No matter what its colour—reddish white, blush, pink, purple—or flavour—dry or sweet—rose is a wine gaining in popularity. By Ben Canaider
Everyone’s favourite Marlin fisherman and novelist, Ernest Hemingway, was a man’s man. He was always Bond and never blond; he fought bulls, went to war with General Patton just for the fun of it, and—to show he was in touch with his sensitive side—even started his own breed of cat, on Key Largo in Florida. They have one less toe than every other cat in the world. True story. Hemingway also drank rosé, particularly at lunchtime. A bottle at minimum. He reckoned it helped him bring the afternoon into proper focus and put paid to any other thoughts of writing.
Rosé can do similar things for your customers. Which means they—like Hemingway—might stay in the bar all afternoon. Who’d want to skip off to a bullfight when you can polish glasses whilst listening to the till ringing as the customers polish off the rosé?
Rosé has really charged out of the blocks in Australia over the last five years. Its sales growth has been in the double digits every 12 months, albeit off a small base. It is the start of a new and increasingly important trend, and as R&CA’s drinks page has long insisted, getting in on new trends from day one is the way to go.
Of course, if you want to get with the rosé deal, your staff might need to know something about it. Here then are the cold, hard facts.
Rosé should be treated like any fresh, aromatic white wine: drink it young and very cold. Vintage 2006 rosé is now everywhere, and this is the stuff to be serving until about August, when the 2007’s will start to appear. Do not buy or serve 2005 or anything older. Doing so only shows a fair bit of disrespect to your customers.
Rosé is made in two ways: properly and cynically. The key is often shown in the alcohol-by-volume measure. Higher alc/vol rosés tend to be bled. They are wines made from the initial run-off of more serious red wine; in this sense they are little more than a by-product, and the awkward and clumsy alcohol that dominates their flavour is evidence of this. Some rosés made in this manner—the saignée method—can be very tolerable drinks, but just watch out for those high-alcohol ones. Rosé is supposed to be a light and easy drink, not pink vodka.
Proper rosé is, of course, made just like any other wine. Red grapes are picked and crushed, and the juice rests with its skins for a day or two, depending on how much colour you want to extract from those skins, and also how much tannin. As a general rule the very garish, hot-pink coloured rosés tend to be a little riper and richer—and sometimes a little sweet, right at the end. Any rosé’s back label that informs you the wine is ideal with spicy Asian-style food is a sure giveaway that wine inside the bottle will finish fractionally sweet. Such rosé wines can be easy to immediately like, but hard to drink a second or third glass of, and they get worse the more they warm up in your glass-holding hand.
The drier and more drinkable rosés tend to be paler in colour, taking on an almost bronze or salmon hue. These are the rosés for grown-ups. But these two points about colour, it must be remembered, are very general rules.
Other than that, you can look at rosé from a grape variety angle, but this is probably not so important. Any red variety can, it seems, be turned into reasonable rosé. Shiraz from cooler climates does well; more and more sangiovese is being turned into the pink drink, too, with its cherry pithiness showing through; and pinot noir is quite effortless and well-structured, but there are a number of good blended rosés doing the rounds to suggest that one single grape variety doesn’t rule the roost with this style of wine.