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Wines Of Now

Australia’s best rosé

The prelude

From its spiritual home in Provence, in Southern France, rosé can be both democratically affordable and dizzyingly expensive, but it rarely slips into the sordid or gets hung up on being too serious. It maintains a broad welcoming smile. It says, drink me. It says, relax, have fun. Those bottles of rosy-tinged sunshine have been exported to all corners of the globe in their legion, and they have found their mark, fashioning the expectations of drinkers and shaping the decisions of winemakers. But is that all there is to rosé?

But before relegating rosé to both summer and the judgement-free beverage basket, next to Prosecco, Italian lager and Aperol spritz (not picking on the Italians, but they do carefree well), the diversity of pink-tinged wine in this country has blossomed apace with the explosion of bottles within the Provençal paradigm. Especially if you take colour and application as defining characters, rather than being bound by production rules of a far-flung part of the world. Afterall, the Italians make coppery, blushed pinot grigios (ramato) that are essentially rosés in terms of their appearance and use – a rosé by any other name… Well, with a brief to curate a compelling list of rosé-like wines from our shores, we took a deep dive into the subject.

The shades of rosé. Photo by James Morgan.

In France, pinot noir is used for pink wine in Sancerre, in the Loire Valley, and at times in Burgundy, with the commune of Marsannay being an historically important rosé producer. However, rosés are largely made with some of the more powerful grapes, with production increasing the further south you get, where rugged, sun-kissed grenache, mourvèdre and syrah vines (amongst others) turn out elegant and delicate wines, redolent of just-picked berries and lilting florals.

And while there are many historic Italian rosé, or rosato, styles made, many of them with varying degrees of fizz and sweetness (think Brachetto d’Acqui from Piedmont – Moscato d’Asti’s blushed, strawberry-scented cousin), they rarely mirror the Provence archetype. Well, they never used to at least.

Today, powerhouse varieties like aglianico, primitivo, nero d’avola and nebbiolo are tuned into gently blushed offerings, proffering their individual varietal character in a style that we have come to expect. That’s not to say that Italy hasn’t retained its fair share of traditional rosato styles. Some of which could easily be classified as light reds, but suffice to say that Provence has had a global impact in markets both progressive and stubbornly traditional.

That impact is true here, too, with a slew of reliable and affordable Provençal (Provence, in Southern France) bottlings making it to our shores. This exposure, and consequent influence on winemakers, has seen the appeal of rosé increase significantly over the last 15 or so years. Rosé is now taken seriously, even if it is still a drink characterised by boundless frivolity. Prior to this revolution, Australian rosés were oft sweet and mostly varied between luridly fluorescent tones and somewhat sombrely dark hues, knocking on the door of red wine.

“The Provence Wine Council (CIVP), who have some hardcore research divisions in marketing as well as winemaking,” conducted an experiment where they vinified “13 plots of Grenache from all over Provence, made exactly the same way,” and there was a “staggering colour difference.” He continued, “This was a game changer for me in showing how rosé can reflect site, sure, not to the same terroir-porn levels of Burgundy’s crus, but it shows the style stands above mere winemaking process.”

Rosé in Australia

Back then, Australian rosé was almost exclusively a secondary product, with young vine fruit, or poorly selected clones or sites, or both, ending up as rosé by way of clawing back some revenue. The other method was essentially utilising a by-product. Drawing off some of the juice from a tank at the start of fermentation concentrates the primary product: red wine. This method is called saignée. That bleed-off is fermented into rosé, and though often good, is subservient to the red wine, so the alcohol or flavour profile can be ill-suited to rosé. Having said that, Gary Farr made some significant statements with the style during his legendary tenure at Bannockburn Vineyards.

In other words, rosé was never at the front of anyone’s thinking. No-one planted vineyards to make aspirational rosé, or rosé of any kind, really. That’s not to say we didn’t have the appropriate varieties already planted. We did, and we do. It’s simply that varieties like grenache, shiraz and mourvèdre were better commercial options as red wines, and pinot noir as rosé was, and still largely is, a commercial disaster, given its finicky nature and low yields.

