At First Blush: The Best Pink Wines of 2020

Posted on Dec 1, 2020

So wine is all about the grapes. Or the land. Or the winemaker. Or whatever.

It’s really not.

According to dozens of studies, wine’s primary driver of consumer satisfaction is price – if you know it. The more expensive it is, the more you’ll enjoy it.

If you don’t know the price, consumer perceptions are mainly influenced not by taste but by colour. Dye a white wine red and even wine experts who should know better (and can tell the difference if they’re blindfolded) start describing the drink with qualities typically associated with red wines.

That’s why tasting notes for rose wines are inevitably riddled with allusions to strawberries, Turkish delight, musk sticks and so on. It’s also why, according to one senior producer of the wine, wholesale wine buyers for retailers like Woolworths (Dan Murphys and BWS) and Coles (Liquorland, First Choice and Vintage Cellars) spend as much time with winemakers fussing over colour swatches as they do taste tests.

All of which tells you a lot about rose. It’s not a serious wine. Or – if it is – then you’re probably paying too much for all the other types of wine you drink.

Exhibits A & B for this proposition are the top two roses to be seen at Australian and NZ wine shows this year. The first is a label that sells for about $12. The second sells for about $10 and is made by a trio of wine producers calling themselves the Goon Tycoons.

At the other end of the scale, one producer who calls his/her/its label “Serious Rose” couldn’t even rate a bronze medal at two different shows.

Quite a lot of effort has gone into rose in Australia and NZ over the past few years. Whereas in the past the wine was mainly made by skimming off the early juice for wines destined to be made into more “serious” red labels (and thus concentrating them further) winemakers have been experimenting with dedicated grape varieties that can ferment for longer without imparting too much colour before the skins are removed. This helps add texture and depth to a product that doesn’t typically hang around the winery before heading to the shelves.

But does it make any real difference? The first of our list is a shiraz-viognier blend while the second mixes shiraz and merlot. Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot make up number 3. Not a nebbiolo, aglianico, primitivo or monastrell to be seen, well – for miles.

The appeal of rose – apart from its voguish salmon pink hues – is its food friendliness. The stuff goes with just about anything on a hot summer’s day.

But the real pleasure of rose is giving you permission to get over your misperception that an expensive wine is necessarily better than a cheap one. Or that you could taste the difference between the two anyway (even experts often can’t). It’s enough to make a wine marketer blush.

More than 500 roses, rosatos, rosados, blushes and other pink wines were presented to Australian and NZ wine shows this year. Judges worked their way through 828 exhibits. These are the top 20:

1 Miles from Nowhere Rose 2020
2 Choosy Beggars Rose 2020
3 Forester Rose 2020
4 Bird in Hand Pinot Nero Rose 2020
5 Geoff Merrill Charley Rose Dry Rose 2020
6 Bird in Hand Rose 2020
7 Xanadu DJL Rose 2020
8 Artwine Temptress Rose 2020
9 Saint Clair Marlborough Origin Pinot Gris Rose 2019
10 Capel Vale Winery Regional Geographe Malbec Rose 2020
11 Leftfield Hawkes Bay Rose 2020
12 Robert Oatley Wildflower Rose 2020
13 Hahndorf Hill Rose 2020
14 Black Cottage Rose 2020
15 Turkey Flat Rose 2020
16 Summerhouse Marlborough Pinot Rose 2020
17 te Pa Pinot Noir Rose 2020
18 Andrew Peace Masterpeace Rose 2020
19 Nova Vita Firebird Rose 2020
20 Tahbilk Rose 2020

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