At the beginning of this latest Top 10 tasting, our panel discussed what role a rosé wine plays in the world of wines. Rosé isn’t necessarily seen as a ‘serious’ wine, and by that I would suggest that it is a relatively uncomplicated style of wine that can be lighter, delicate and, in many cases, as a wine to have with food. It brightens the table, brightens the food, and yet doesn’t ask difficult questions – an ideal dinner guest!
Can a rosé be a 100 point wine? Any wine can hit that theoretical height, but you can argue that it is harder for a rosé to do so, as you don’t have that ‘varietal typicity’ at play. For a Pinot Noir to be considered a great Pinot Noir – maybe even a 100/100 score – then it needs to be not just an outstanding wine, but also a great version of it’s varietal. Just as a Chardonnay, or Syrah can be considered great expressions of those varieties. But rosé isn’t a variety and it can be made in a multitude of ways, styles and from a range of grapes – to end up at that lovely pale pinkness in your glass. We did allocate scores, to determine the Top 10, and we had a few that would have won a gold medal according to show-judging scores, and a lot of good silver medal standard wines too.
Rosé has really come of age in New Zealand, and there’s no doubt that producers are taking it seriously! Many wine labels now have a rosé in their range, and the majority of the examples tasted in our Top 10 Tasting would sit happily on any table and be enjoyed. There were only a handful of wines that our panel thought might not ‘do what it says on the tin’. There was a ‘natural’ wine that was definitely more orange than pink… and a couple where the wines were more distinctly varietal than a customer might expect in a rosé – tasting very clearly of Sauvignon Blanc, for example.
The Top 10 wines drew a lot of discussion, re-tasting and comparative judging. As one wine would draw admiration, so we would re-taste another to compare… and now that one seemed to have developed and grown! The expressions with a tiny amount more character and depth tended to nudge ahead, but that’s not to say that some of the more ‘straightforward’ examples aren’t glorious examples of what our winemakers are now producing in this, increasingly popular, style.
On to the (winning) wines..
1st place Misha’s Vineyard ‘The Soloist’ Pinot Rosé 2021
Aromatic, ripe red fruit – raspberry, cranberry, Morello cherry and plum, with a delicate floral note. The panel noted “Beautifully balanced, with tremendous depth”. Dry, with just a nudge of fruit sweetness, and a flowing acidity. Complex, with layers of flavours revealing themselves as the wine opened up in the glass. Brioche and crème caramel as well as a hint of star anise and rosehip syrup. Vibrant, deep and with real character. Well-liked by everyone who tasted this.
Misha Wilkinson had this to say about their winning wine:
“Central Otago enjoyed a very good season in 2021 in terms of crop levels (unlike much of New Zealand) and the quality of our fruit was outstanding. For our Pinot Noir Rosé, the selection of the Pinot Noir clones is an important factor. We generally prefer a Dijon clone 114 for a large portion of the blend. It’s grown on one of our lakefront blocks and one of first of our Pinot Noir blocks to ripen due to its lower altitude. The Dijon 114 clone has its origins in the Côte d’Or in Burgundy, and the grapes have tight bunches with classic Pinot Noir flavours of black cherry, and a lovely spice with good skin structure and tannins. The rest of the blend was composed of a classic Pommard UCD 6 clone which gives bright red berry fruit characters and perfume.
Hand-picked over two days, the fruit was in pristine condition with lower sugar and acid levels than normal. The fruit was destemmed and crushed into picking bins for soaking to extract colour and flavour from the skins for about 24 hours before being pressed off. Our intention is to extract some colour and a little structure from the grape skins but not enough to extract the bitter tannins. Whilst most of the juice was fermented in cool temperatures in stainless steel tanks to keep the freshness we want in our Rosé, we also fermented a small amount of juice in older oak barrels to add some complexity. So our 6th vintage of ‘The Soloist’ Pinot Rosé, has our signature dry style with a beautiful perfume, plenty of varietal character and fruit purity and we think it’s one of our best examples yet!”