So, what we got, in the main, were wines of opportunity, wines of necessity, and often with a perception that they had to be sweet. Fair to say that few producers were benchmarking rosés from around the world, although Turkey Flat and Charles Melton turned out highly regarded versions, and Julian Castagna made a bolder, more aspirational statement somewhat later with his ‘Allegro’, in 1998.

Bill Downie at our blind tasting of rosé. Photo by James Morgan.

With the imagination of the consumer now well and truly captured, dry, lightly textured wines with pink to onion skin hues are now made at scale, and with primary intent. However, supplying to this exemplar has arguably seen the local category nestle itself into a ‘beverage’ segment, rather than declare itself as ‘serious’ wine.

“This was a really interesting tasting with a huge range of styles ranging from light red to super-pale Provençal style wines with everything in between. There were wines that were cloudy and untouched and wines which had been fined and filtered. I’m certain this tasting would have been much less interesting 10 years ago and I’m sure it would be even more interesting to do it again in another 10 years. This category is not going away, and I couldn’t be any happier about it!” proclaimed Downie.

Yes, exceptions abound, but there is a functional quality to much rosé. Joyously functional, but functional, nonetheless. If we take Provence as the fountainhead of today’s rosé movement, and we should, rosé is a wine suited to the sun-drenched languor of that beautiful part of the world. Try finding promotional notes that don’t mention azure waters or the sun, always the sun. There aren’t many. The French Riviera, or Côte d’Azur, is a place of infectious glamour, of good times, and of tantalisingly obscene displays of affluence. People want a part of that. You can see why the fine wine bit sits a bit behind that combination of sparklingly blue water, gleaming sun and the blinding impact of reflected riches.

French Riviera. Image: oliverstravels.com

But before relegating rosé to both summer and the judgement-free beverage basket, next to Prosecco, Italian lager and Aperol spritz (not picking on the Italians, but they do carefree well), the diversity of pink-tinged wine in this country has blossomed apace with the explosion of bottles within the Provençal paradigm. Especially if you take colour and application as defining characters, rather than being bound by production rules of a far-flung part of the world. Afterall, the Italians make coppery, blushed pinot grigios (ramato) that are essentially rosés in terms of their appearance and use – a rosé by any other name… Well, with a brief to curate a compelling list of rosé-like wines from our shores, we took a deep dive into the subject.

Deep diving into rosé. Photo by James Morgan.

As always, the panel was made up of six of the country’s finest tasters, makers and thinkers, with a brief to find the wines that compelled the most. This was not an exercise in technical perfection or to champion one style over another, nor was it a search for profundity. Rather, the aim was to find wines of interest and character. The below notes are comprised of the wines that made a final list of six from each of the tasters.

Our panel was: Felix Riley owner/director Felixir, rosé specialist wholesaler; Katie Buschgens, sommelier at EZARD; Adeline Zimmermann DipWSET, Export Manager for Barton & Guestier, Listel and Patriarche. William Downie, winemaker; Jackson Watson, reformed sommelier, #StockonHand wholesale representative; Sarah Andrew DipWSET, WSET Business Development Manager for Australia and New Zealand. All wines were tasted blind.

The panel. Photo by James Morgan.

The overview

It’s fair to say that the doors were flung open on this, with classically styled rosés mixed in with skin-contact pinot gris, and white blends with a dash of colour from a dose of red grapes. The brief was loose, as we felt that style and application were the most important factors here, rather than some adherence to traditions or origins. That may seem like it’s a bit of an apples and oranges tasting from a technical perspective, but not so much from a drinker’s perspective. If it’s pink-ish and best chilled, then it’s in. So, needless to say, the palette was a broad one.

“This was a really interesting tasting with a huge range of styles ranging from light red to super-pale Provençal style wines with everything in between. There were wines that were cloudy and untouched and wines which had been fined and filtered. I’m certain this tasting would have been much less interesting 10 years ago and I’m sure it would be even more interesting to do it again in another 10 years. This category is not going away, and I couldn’t be any happier about it!” proclaimed Downie.

“When I was judging at the Melbourne Wine Show… [rosé] was all toilet cleaner pink,” remarked Downie. “In 2004, there was no rosé that was that colour,” he continued, pointing to a pale pink example in glass. “And there were none that were dry!”

