New Zealand rosé is becoming more than just a pretty face, reports John Saker.
This is the best line-up we’ve seen for some time,” noted panel chair John Belsham. Fellow judges James Rowan and Sam Kim agreed. “There appear to be more people planning in advance to make great rosé and succeeding,” said Rowan. Reflecting the good growing season in all regions, the rise in quality allowed the panel to select a Top 5 for the first time in many years. And good news for wine drinkers’ pockets – three of the Top 5 doubled as the three Best Buys. Styles ranged from delicate to generous in a field of 54 and the better wines benefited from having less sugar, John Belsham said.
The Tasting Panel
Panel chair John Belsham, highly respected international wine judge and owner of Foxes Island Wines, Marlborough, was joined by James Rowan, winemaker at Auckland’s West Brook Winery, and Sam Kim, senior Auckland wine judge and Wine Orbit author. Associate judge (non-scoring) was Cuisine’s New Zealand wine writer, John Saker.
French in name and style, our top rosé brings to mind a canvas from the Picasso Rose Period: a triumph of subtlety, lightness and clarity. Pale in the glass and gently fragrant, wisps of berry fruit provide dabs of colour to what is a delicate, linear structure. It finishes crisp and fresh. As a food match, the panel opted for an antipasto dish of tomato, mozzarella and fresh sweet basil.
During a flying-winemaker assignment in Aléria on the island of Corsica eight years ago, Two Rivers owner-winemaker Dave Clouston explained to the locals the common New Zealand method of rosé production. They were scandalised at the dark red Kiwi version and came close to chasing him off the premises. “They showed me that rosé fruit needs to be picked early, to be treated like white wine,” he says. “Everything there is geared to achieving that pale salmon colour, vibrancy and purity.” Our top wine, Clouston’s first rosé under the Two Rivers label, is a tribute to his vintages and lessons learned on Corsica, which is why it’s called L’Ile de Beauté, a common name for the island. His rosé would work beautifully with salty foods, he says – “briny olives, anchovies or calamari”.
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