2nd place Mondillo Rosé 2021
Noticeably darker in hue than what we saw as ‘typical’ in the tasting. On the nose is watermelon, toffee apple, redcurrant, greengage and framboise. “A red wine drinkers’ rosé” noted one of our judges. A dry style, with a real pop of flavour at the front. Then diving into an intense, layered palate lit with ripe red berry flavours, and a green herbal edge. Turning into a plush, textural finish, with a bit more sweetness developing.
3rd place Askerne ‘Serieux’ Rosé 2021
One of a pair of new wines from Askerne – both had their admirers, and both made our Top 10. Big bouquet of summer fruits – red berries, melon, white peach and apricot, with a likeable bubblegum note on the nose as well. Bright and youthful – a taut, dry style, but with “volume and texture right through the middle” according to our notes. Vibrant, refreshing and with lots going on. Serious, indeed.
4th place Palliser Estate Rosé 2021
Classic pale pink in the glass, with exuberant aromas of strawberry, redcurrant, cherry and honeysuckle on the nose. Dry, elegant and quiet to begin, but building into a big, rich mid palate with great complexity. Integrated acidity and a crisp, freshness throughout. Not just summer berries though – we found a citrus peel nuance and a little hazelnut, layered underneath the red fruits. “Generous” appeared on more than one set of notes.
5th place Zephyr ‘Mk 1’ Rosé 2021
“Summer in a glass” was quickly written in our tasting notes for this one. That classic strawberries and cream flavour, appears on the nose here, with sour cherry, raspberry, stone fruit and pink apple. Dry, beautifully crafted with a real finesse. A balance of fresh acidity, ripe fruit basket, and even a nibble of tart, pithy fruit tannin. A herbal, leafy note, something like chamomile and borage. By the finish, this is really expressive, persistent and power-packed.
6th place Esk Valley Rosé 2021
Continuing our collection of ‘dry and elegant’ wines, this merlot-based wine was applauded. Upfront and vibrant aromas with pomegranate, rosehip, redcurrant, ginger and a lovely elderflower floral on the nose. Good acidity, ripe red fruits, spices and a distinctive herbal note like lemon thyme. Perhaps more straightforward than the top five, but crafted in a classic, well-balanced and easy to love style – seamless.
7th place Man O’ War Pinque 2021
Pretty, floral and bright on the nose, with yellow-flesh plum, red berries and watermelon. ‘Something Japanese influenced’ was a question in our notes. Ginger, matcha tea and umami all featured as descriptors during the tasting of this Waiheke wine. There’s also an earthiness underlying the ripe, red palate, alongside a herbal and spice. Silken texture and a well-rounded appeal, alongside plenty of character – gave us plenty to talk about.
8th place Askerne ‘Fleurty’ Rosé 2021
The other one of the pair – this one sweeter and with a light spritz on the tongue. A fascinating bouquet – perfumed with cranberry, red liquorice, ginger, apple, almond and a rose petal floral. The character continues further in, with fennel and chamomile herbals, spices popping up through the strawberry and watermelon flavours that dance over the palate. Soft acidity and a broad, creamy texture. Vibrant, pretty and juicy.
9th place Rapaura Springs Reserve Rosé 2021
Palest rose-pink in the glass, with floral notes coming through on the nose. Like walking through a flower meadow – with hay, flowers, herbs and then white peach, cranberry and watermelon fruit aromas. Refreshing acidity and simpler through the palate than the nose. Dry, clean and with a lovely purity. The finish is delicious, long and rounded.
10th place The Landing ‘Boathouse’ Rosé 2021
Delicate – shy almost – on the nose, with just a whisper of citrus peel, white cherry and plum. A nice mineral salinity, with a crisp acidity that gives drive and flow through the palate. Riper fruit flavours develop and it shows a little spice and savoury nuance like preserved lemon, oyster shell – again, on the briney side of things. That sweet-sour contrasting interplay is lively and gives this quite restrained wine a pleasing edge.