Andrew, who is researching rosé for her Master of Wine studies, reflected on just how big a player rosé is becoming, with significant investments being made in the style. “The category is growing like no other category globally. If you’re a producer and you’re not making rosé, you’re going to miss out on [something akin to] the sauvignon blanc wave that happened,” said Andrew.

Panelists at our blind tasting and deep dive into rosé. Photo by James Morgan.

Colour was a factor brought up repeatedly, with Riley saying that consumers often buy with their eyes. He noted that a darkly pitched rosé, no matter how delicious, was near impossible to sell in the current market. Andrew felt that while this was certainly true, that winemaking style and variety will play a far more important role in the future. “In the next five years, colour will become irrelevant, and it will all be about the style we see in the glass,” she said.

“Colour is pulled when you fine [a process that removes harsh tannin and haze from wine], and there were a huge number of wines here that weren’t fined, and there’s definitely a movement towards that,” added Watson.

Felix Riley at our blind tasting and deep dive into rosé. Photo by James Morgan.

Riley noted that while the hues of the wines showed considerable range, that this is not always down to variety or technique. He said that colour can vary considerably in Provence, and simply as a reflection of site. “The Provence Wine Council (CIVP), who have some hardcore research divisions in marketing as well as winemaking,” conducted an experiment where they vinified “13 plots of Grenache from all over Provence, made exactly the same way,” and there was a “staggering colour difference.” He continued, “This was a game changer for me in showing how rosé can reflect site, sure, not to the same terroir-porn levels of Burgundy’s crus, but it shows the style stands above mere winemaking process.”

An experiment with 13 plots of grenache, all vinified in the same way, demonstrate the terroir within Provence. Photo courtesy of Felix Riley.

Zimmermann commented that while paleness may be a big factor for consumers at a retail level, she thought this became irrelevant in a restaurant setting. “It’s more about the texture, the grip, the phenolics,” she said, with many of the wines drawing her in for their potential versatility with a broad range of dishes.

“When I was judging at the Melbourne Wine Show… [rosé] was all toilet cleaner pink,” remarked Downie. “In 2004, there was no rosé that was that colour,” he continued, pointing to a pale pink example in glass. “And there were none that were dry!”

Watson noted that some examples he found engaging actually had well-judged levels of sugar, contributing texture and weight without apparent sweetness. “There is a part of the market that is looking specifically at colour, but there’s also a section of the market that is looking for voluptuous mouth-filling rosé,” he said, noting that these wines were certainly finding considerable favour amongst consumers.

The topic of what actually constitutes a rosé was discussed at length with some insisting on a predominance of red grapes, though the majority were more flexible. “Maybe, who really cares?” Downie chipped in. “The whole thing’s always been flux anyway. If you go back 150 years in Burgundy, it was effectively all rosé because it was three days of maceration and pressed, and then the juice was fermented. Barolo was all sparkling rosé, sweet sparkling rosé until the 60s. So, I think it’s always been grey,” he said.

“I loved seeing some of the varietal characteristics standing out, such as with pinot noir and nebbiolo, and those examples worked best for me,” said Watson. “Italian grape varieties performed really well,” concurred Zimmermann, with a “great example made from sangiovese and nebbiolo.” Buschgens felt that varietal expression was becoming increasingly important, as consumers were now more aware than ever about the flavour profiles they liked, and that theses preferences were playing out in rosé, giving the category real nuance.

Jackson Watson and Adeline Zimmermann at our blind tasting and deep dive into rosé. Photo by James Morgan.

In his assessment, Downie remarked that there were almost six different categories that the wines fell into, and he found engagement in all of them. This diversity, even with the broadening of the definition of rosé that was implicit in this tasting, certainly saw the local iterations find their own identity.

“I was amazed by the mosaic of colour and profiles of the rosés. [It was] pleasant to see less rosé made out of a recipe and more reflecting the winemaker’s style,” commented Zimmermann. Indeed, the ghosts of rosé past were very much absent, and those examples that knit into a Provençal style mostly did so with confidence and individuality, looking every bit the thoughtful primary product.

