Rosé Revolution

Written by
Winsor Dobbin
February 16, 2017
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Rosé is a wine style that has undergone a complete image transformation over the past decade, emerging as a favourite for summer enjoyment. Once viewed as sweet, inconsequential and derided as ‘liquid fairy floss’, many of the new wave of Rosé wines are made in a much drier style and regarded as one of the most food-friendly styles around.

Known as Rosé in France, Rosado in Spain, Rosato in Italy or blush wine in the United States, there is now consensus that pink wine is very pretty.  

From hot pink to onion pale and savoury, most of the popular Rosés are now dry or off dry, with many imports from Europe extremely dry.

Rosé is not a blend of red and white grapes, as many drinkers believe. While there are several methods used, it is usually made entirely from red grapes by letting the juice have only very short contact with the grape skins. All colour and tannin comes from the skin of the grape.

This versatile style can be made using a number of grape varieties. Pinot Noir, Shiraz and Grenache are among the most common in Australia, but a blend of varieties can also be used successfully depending on what the winemaker is looking for.  Merlot, Malbec, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel are also widely used.


Long History

Both the ancient Romans and the Greeks made wines in a Rosé style but it was not until the 1950s when Portuguese producers Mateus (still sold at Vintage Cellars) and Lancer released sweet, slightly sparkling Rosés to the European and American markets that the style took off. The Americans followed with sweet, pink White Zinfandel.

Rosé in the Anjou region of the Loire Valley, and in Italy and Spain, has tended to be drier in recent times as tastes have changed. Try cheap and cheerful Champteloup Rosé d'Anjou, or the excellent Le Chat Noir from the Aude region in the south of France.

Around two-thirds of the wine produced in Provence, in the south of France, is Rosé (try Chateau Riotor), while in the Rhone Valley the Tavel appellation is the Rosé leader. Rosé Champagnes, often made by blending Pinot Noir with Chardonnay, are growing in popularity with names like Laurent-Perrier, Mumm, Billecart-Salmon and Perrier Jouet leading the way, while Chandon from the Yarra Valley and Tasmania's Jansz among those at the forefront of Australian bubblies. 

As the wine styles have become more sophisticated, the popularity of Rosé has risen; and Australian winemakers particularly, now treat their Rosés with a great deal more respect.

Steve Webber, from De Bortoli Wines, in the Yarra Valley of Victoria said he was inspired by drinking lots of savoury Bandol wines from the south of France.

“Our Australian climate is so suited to drink dry, pale, textural Rosé wines that are well chilled and slightly savoury,” Webber says. “I see a huge future for the style here.”


Savoury Drive

Webber sees more savoury grape varieties like Grenache, Pinot Noir and Mourvedre (Mataro) as the drivers of the varieties that Australians will enjoy.

Surprisingly, no one region in Australia has taken the lead in Rosé production.

Many come from warmer regions like the Barossa Valley (check out the benchmark Turkey Flat, or Spinifex) and McLaren Vale, but cooler-climate regions like the Yarra Valley also shine with releases like Dominique Portet's pale and savoury Fontaine, and there are some fine examples from Western Australia.


Leading wine educator and wine writer, Master of Wine Jancis Robinson, says “Rosé has firmly established its position as a valid, non-wimpy wine style” - and it works with a wide range of cuisines, from Middle Eastern to Mediterranean.

Rosé is also great with salads, is terrific paired with salmon dishes and is a great thirst quencher on a warm day. What more could you ask for?