find 50 and, in any event, no one was very in­ter­ested in the cat­e­gory.

I doggedly chose the best rose for my an­nual top 100, as of­ten as not com­ment­ing that I knew no one would buy it but I re­fused to ig­nore a wine style so suited to the Aus­tralian cli­mate, and made so well.

The surge of in­ter­est in, and con­sump­tion of, roses oc­curred al­most overnight in Bri­tain, the US, Aus­tralia and just about ev­ery­where wine is drunk. South­ern France (that is, Tavel) and Spain (Navarro), tra­di­tional pro­duc­ers of roses, ben­e­fited greatly, but so did the New World. Which poses the seem­ingly sim­ple ques­tions: What should a good rose taste like? How do you de­fine its style?

It re­mains a witch’s brew (see right). The more com­pli­cated and bizarre the blend, the more likely it is that the rose was an un­planned child.

Bizarre is the key­word: a rose made from the tried and true Rhone va­ri­eties of grenache, cin­saut, mourve­dre and shi­raz was quite pos­si­bly planned from the word go.

What about sin­gle va­ri­eties? There could not be three more dif­fer­ent can­di­dates than shi­raz, caber­net sauvi­gnon and pinot noir.

Here the ques­tion is whether the rose was sim­ply a dis­card, juice run-off af­ter a given num­ber of hours, the ob­ject be­ing to con­cen­trate the re­main­ing must and thus en­rich the ul­ti­mate wine. The run-off juice will be fer­mented in stain­less steel at low tem­per­a­tures ex­actly as a ries­ling or a semil­lon would be, and bot­tled at about the same time: as quickly as pos­si­ble, hence their more or less si­mul­ta­ne­ous ar­rival on the mar­ket with young ries­ling, semil­lon or other un­wooded whites.

On the other hand, the grapes may have been se­lected specif­i­cally to make a rose and a far more com­pli­cated wine­mak­ing path fol­lowed. De Bor­toli and Yer­ing Sta­tion are two par­tic­u­larly se­ri­ous Yarra Val­ley mak­ers of pinot noir rose but there are oth­ers spread across the coun­try us­ing other va­ri­eties or blends.

The grapes are ei­ther whole-bunch pressed or crushed and, af­ter a day or two on skins, are pressed and the juice is taken to three or four-year-old bar­riques and fer­men­ta­tion ini­ti­ated with wild yeast.

The wine will re­ceive a pe­riod of lees con­tact (typ­i­cally one to three months) be­fore be­ing bot­tled. Rather than bright-crim­son-puce, the colour has a dis­tinct salmon tinge and the wine is bone dry.

Here is an­other point of con­tention where the cus­tomer is left to find out (of­ten by trial and er­ror) whether the wine is dry, slightly sweet (with crisp acid­ity to pro­vide bal­ance) or un­com­pro­mis­ingly sweet, largely cre­ated for the cel­lar-door trade.

Some of the stand-out wines from ’ 06 were the De Bor­toli Yarra Val­ley (94 points, $22), Yer­ing Sta­tion ED (94 points, $17.50), An­gove’s Nine Vines Grenache (94 points, $15 and a gold medal win­ner), Ar­rivo Ade­laide Hills Neb­bi­olo (94 points, $22), Brook­land Val­ley Verse 1 (94 points, $17, three gold medals), Peter Lehmann Barossa (94 points, $15, gold medal Na­tional Wine Show) and Yalumba Lim­ited Re­lease San­giovese (93 points, $12).

There is a fi­nal ques­tion: Will the roses bloom briefly, fad­ing quickly as the nov­elty wears off and wine sur­pluses dis­ap­pear? I have lit­tle doubt the num­ber and amount of roses will de­crease but, hope­fully, the cat­e­gory will prove to be a last­ing one.

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