“I wasn’t going in looking in the realm of summertime wine… but then there were those that ticked all the boxes,” Buschgens remarked, though she also found considerable interest in the wines that showed aldehydic characteristics and more pronounced levels of skin contact. “From styles ranging from Sherry-like to skin contact spiciness to the most classic lean and light. I …was excited to see how the category is being pushed. Boundaries no longer exist for rosé,” she concluded.

The Number One Picks

These are the number one picks from each of the panellists, with supplementary notes from other panellists if they featured in their top-six lists.

2019 Bondar Grenache Rosé, McLaren Vale $26

This topped the lists of both Riley and Downie, and it was included in Andrew’s top-six picks. “Tropical fruited, lovely fruit salad spectrum – guava, passionfruit, bananas, quince. Nails the ‘summer in bottle’ vibe, dot of bitterness on the finish to counter the bright fruit. Nicely weighted, interest and complexity meet moreish refreshment, which surely is what rosé is all about. A nod to the delicate, tropical fruited rosés of Provence’s Sainte-Victoire region, a standout,” wrote Riley. “Very pale colour. A nicely complex and fruity wine with some almost banana like fermentation esters as well as peaches and red berries. The palate had great balance and texture with spicy fruit character and noticeable acidity,” commented Downie. Andrew saw it as, “Clear and bright. Pale with lovely pink hue. Nose is youthful and engaging. The red strawberry and cherry fruits lift the wine with a subtle spice drive coupled with florals – clean youthful pretty and energetic. Lovely acid drives generous fruit.”

2019 Whistler ‘Dry as a Bone’ Rosé, Barossa Valley $27

This grenache, mataro and shiraz blend was accorded a top-six spot by both Buschgens and Zimmermann, while it topped Watson’s list. “Pretty nose; red floral notes. Wine is balanced with medium plus acid, long complex palate. Refreshing, grapefruit, light game notes, citrus zest. Impressive,” he wrote. “A meekly expressive rose in all ways – subtly perfumed with garden flowers and orange fruit, such as apricot and yellow peach, offset with sea breeze. It is long with what it has to give in a very lifted, well-presented fashion. Sits lightly on the tongue and shows light blood orange, ruby grapefruit, and fresh strawberries,” commented Buschgens. While Zimmermann saw a “restrained ground almond and marzipan nose, a floral lift with fresh ripe nectarine – long.”

2018 Arfion ‘Fever’, Yarra Valley $30

This sits well outside of the classic rosé camp, being a blend of pinot gris, gewürztraminer, chardonnay, savagnin and pinot noir. It was Zimmermann’s top wine, and it was highly regarded by Andrew. “Cloudy, intense and interesting nose of guava, Aperol spritz mandarin zest, lychee, rose, passionfruit (gewürz, viognier?). Great to see a skin-contact rosé/orange wine in balance. Spicy and phenolic, medium length. Balance between phenolic grip and acidity. Floral and fruity with restrained spices. LOVELY. Not a usual rosé but great balance between structure and aromas. Nice texture,” wrote Zimmermann. “Lifted nose with lovely aromatics including apricot, elderflower and citrus fruits. Lovely creamy palate – fresh – drive – liveliness and lingering finish – youthful – texture (skins) and palate weight …challenges the concept of rosé. When varietal definition shines through is this wrong? Controversial and for a supposed ‘low intervention’ wine not my normal backing but kept coming back to it and loved the direction it’s heading,” commented Andrew.

2017 Luke Lambert Crudo Rosé, Yarra Valley $25

This blend of syrah and nebbiolo snared Buschgens top spot, while Zimmermann also rated it highly. “The nose is savoury, complex, and perfumed with purple and dark red flower petals. Its allure made me want to dive into the glass. The palate full and long with surprisingly brighter than usual acidity. A touch branchy – forest floor, dry twigs, green stems. Beautiful balance. The fruit was full and unapologetic, but not overbearing. The darker savoury notes, such as earth and delicate spices, kept the wine from becoming too fruity and acted as a base note. Excitingly textural and expressive, especially for the bracket. A wine I could easily keep drinking and stay interested,” reflected Buschgens. “Elegant, pretty restrained nose, perfumed with white jasmine and peach. Zesty lean acidity as a backbone, guava and white floral with nectarine. Easy drinking, shortish finish but great balance and lovely texture,” wrote Zimmermann.

