Article written by wine writer, Mike Bennie.
Rose is my favourite wine style. There, I’ve said it. When done well it can trump just about everything for interest, refreshment factor, detail, texture, nuance and general drinkability – this matrix of things makes for great wine in any language.
Most folks think rose is a frivolity or side show. Rose is generally seen as best consumed in haste and without consideration for more than its thirst-quenching nature and hit of booze it’s responsible for. A shame. Rose can transcend, and Western Australia does a sterling job of the style across a myriad of grape varieties and blends.
More importantly, rose is so seemingly kindred with WA’s bounty of seafood, outdoor living, long summer, Rottnest Island visiting, Margaret River holidaying lifestyle, that there surely isn’t a more appropriate wine? Few things seem more in synch with watching the tide roll away from a seaside perch than a fistful of Geraldton rock lobster, Rottnest scallops, Albany oysters, Broome pearl meat or Exmouth prawns than a frosty glass of something pink, dry and savoury on hand. WA magic right there.
Rose is made in more or less two different way – saignee (bleeding off) or with skin fermentation. Saignee roses can no doubt be good but are often the by-product of winemaking. When a winemaker wishes to concentrate a red wine by increasing the ratio of skins to juice in a ferment, they can ‘bleed off’ a portion of juice to do so. If a winemaker removes a portion of juice from a ferment, the concentration of flavour and colour is apparent. The ‘leftover’ juice, usually taken away early in the winemaking story, can be used for rose wines.
These wines of course can deliver a satisfying hit. They can show fine tannin, bright acidity, are often valued for their pale, translucent colour and can mainline a delicate sense of the grape variety or blend they have been drawn from. For me, I am more into skin ferment rose. To me, it tends to mean that a winemaker has intentionally grown and raised grapes for the purpose of rose, then applied the gentle skin fermentation to eke out exactly the personality desired for the resulting rose wine.
Regardless of technique, there’s a myriad of wine producers who sing from the WA rose hymn book. Star winemaker Julian Langworthy from Deep Woods Estate and Nocturne wines seems to be a dab hand with the style. He’s taken out various trophies and medals at local (Western Australia) wine shows and finds synergy between unusual grape varieties to produce scintillating, thirst-quenching and complex examples. Nocturne Rose brings together sangiovese and nebbiolo in a pale but textural wine reminiscent of Campari and cranberry juice, with pretty perfume and a swish of fine tannin.
Lesser-sung varieties form part of many great roses in Western Australia, building up the state’s innovation credentials with the wine style. Green Door Flamenco Rose draws in grenache and monastrell as the ingredients for another textural and savoury rose. La Violetta based out of Great Southern seems to delight in quixotic blends and has delivered two memorable rose wines in recent time. La Violetta Ye Ye Pose is a blend of pinot noir, pinot meunier, pinot gris that results in a heavier rose of juiciness, concentration and fleshy, riper fruit character. The curious, thirst-slaking La Violetta Loosie Rose is a vintage blend that feels like a pretty mix of pomegranate and cherry juice bolstered with a squish of blood orange acidity – it’s best drunk straight out of Eskys while sitting on a picnic rug, or similar.
Not all rose is built for complexity and depth however, with some great examples being a little more straight forward in their appeal and make up. Sandalford Wines may have its spiritual home in Swan Valley but works within Margaret River as a significant source of its wines. Shiraz is the hero in the Sandalford Margaret River Range Rose. It’s a strawberries and cream kind of rose, all soft and juicy, easy to drink, light in colour and appealing in fragrance. It’s one for drinking at lunchtime, at a picnic or for frivolous times at a party. Righteous in its simple-done-well way.
The famed biodynamic wine grower and producer, Cullen, also does a simple-done-well rose style. While it is actually produced from the saignee method, Cullen Dancing In The Moonlight Rose is sleek and fine, light in cherry and raspberry flavours with a pretty dusting of spice. Fine tannins shape the wine nicely, and the finish is mouth-watering and energetically fresh. It’s a top example of how rose can feel refined and elegant while still delivering its higher purpose of refreshment.
While rose may not be seen as serious amongst the upper echelons of wine cognoscenti, there’s a breadth of reasons to explore the style from Western Australia’s myriad of excellent wine producers. In essence, the lighter, fresh wines produced from red grapes, drunk cold, in the sun, with the food assets of Western Australia in mind, deliver a formidably excellent cultural and social moment. More the point rose wines are typically fun and easy to drink. Count me in (again).