All you need to know about the pink stuff

What is rosé wine in Australia?

In Australia, rosé wine was once sniffed at for its sickly sweet, candy coloured characteristics. Today, Aussie winemakers are looking to Europe – producing pale, delicate, interesting styles. Rosé is now a wine to take seriously and classy examples are being included in winemakers’ ranges.

Where is rosé produced?

Countries such as France, Spain and Italy are champions of rosé. Why? Because of their approach to consuming wine, which is at mealtimes with family and friends. Rosé is a fantastic food wine that can be paired with a range of ingredients and cuisines, so it’s unsurprising that the dining-centric wine culture of the Continent upholds this versatile drink. Perhaps the most coveted rosé wine is France's ultra-dry Provence style, but there is also Spain’s rosado and Italy’s rosato, which tend to have a deeper colour and a bright, fruit-driven profile. The USA is another major producer of rosé, mostly known for an off-dry version with zinfandel at its base.

How is rosé made?

Is it red? Is it white? Well, actually, it’s neither. Rosé is a pink wine that can be made in a few ways. No matter whether a grape is red or white, the juice from its flesh will be clear. So, where does the colour come from? It’s in the skin (along with structure-building tannins and complex flavours). The longer the skins are in contact with the juice, the more colour will be imparted on the wine. 


Here are the three chief ways rosé is made: 

1. Got some nerdy wine friends? You might have heard them use the word saignée (pronounced san-yay). French for ‘bleed’, this method involves siphoning off juice from a fermenting red must, which contains the skins, seeds and stems of the fruit, and then placing the pure extract into a separate vessel to make rosé. The result can be a red wine with an intense flavour profile and a quality pink. As fine reds remain a top priority for Aussie producers, this is a common technique in our nation’s wineries. 

2. If you’re a bit of a whizz in the kitchen, you’ll be familiar with maceration – this is also a method for producing pink wine. Destemmed red wine grapes are seeped in juice for a period of time, before the entire batch becomes rosé. Popular in regions of France where rosé is a celebrated wine style, this approach shows rosé the ultimate respect, as it’s purpose-made rather than a run-off of red wine production. 

3. The final way to make rosé is by blending red and white wine, usually with a small percentage of red added to a white wine ferment. What are the key characteristics of rosé?

Rosé wines range from pale salmon to rose gold, strawberry pink and raspberry red in colour. They come in varied styles – from crisp and bone-dry to tangy, red-fruited types – so there really is a rosé for all comers. Rosé alcohol levels are low to medium, around 11 to 13 per cent, and richer phenolic characters from skin and seed contact make it more textural than most whites. The base grape of a rosé will be a major indicator of what you’re in for. Common varietals are grenache, cinsault, sangiovese, pinot noir, tempranillo, cabernet sauvignon and shiraz, with winemakers experimenting with many more. The flavours and aromas you’ll find are red fruit (strawberry, cherry and raspberry), summer fruit (melon, peach and plum), citrus (lemon, orange and zest) and spice (salt and several kinds of pepper). It can also have pretty floral notes like rose petal, violet and hibiscus, and herbaceous, savoury characters such as celery, green capsicum and olive.

When should you drink rosé?

Rosé can be enjoyed year round, depending on your mood and the food you’re eating, but its refreshing, easy-to-drink style makes it a go-to in warm weather. It’s an ideal entertaining wine for its ability to stand up to a range of flavours, so keep it in mind when having people round. If you’re after something celebratory, rosé Champagne is a stylish option. If Champagne rosé is outside your budget, there are plenty of top-notch sparkling rosé wines. Pink sparkling and pink still wines will be a crowd-pleasing addition to your event.

Some of the best rosé wines being made in Australia today…  Rosé can play in the big leagues with Australia's best reds and whites, and there are several producers who have achieved 95-plus points for their pink wines. Deep Woods Estate in Margaret River has its Harmony and Estate rosés, which have both received cracking scores. Medhurst in the Yarra Valley produces an ultra-pale style that was the only rosé in last year's Top 100 Wines, and James lists Amelia ParkDi SciascioFarr RisingMontalto and Teusner among the producers of 'real' rosé in Australia.