2018 Head Barossa Grenache Rosé $25

While this is rightly labelled as grenache (85 per cent minimum by law), it’s worth noting that is contains 10 per cent viognier. This topped Andrew’s list. “Colourless with the tiniest lick of blush. Pretty red fruits with delicate floral lift. Youthful palate that is dry with sweet red fruit lift – surprising power behind such a delicate rosé. Length of fruit carried by acid – drive poise and length. Excellent example of purity plus delicate colour that gives generosity of flavour and delightful texture,” she wrote.

The Consensus Picks

These were all in the top six lists, receiving cross support from the tasters, though none were nominated as their wine of the day.

2018 Garagiste Le Stagiaire Rosé, Mornington Peninsula $27

This 100 per cent pinot noir rosé garnered cross support from Downie, Riley and Watson. “Pale pink colour. This wine had real complexity with lots of barrel ferment character as well as bright fresh red berries. It had the kind of texture and weight I really like and will probably age quite well too,” wrote Downie. “Convincing Provençal rendition in spite of a non-Provençal grape. Briny saline nose, but maintains good fruit concentration and delivery. Nice body, suggestion of barrel work which builds textural interest, nice amaro and sour notes to finish,” commented Riley. “Full style rosé, red currant, lingering, fine spice, alluring palate. Perfectly balanced acid and tannin. Briar and pleasant weedy components. Most interesting aromatic spectrum,” wrote Watson.

2019 Airlie Bank Gris on Skins, Yarra Valley $22

Another of the less ‘classic’ rosés, this 100 per cent pinot gris – half whole-bunch and half whole-berry ferment – was also picked out by three tasters, with Buschgens, Watson and Andrew selecting it in their top-six lists. “Amazing complexity balanced with a soft approach. Delicate red fruit to greet on the nose accompanied with purple flowers, such as lilac and petunia. The skin contact lends to the grip felt, taking hold of the whole palate, yet gentle in its weight. Ripe strawberries supported with a slightly bitter citrus backbone. Long on the finish,” wrote Buschgens. While Watson thought it sat in the rosé camp effortlessly. “Beautifully balanced rosé, classic style, lovely varietal characters, rose, red fruit with0 white fruit edge, plenty of acid, long and lingering, nutmeg spice. Savoury grain, drying tannin. Interesting, stand out example in the line-up,” he remarked. “Pale with pink hue. Prominent herbaceous lift (is it varietal or winemaking?), spice lift. Savoury and dry on palate with youthful fruit. Mid palate weight that builds (peacock fan) – weight and density without being clunky …stalky but has character – says what it is, and I like that. Definitely a food wine with so many options,” Andrews reflected.

2019 Tahbilk Grenache Mourvèdre Rosé, Nagambie Lakes $21.50

This had cross support from Buschgens, Downie and Watson. “A beautiful golden salmon coloured rosé. The kind of colour that makes you want to dive in. Fresh raspberries, warm stone fruit, such as yellow nectarine and ripe apricot, all tied together with a type of ‘prettiness’ that comes across as almost feminine. Refreshingly salty, which balances the richness of the fruit on the palate. Tart red cherry, fresh raspberries, and lingonberry linger to leave behind a pinch of acidity in the cheeks. Quite smile inducing,” wrote Buschgens. “Bright pale cherry colour. Darker than most of the other wines. The nose showed bright red berry and cherry fruits. It was a little more aromatic than some of the lighter coloured wines. It had nice palate weight and structure,” reflected Downie. Watson found it “Finessed, extremely dry, pleasantly refreshing,” with “juicy raspberry fruit.” He continued, “Balanced medium plus tannin, heaps of refreshing acid, passionfruit, chalk, lemon peel.”

2018 Express Winemakers Rosé, Great Southern $25

This rosé has classic roots using grenache and mourvèdre with brief skin contact for colour, but it deviates with a splash of skin-contact sauvignon blanc thrown in, too. Both Downie and Buschgens selected this in their top-six lists. “This wine is slightly cloudy but with a bright, appealing colour. It opened with some fermenty reduction but after a little bit of time in the glass it showed some nice red fruits. A more complex, slightly funky version of rosé with some rustic, chewy tannin,” wrote Downie. “A slightly cloudy rosé, with nothing but happiness and sunshine on the nose – fresh pink grapefruit, bright starfruit, and vibrancy that tingles my nose. On the palate, there is incredibly length and texture, almost something you could chew. A subtle hint of the sourness in the back palate, which brings to life the more savoury notes of citrus oil and starfruit skin,” reflected Buschgens.

