A fine rosé is more than just a weaker version of a lusty red

You may think, as winter ends, that I'd be up to my eyelids in big, rib-sticking, cockle-warming, timber-shivering red wines -- but no. I'm looking spring-ward, hoping desperately that soon I'll be kissing goodbye to woolly tights and pasty, goose-bumpy skin. A great way to help channel blossoms, daffodils and gambolling lambs I've realised, is to simply sip rosé.

There's something about a glass of something gorgeously pink that lifts my mood every time. And yet it's this pinkish hue, which unfortunately demotes it to the "don't go there" list for many people. Okay, by "many people" I mean men. Over the years, all the men I've questioned regarding their rosé reluctance have said that it's because they thought pink meant sweet and a bit simple. And, truth be told, some of them are (insert memories of Mateus rosé here), but that's no reason to ignore them all.

Thanks to the added bonus of being crafted from red wine, rosés can still have fat, full, generous flavour profiles, which makes them super-versatile when it comes to food matching. One of my favourite things to pair with rosé is watermelon, feta, black olive and basil salad; it's also brilliant with steamed prawn and pork dumplings.

Many people still assume rose simply a white wine that's had a squirt of red wine added to it. Not so. These days they're almost always crafted from reds. So if rose are made from the same grapes that give us our gutsy favourites like cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah and pinot noir - how come they're so pale and pink and not dark and densely coloured? Think of it like an adult movie (go with me here) in that it's all about skin contact. If you squeeze a red grape, the juice inside is actually white. Red wines get their colour by mixing that juice with the skins for a shorter period of time for a "light" (harmless fun) blush of colour, longer for deep, penetrating, x-rated redness. The rosés I've chosen to show you this week are really interesting examples sourced from all over the country -- and if you're still adverse to a bit of pink? My advice is pour yourself a glass, put on a blindfold and prepare to be wowed.


Manuka-smoked whisky on the way ...

Thomson Whisky is distilling New Zealand's first commercial batch of manuka-smoked whisky this week, in what's believed to be a world-first. The single malt is being made from barley grown by Canterbury-based maltsters, Doug and Gabi Michael of Gladfield Malts and kilned using local manuka wood. Smokey or peated whiskies usually hail from Scotland, but this local example (which is a few years off being released) will be unique. "As one of only a handful of commercial whisky distilleries in New Zealand, Thomson is proud to be producing an original and world first whisky in our home country," says distiller Mathew Thomson.

Thomson Distillery is based at Hallertau Brewing in Northwest Auckland -- give them a call to put your name down for a bottle.

Be there with bells on

Edgebrook Cider is about as English countryside as you can get in Hawke's Bay.

In addition to their "Festive" (an English east-counties-style cider) and "Village" (an English west-counties style cider) this year's offering is "Orchard", a cider using mainly bittersweet apples, macerated before pressing and wild-fermented mostly in barrel.

The result is a deep, moody cider, according to brewer Doug Bailey who is celebrating the release with a tasting with the Heart of the Sun Morris group as part of their spring equinox celebrations. "Morris dancing traditions are interwoven with English west country cider traditions and we look forward to sharing our cider lore and fine cider with them."

• For more information about spring equinox morris dancing and Edgebrook Cider email doug@edgebrookcider.co.nz

Sips of the week

Soho Westwood Waiheke Island Rosé 2014 $24

Crafted by talented winemaker James Rowan, this magical merlot/malbec/syrah blend from Waiheke Island is impeccably bright, juicy, ripe, tangy, with hints of dried herb and currant leaf. Deliciously complex and long on flavour, I would go so far as to say it's probably the best rosé I've ever tasted. Superb.

Jules Taylor Gisborne Rosé 2014 $24

I'm struggling to remember a time when I've ever been disappointed with one of Jules' rosés - she just has such a talent with crafting that lovely strawberries and cream perfume and packing her rosés with flavours of raspberry, watermelon, soft herbal notes and creating a nice, snappy tang on the finish. Great stuff.

Greylands Ridge Belle Rosé 2013 $22

Named after Patrick and Judy Medlicott's granddaughter Izobel, this Alexandra-grown sip has a gorgeous coral colour, classic strawberry and cranberry aromas and a juicy, refreshing mouthfeel. Made from free-run pinot noir juice, it's a vibrant heads up that spring is just around the corner.

Georges Road Les Terrasses Waipara Rosé 2014 $20

Kirk Bray has crafted a pretty watermelon-hued wine that bursts with raspberry and cherry notes on the nose and has a creamy fullness in the palate.