by any other name

Gone are the days of sickly-sweet pink wines – to­day’s ex­am­ples of rosé are noth­ing short of so­phis­ti­cated. Yvonne Lorkin shares the evo­lu­tion, culim­i­nat­ing in the coun­try’s top 12 .

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Way back when I was a nip­per, there were only three pink wines peo­ple used to rave on about here in God­zone and they were pink Chardon, pink Mar­que Vue and Ma­teus Rosé. They were lolly-pink and su­per-sweet and apart from pos­si­bly caus­ing more than a few im­promptu ta­ble-danc­ing ses­sions at par­ties, they were dull as dish­wa­ter to drink. Some re­luc­tant blokes most cer­tainly steered clear and it seemed (for a cou­ple of decades any­way) that rosé would likely re­main “a Euro­pean thing”.

Then about seven years ago, a sea change oc­curred and sud­denly “se­ri­ous” winer­ies be­gan re­leas­ing rosé-style wines that fol­lowed a clean, dry, crisp and flo­ral spec­trum of flavours. The sweet, blousy styles be­gan to take a back seat and a new wave of pink wines with in­ter­na­tional ap­peal be­gan wash­ing up on our wine shop shelves. Clearly wine­mak­ers had be­gun treat­ing it as a se­ri­ous style and not just an af­ter­thought. Rosés be­came “pur­pose- built” and not just some­thing knocked to­gether from the leftovers.

To­day, ev­ery­where you look, peo­ple are drink­ing pink and the qual­ity is ex­po­nen­tially more ex­cel­lent than ever be­fore. “The best wines of our tast­ing were text­book ex­am­ples of what New Zealan­ders (and in­ter­na­tional afi­ciona­dos of the style) find so ap­peal­ing,” urges se­nior judge Jane Boyle. “This is a style that con­tin­ues to grow in pop­u­lar­ity and to im­press with its evo­lu­tion and fo­cus on fresh­ness, fab­u­lous acid­ity and fruit pu­rity. The term ‘thirst-quench­ing’ springs to mind.”

From the 85 en­tries (that we have at least 85 rosés cur­rently avail­able from New Zealand pro­duc­ers shows the strength of the style) al­most 10 per cent were awarded gold-medal sta­tus. This is a very healthy statis­tic for any wine style in a com­pe­ti­tion. Seventy-five per cent of our top scor­ers were pinot noir­dom­i­nant, the other 25 per cent were mostly mer­lot – so clearly it’s those two va­ri­eties that are cre­at­ing the big guns.

Look­ing at the colour spec­trum of en­tries on the ta­ble was also in­ter­est­ing for our judges. It’s clear that rosé is mov­ing away from the car­toony-bright pink hue of old and into the more pale, sub­dued styles, even head­ing to­ward the palest of co­ral/apri­cot.

While the colour might be di­alled down, the flavours are di­alled up and into the spicy, crunchy-fresh and dry scale that also ap­peals to the drinker who may pre­vi­ously have been put off.

Pack­ag­ing also has a part to play in at­tract­ing new fans to rosé. Many la­bels are more neu­tral and clas­sic in their use of colour, font and styling, which men, in par­tic­u­lar, may feel more com­fort­able hav­ing on their ta­ble. I’m not see­ing so many bright, gawdy rosé la­bels of old around much any­more.

So the time is right to in­dulge in the new breed. “For me, rosé is best en­joyed over the warmer, sum­mer months,” says Jane. “Per­son­ally, I con­sider rosé as a sea­sonal treat: much as I do as­para­gus and berries in sum­mer. I like to in­dulge in it while the weather is at its peak and ide­ally served lightly chilled with pic­nic fare, at the beach or around the bar­be­cue. I then go cold turkey for a few months and wait in ea­ger an­tic­i­pa­tion for the next vin­tage. It’s not some­thing I want year­round. Call me old-fash­ioned in that re­gard.” Jane may feel she’s old-fash­ioned, but th­ese win­ning rosés are a mod­ern won­der. From all of us at Dish, en­joy!

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