2018 Latta ‘Tranquil’ Rosé, Pyrenees $35

This 80/20 blend of nebbiolo and sangiovese saw zero additions, including no sulphur during winemaking and bottling. It found favour with both Zimmermann and Watson. “Mushroomy. Yummy creaminess with jasmine and red cherry lift. High zesty acidity with unripe nectarine and medium finish. Would love to drink on a sunny afternoon – cool funky rosé,” Zimmermann wrote. “Interesting, balanced, cloudy appearance with impressive texture. Juicy dried fruit, fresh cut bay leaf, medium tannin structure, slight saline, savoury edge,” noted Watson.

2019 De Bortoli Vinoque Nebbiolo Rosé, Yarra Valley $25

This had support from both Riley and Buschgens. “Very pretty aromas of jasmine and soft yellow and red fruit – yellow nectarine, raspberries, nashi pear. Carriedwith vibrant acidity, the very classical flavour profile on the palate comes across as quite alive and lifted. Offers the hoped-for clean, soft, long, bright strawberry and stone fruit one would look for in a summer rosé,” noted Buschgens. “Aromatically pronounced – hay and strawberries. Broad fruit spectrum including watermelon, rosewater, with some green tea umami; nicely complex but maintains refreshment well,” wrote Riley.

2019 Dominque Portet ‘Fontaine’ Rosé, Yarra Valley $22

From one of this country’s oldest and most celebrated rosé makers, this was rated highly by both Downie and Zimmermann. “Very pale in colour. I liked the bright, clean, fresh strawberry fruit character as well as the weight of this wine. It’s at the slightly more classic Provençal end of the spectrum but in the best possible way!” wrote Downie. Zimmermann saw “fresh peach with passionfruit,” calling it “classic – what we expect from rosé.” She continued, “fresh, zesty acidity. Restrained unripe nectarine. Long length. Classic rosé – fresh and lovely.”

2019 Arfion Pinot Rosé, Yarra Valley $27

This walked a more familiar line to Arfion’s other wine in the tasting. Zimmermann found it “simple, well made, in balance,” noting that it “ticks all the boxes.” Downie also included it in his top six. “Very pale colour. This wine showed lifted red fruit and rose petal aromas and had great texture and weight. A little bit of dissolved CO2 helped tighten the palate and make it even more appealing,” he wrote.

The Other Top Picks

These wines featured in one of the panellists’ top six, but they were not necessarily the lowest ranked on their individual lists. We’ll let their words do the talking.

2018 Bertrand Bespoke Rosé, Heathcote $25

This is predominantly mourvèdre that is co-fermented with saignée nebbiolo, with the wine spending three months on semillon, fiano and chardonnay skins. This was picked out by Riley. “Interesting aromatics, a Pimms and cucumber vibe. Firmness to the palate with nice length and fruit delivery, a teeny limoncello-ish lick, almost feels more cocktail-esque than vinous, which in this case is no bad thing. A cool little wine which well shows how rosé can be a gateway or entry point for people starting their wine journey,” he wrote.

2019 Cullen ‘Dancing in the Moonlight’ Margaret River $25

A blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and petit Verdot, Andrew registered this in her top six. “Clear and clean. Pale with pink lift. Savoury with cranberry lift on nose and palate. Driving mid-palate and interesting texture, engages and intrigues – length carries. Food wine. Could be missed in line up as delicate, but a persistent wine,” she wrote.

2018 Latta Gusto #3 ‘What-A-Melon’ $32

A blend of 80 per cent sangiovese with the residual an equal split of pinots gris and noir, Riley included this in his top six. “Red apple skins, slight medicinal edge. Nice column of stony minerals through the middle, would well benefit from food, a good example of a more powerful style. Its own beast which is what makes it cool, and a great discussion starter of showing the sheer range of styles and personalities of rosé,” he wrote.

