Rose tinted glasses

By Jo Burzynska

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Pink is this season's colour. It was in last year and if predictions prove correct it'll be fashionable for the next few years, as the world's rapidly growing taste for rose wine shows no sign of abating.

We're in the middle of an international rose boom. In France, it overtook white wine in volume of sales last year. In the US, its sales are forecast to grow by around 10 per cent over the next three years and in Britain sales look set to rise by close to 50 per cent, according to a report commissioned by the Vinexpo wine exhibition.

Here in New Zealand, rose sales are following a similarly skyrocketing trajectory, up by more than 20 per cent in the supermarkets. And it's no longer just a wine that's being sipped in the summer months.

"While rose has typically been considered a fringe variety that is only sold in summer, it is not only becoming more widespread in consumption but has lost some of its seasonality," notes Bernard Budel, a business analyst at Villa Maria. "Rose sales in December are still three times higher than sales in July but these winter troughs are not what they once were."

New Zealand's wineries have become wise to this trend and most now offer a rose in their range. According to Budel, there are now more than 140 different roses on offer, representing a 20 per cent growth in those available last year, while shops are devoting increased shelf space to the style.

The new wave of roses are a world away from the sweet and often less than exciting home-grown examples made from low quality hybrid varieties that first hit our shelves in the sixties. Today, pink wines are far more sophisticated.

Quality does still vary, with some lesser roses still nothing more than lolly water. However, New Zealand is also producing some seriously good stuff that runs from robust food-friendly dry styles to light and easy drinking off-dry aperitifs. There is also a growing array of interesting examples available from France and Spain in particular.

"The increase in rose sales has been huge as more and more people seem to realise its versatility," observes Scott Gray, of specialist French importer, Maison Vauron. Not only is rose a good option for those who can't decide between drinking a red or a white, but drier incarnations in particular have the ability to partner one of the widest range of foods of any wine style.

Rose makes a fine match with meatier fish such as salmon and tuna, while also working well with a lighter meat like pork. It suits many salads, soups, tomato-based sauces, Mediterranean style vegetable dishes and barbecue fare, as well as being able to stand up to spicier dishes and milder curries, with off-dry styles often a successful support to the sweet and savoury combinations found in Asian cuisine.

Rose's quality is something those in its heartland of Provence are keen to protect. Its winegrowers are far from being tickled pink by current EU proposals to allow producers to make rose from mixing red and white wines rather than employing the traditional quality focused method of leaving black grapes for a short time on their skins to give the wines their characteristic rosy hue.

This change was mooted due to the belief that the maceration method is holding back French, Spanish and Italian producers in new markets such as China. However, the Provencals fear this would result in markets being flooded by ropey rose, adversely affecting its image.

Sounds like a job for the Rose Avengers and Producers, an international group of winemakers, that number a few New Zealand wineries, dedicated to spreading the gospel of dry rose in particular and "righting the wrongs done to rose".

Think pink

Even though autumn is upon us, there's no reason to stop drinking rose

Domaine Houchart Cotes de Provence Rose, France 2007 $22
From one the world's main rose producing regions, Provence, this tangy dry wine exhibits the style's classic strawberries and cream character underpinned by a lovely line of mineral in this example.
(From Maison Vauron.)

Muddy Water Growers' Series Rose 2008 $23
Juicy red berry fruit is to the fore in this rose that's a blend of pinot noir from Waipara and Central Otago. It has a touch of sweetness and some added spice and weight from being partially barrel-fermented.
(From Caro's, Point Wines, Fine Wines.)

Kew Gisborne Wild Rose 2008 $20
Another fresh, off-dry example, with full body and generous spiced raspberry fruit and hints of herb, making it something of a red wine drinker's rose. (From Liquorland Gisborne or via www.kew.co.nz)

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