A Rosé by any Other Name is Still Damn Fine

That one-dimensional slogan once used by a beer company was totally off-the mark. Because real men – and women – do, in fact, drink pink drinks. And a hell of a lot of it when it comes to matters wine.

Anyone who has spent a spring or summer in the South of France would know that rosé wine is not so much drunk there as inhaled. And here, further South, Africans have reconnected with rosé now that more producers are creating wines of a less syrupy sweet nature than those that were so hip, hot and happening in the bygone era of bell-bottoms, tie-dye, Monkey Gland steaks and Ford Cortinas.

Today’s rosé wines are fresh, zippy and on the drier side while still exuding a perfumed fruitiness which makes the wine evocative, sexy and life-affirming.
Rosé can be a blend of red and white grapes or it is made by bleeding the juice away from red varieties before the purple skin has had a chance to add too much colour to the elixir.

The result is wines varying in colour from Victoria Secret Spring Panty Pink, salmon flesh to just-hued onion skin. On the mouth, the hit of skin and tannin adds a slight wad of briskness and depth, whilst maintaining a wine that is quaffable by the bottle. No swirling, sniffing or backwashing in the mouth here while penning raptured notes and tallied scores: rosé is chilled, thrown back with abandon and is great with most foods.

One of the newer of these wines to hit the market is the impressive Pinot Noir Rosé 2017 from Glen Carlou out Paarl way.

The farm might be more known for Chardonnay and their sterling reds, but it has always made one of the breeziest and fun-drinking Pinot Noir wines around. Now it has conjured a rosé from these grapes which exudes all the features of Glen Carlou’s precise winemaking whilst offering an immensely enjoyable wine underscoring this category’s rise in popularity.

The juice is bled from whole-bunches of fruit once cellar master Johnny Canitz shows happiness with the colour, it undergoes a cool ferment and was handled reductively (no oxygen) to capture the pure expression of skin-kissed Pinot Noir.

The result is a wine with a pale ruby colour and loads of berry and spring water perfume on the nose. Once it hits the mouth, the first impression is a bracing acidity – almost like jumping into a Llandudno beach dumper – before the charming flavours of strawberry, ripe red apple and plum take over. The modest alcohol of 12,5% allows one to analyse the wine by comfortably drinking a whole bottle of it. And I can report that this rosé remains alive and exciting in the mouth, with no fear of boring the drinker with cloying sugars or palate-numbing tannins.

And oh yes, rosé can never be too cold – add ice if necessary, it is your wine and you can do what you please.

De Morgenzon from Stellenbosch has succeeded in gaining a huge and deserved reputation for excellence over the past ten or so years. This has mainly been for the world-class Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Syrah that cellarman Carl van der Merwe makes up on the hills overlooking False Bay and the Helderberg. But the range, which is very comprehensive, delivers quality at every level.

A rosé in De Morgenzon’s Garden Vineyards range is about as European as New World rosés come and I developed a garlic breath and an irrepressible urge to don a Provencal beret just by smelling the wine from the 2017 vintage.

For this wine, traditional Southern France red varieties Mourvèdre, Syrah, Grenache Noir and Cinsault are used, along with the white grape Viognier. And okay, I did say rosé is meant for glugging down without any second thoughts, but the De Morgenzon is worth spending a bit of time on for those wine anoraks who like to converse and contemplate matters vinous.

The colour is more onion skin than lingerie pink, and the overall impression is a drier wine with a dusty grip on the palate. This has to do with the concoction of varieties, each bringing a different component in terms of acidity, depth and flavour.

Where the Glen Carlou is all succulent fruit more-ishness, De Morgenzon has a floral aroma that reminds one of the dry potpourri stuff lying around on the Egyptian cotton sheets in your villa outside Marseilles. Icy cold as it should be, the wine’s flavours are crunchy and crisp: think green figs, sour cherries and crushed quince.

There is a bit of tannin around, despite the wine not spending any discernible amount of time with the skins, which makes this a rosé capable of complementing sturdy dishes, too, such as Moroccan chicken, bouillabaisse and even a real hot-tish Indian curry.

Rosé is, of course, not only reserved for still wines as anyone witnessing a bejewelled rap-artist pouring pink Dom Perignon Champagne over his white Ferrari can attest to. South Africa’s category of Cap Classique sparkling wines are showing more-and-more rosé fizzes that are easy on the eye and great fun to drink.

Kleine Zalze, a huge producer of wine in Stellenbosch, makes a fabulous Brut Rosé in the classic method of bottle-fermentation. For this, a still wine is made, then placed in a Champagne bottle where it undergoes a second fermentation whereby the bubbles are created. To be exact, there are 50 million bubbles in one bottle of this sparkling wine, so please appreciate each one.

Kleine Zalze Brut Rosé is made from 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay, both classic grape varieties used in the making of French Champagne.

The wine streams from the bottle in a line of salmon-pink fizziness and the sight of that foam and those bubbles must be the most beautiful thing any thirsty person hopes to see. The nose is all strawberry and rose petals, warning you that you are going to have some serious pleasure with this wine.

When sipping, the first impression is that of softness, a seductive delicacy as if the winemaker had true respect for your tasting senses. There is a bit of red marshmallow, some raspberry and blood orange on the palate, but a zesty line of acidity prevents the wine from clogging the mouth down, keeping the party going until you want it to stop.

This is an all-day, all-night wine – as I find many sparkling wines to be – and is really delicious with sushi, seafood in general and a curried chicken salad.
And rosé should be enjoyed with the words “to life” because of all the wines out there, this is the wine of life.

  • Southern Vines (Autumn 2018)

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