2015 Foster e Rocco Riserva Sangiovese Rosé, Heathcote $45

Riley: “Round, ripe, hands off feel, some barrel work apparent. Mouthfilling, nice fruit spectrum of cherries and citrus rind, feels small batch – like its character and individuality. Gutsy of the producer to hold back the release, but geez this is holding up well, and shows that some pink wine indeed has the capacity to sit comfortably in bottle for at least a few years.”

2019 Krinklewood ‘Francesca’ Rosé, Hunter Valley $28

A mourvèdre and merlot blend, this found favour with Watson. “Light bright rosé. Lighter varietal characteristics. Balanced medium acid, medium intensity on the palate. Dried leaf, cranberry, ginger. Nice touch of sugar,” he wrote.

2017 Demi by Syrahmi Mourvèdre Rosé, Heathcote $25

Andrew: “Pale with pink hue. Salty nose with red fruits of strawberry and cherries plus bacon and cured meats. Dry on nose with brine pull through. Weight builds and acid carries fruit profile – a warming finish. Intrigue grows in the glass with lees texture and palate weight – moreish. Not textbook but a sommeliers wine to play with.”


The Panel

William Downie has become somewhat of a legendary winemaking figure over the last decade or so. Just don’t call him a winemaker or ask him to talk about making wine. His approach is relentlessly vineyard first, best exemplified by his home vineyard, which is run organically, with the heaviest equipment being a horse. Those wines are made with the lightest of touches, including no sulphur additions. He has worked extensively in Burgundy, as well as more locally in the Yarra Valley, Mornington and Gippsland. Downie makes wine under his eponymous label, under the Guendulain Farm imprint, from his home farm and vineyard, and with Jason Searle under the SOS label, which started as a Domaine Tempier-inspired rosé producer, but has since branched out considerably.

Jackson Watson has worked extensively as a sommelier both here and overseas. He was a sommelier at the Michelin starred Chez Bruce in London, was the Head Sommelier and Wine Buyer at both EZARD and Taxi Dining Room, and later served as the Wine Director at Vue de Monde. He currently works for Victorian wine wholesaler #StockonHand.

Katie Buschgens has worked as an assistant winemaker at a number of small to medium-sized wineries in Northern California. At the same time, she ran her own business, VividWine, providing wine education, ranging from leading tasting groups in different cities to staff training. Since moving to Melbourne, she has worked as a sommelier in fine dining venues, such as Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, as well as cellar door and restaurant management on the Mornington Peninsula. She currently works as a sommelier at EZARD.

Adeline Zimmermann has been immersed in the wine industry from an early age, learning integral aspects of the business at her family’s Domaine (est. 1693), in Alsace. After working in Burgundy, Adeline moved to London to work for Wine Australia. It was here that she became truly immersed in Australian wine. She completed her Master’s of International Business in China, where she focused on the Chinese perception of French wines. Adeline is a WSET Diploma holder and a WSET educator. She is currently a Master of Wine student. Adeline is the Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Islands Export Manager for Barton & Guestier, Listel and Patriarche.

Sarah Andrew is the WSET Business Development Manager for Australia and New Zealand. She is the Oceania Advisory Board Member for WSET, is on the Advisory Board for Australian Women in Wine Awards, and Co-President of Sommeliers Australia. Andrew holds the WSET Diploma with Honours, is a WSET Certified Educator, an A+ Wine School Educator for Wine Australia, a Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers and is currently studying for her Master of Wine.

Felix Riley owns wine import and wholesale company Felixir, with a keen specialty in French rosé. Prior to this he worked some 13 years in wine retail, earned a BA in History and an MA in Communication Management under the misguided aspirations of a career in public relations, before finally cracking a relevant career qualification of WSET 3. Outside of wine, Felix enjoys cooking, tinkering with the guitar, and live music at the heavier end of the spectrum.


How the tasting was conducted

All wines were decanted into clear wine bottles, so as to not let bottle shape or closure type intrude on the appraisal. The wines were presented with no particular order to the wines. Once the initial tasting was completed, the panel re-tasted as they saw fit to confirm or recalibrate their first impressions, and to give those wines tasted first a chance to be properly compared to those tasted later. The identity of the wines was revealed after the panellists had disclosed their opinions.