Roses no longer make us blush

CHEERS: BARTON ON WINE

WARREN BARTON
Last updated 09:13 12/12/2013
Rose wine
Rose wine

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If you spoke to sommeliers about roses a decade ago, the conversation would have focused on the frustration of getting an unwilling public to give them a try. Now, the public in the summer wants little else.

Well, maybe that's taking it a bit far.

But these are not my words, though I do recall having said much the same thing on more than one occasion in the recent past.

The observation is one made by the noted American wine writer Eric Asimov in a recent edition of the New York Times.

And I mention it only to demonstrate that such fads and fancies, even in the wine business, do not these days take hold in isolation.

Pink wines (roses) have been around for years but it was not until the world fell in love a few years ago with Provence, their spiritual home in the south of France, that a new generation of wine drinkers and foodies sat up and took notice.

So did winemakers, here and elsewhere.

What followed was a rash of pretty ordinary roses, most of them simple and rather wishy-washy by-products of the red winemaking process.

In fact, I seem to remember it was not long ago that the first-ever gold medal for a homegrown rose was awarded at a New Zealand wine show. At the recent New Zealand International Wine Show there were five - which demonstrates not only the importance now attached by winemakers to this growing slice of the market, but a realisation by consumers that this aint lolly-water, nor solely summer wine, but one of the most versatile wines of all.

Let's, however, just stick to its attraction as a summer drink.

As wine-romantic Asimov says: " ... A good rose, at a lunch outdoors, preferably seaside or at least poolside, or even on a terrace, at a sidewalk table or on a tar-paper roof, will transport me to Provence as quickly as you can say Brigitte Bardot. Good wine ought to be transporting. That's one of its greatest strengths ...

But, he adds, " ... far too many roses fail to meet the test. That is, they are heavy, lack delicacy or simply are not refreshing ... Good rose must quench the thirst, first of all. Even better, it ought to energise, inspire an appetite and induce the desire for another sip."

"Exactly," says Grant Edmonds, chief winemaker at Sileni Estates in Hawke's Bay, which won the trophy for the top rose at the International Wine Show.

Likewise Gordon Russell, of Esk Valley Estates, also in Hawke's Bay, which won gold for what has always been one of the country's best roses. Both say they have made changes, toning down the colour and the content of their wines, which in Sileni's case was more like a light Mediterranean red, to more closely resemble the roses described by Asimov.

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According to Edmonds Sileni Cellar Selection Cabernet Franc Rose is now one of the export-driven winery's best performers on the home market.

To get the taste and quench the thirst why not try all five of the gold medal-winning wines:

Sileni Estate 2013 Cellar Selection Cabernet Franc Rose, $18-$20
Made from a variety with a reputation for producing soft, attractive reds - especially so in this form. A juicy mix of berries and brambles. Dry.

Middle Earth 2013 Pinot Meunier Rose, $24
Made in Marlborough from a variety used as a base wine in the production of champagne.

Soft and gently sweet with fresh and fruity (red berried) flavours.

Two Rivers of Marlborough 2013 L'lle de Beaute Rose, $20-$22
A lovely salmon-pink wine made from pinot noir and named for the Island of Corsica, in the Meditteranean. Juicy and generous but not overblown.

Kim Crawford 2013 Reserve Pansy Rose, $21
Made initially by Kim for the "pink" market. A juicy, berried blend of mostly merlot and malbec it's a very palatable off-dry drop. Possibly the best so far produced.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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