50 Shades of Pink: Australia’s best rose wines

Posted on Oct 18, 2019

Australia’s biggest wine show has just awarded its top trophy to a Langhorne Creek red blend –  Bleasdale’s 2018 Wild Fig Shiraz, Grenache Mourvedre.

Winning the Jimmy Watson for the first time in Bleasdale’s 170-odd history is terrific news for them, winemaker Paul Hotker – one of the industry’s genuine nice guys – and an underrated wine variety we highlighted only a few weeks ago.

All of which has nothing to do with rose.

Which is all well and good as far as Bleasdale concerned because Paul Hotker refuses to make it. Known as Australia’s “Mr Malbec” because of his winery’s primacy with the grape, his favourite wine is actually chardonnay.

But he has no interest in rose – probably the hottest wine style in Australia and just about everywhere else right now.

Rose’s journey to popularity has been a long and winding one in Australia. Once confined to sweet imitations of Portuguese label Mateus, the style was propelled into the current zeitgeist largely by supermarket wine buyers bringing in large amounts of cheap, attractively packaged dry French labels.

Local producers have since followed suit. Led again by the supermarkets – this time clutching colour swatches and concomitant demands to match the light pink and salmon tones favoured by the Provencal French – Australian winemakers have embraced new grape varieties and bold packaging to meet the imported challenge.

But their efforts seem to have fallen flat this year.

Our exclusive review of Australian and NZ wine shows finds that scores for rose exhibits have declined in both number and quality this year. The 999 rose exhibits that have been assessed so far this year have averaged less than 85 points – a marked fall from the bronze medal average recorded last year.  The number of exhibits presented has also fallen 14 per cent from last year’s total of 1163.

Both statistics compare shows on a like-for-like basis. In other words, they only compare the results from the same shows held to date.

Probably the most meaningful comparison is the number of gold medals awarded. Rose wines have won only 47 golds this year – a 36 per cent decline on the number awarded at the same shows last year. Moreover it’s also an 11 per cent fall on the number given to pink wines at the same shows in 2017.

Perhaps it’s more a statement about the 2019 vintage. Unlike many other wines rose is a wine made quickly to be drunk the same way. Few producers exhibit rose wines more than one year old at local wine shows.

This year is no exception. More than 70 per cent of the rose exhibits assessed this year are from the 2019 vintage in which grape yields in cool climate areas fell by five per cent. In such conditions it is entirely reasonable to speculate that a higher proportion of the surviving grapes have been reserved for higher-priced red labels.

Wine show judges have examined 534 different rose labels so far this year. Here are the 20 best:

1 St Hallett Barossa Dry Rose 2019
2 Bird in Hand Pinot Rosé  2019
3 Wicks Pinot Rose 2019
4 De Bortoli Rose Rose 2019
5 Jacob’s Creek Le Petit Rosé 2018
6 De Bortoli Sacred Hill Rose 2019
7 Lerida Canberra District Pinot Noir Rosé 2019
8 Miles From Nowhere Rose 2019
9 Coward & Black Lady Margo Rose 2019
10 SC Pannell Arido Rose 2019
11 Bird in Hand Pinot Nero Rose 2019
12 Millon Clares Secret Rosé 2019
13 Bondar Rosé 2019
14 Turkey Flat Rose 2019
15 Hedonist Rosé 2019
16 Deep Woods Harmony Rosé 2019
17 Cupio Pinot Rose 2018
18 Howard Vineyard Cabernet Franc Rose 2019
19 Nepenthe Winemakers Select Tempranillo Rose 2018
20 De Bortoli Down the Lane Gris de Gris Rose 2018


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