Rosé On a Roll
Someone famous once said that behind every overnight success, there’s 20 years in the making. It applies perfectly to pink wine in New Zealand today. The past 20 years have led to the seemingly sudden popularity of pink wine, and it’s all down to Pinot Noir. It’s no coincidence that as Pinot Noir production has skyrocketed in New Zealand, so too has rosé.
Pinot Noir production grew by over 30% in one year, between 1999 and 2000 in this country. A decade later, it was neck and neck with Chardonnay (the second most planted grape then).
And now? Pinot Noir has climbed into second spot, trailing only Sauvignon Blanc. This is why rosé is also on the rise – its supermarket sales grew by 60% last year and by a whopping 150% over the past three years. Every Kiwi winemaker is adding a pink drink to their to-do list.
The Pinot Noir connection is simple really. Pink wine can made from any red grape you can think of: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah. As long as the grape has a red or black skin, it can be pressed to make pink wine.
The reason that Pinot Noir especially is being turned into rosé is that the grapes tend to have rather thin, rather pale skins. This makes it rather tough work for winemakers to extract colour from them since red grapes gain all their colour from their skins. So, if winemakers want to make a deeply coloured Pinot Noir, they need to prolong the skin contact during the winemaking process. Even then, it can be hard to maximise colour from a thin-skinned red grape. This is where rosé comes in and a French winemaking method called saigneé, from a word which means ‘bleed’.
Most Pinot Noir is made in stainless steel tanks with taps fitted to their bases. Winemakers can turn on the tap, bleed off a little of the fermenting grape juice to make a pale pink wine and, hey presto, they concentrate the colour of the remaining juice in the tank. The fermenting juice has a higher ratio of grape skins as a result of this bleeding-off process and winemakers have an easy and attractive wine as a by-product – rosé.
There is no correlation between how dry a wine tastes and how pale or deep it is in colour. Dry wines have had all of their natural grape sugars fermented into alcohol. Medium dry and sweet wines have had their fermentation stopped partway through by the winemakers to retain a little residual grape sugar to make a sweet wine.
Try these pink drinks
2017 Luna Estate Pinot Meunier Rosé $22–24
Martinborough winemaker Joel Watson from Luna Estate makes a pink drink with a difference – he uses Pinot Meunier grapes grown at the Blue Rock vineyard on Dry River Road to make this bone dry, full bodied rosé, which rocks Turkish delight, red apple and redcurrant flavour notes.
2017 Whitehaven Pinot Rosé $21.99
For a Marlborough winery that began life as a small player, Whitehaven makes a staggering amount of vino these days, including this bone dry rosé. Like most Kiwi pink vinos, it’s made from Pinot Noir and has had minimal skin contact; hence it’s pretty pale pink hue. Delicious.