December brings summer to the Southern hemisphere and in the wine world that means a focus on wines for warmer weather. Refreshing whites, lighter reds and then a long-overdue and delightful focus on rosé. South Africa has come a long way since the days of sweet and luminous pink wines. We now have a wonderful selection of styles and shades, but are we really ready for the new sophisticated pink?
Generally South African rosés used to be of an intense shade of pink and in a sweeter style. It was (my apologies!) often regarded as a wine for the ladies. The more subtle shades and drier styles have been with us for a while now, but as with all things, changing the perception of pink wines takes a bit longer. Dare I say, the time is here – especially if you look at the decent choice on the shelves, social media coverage and even summery salmon-coloured spreads in the few glossy’s that survived. Perhaps we have finally realised that rosé is not only for ladies brunches and those with a sweet tooth. Pink is pretty, but no longer are rosé wines style over substance.
Simply blending a small portion of red wine with white is one of the methods of making rosé, but there are much more to producing a pretty glass. Other than the lesser used method of Saignée, there is the intricate method of leaving the juice on the skins for a carefully considered amount of time to extract just enough colour and flavour to the winemaker’s liking. (Read more) Talk to anyone who makes rosé in this way and they will tell you how delicate the process can be.
With a history starting in Ancient Greece and the “civilized” tradition of diluting your wine, rosé made its way to the Mediterranean where it became the summer drink of choice for 19th century holiday makers in the Côte d’Azur in Southern France. The phase of sweet and bright rosé wasn’t unique to South Africa, it was introduced to the world by the off-dry pink wines from Portugal – especially the famous Mateus that hit the market in 1943. Provence can, however, be seen as the home of rosé. Today, the popular Provencal style rosé contributed to the area’s climate, terroir and varietal selection, is celebrated in rosé-making across the globe. (Read more)
While rosé can be a beautifully complex wine and a versatile food partner, there’s no denying the charm of the colour in the glass. Vinsdeprovence.com lists the shades of Provencal rosé in order of consumer preference as: Peach, Melon, Mango, Pomelo, Mandarin and Redcurrant. Yes, there is much more to rosé than strawberry! Often, the flavour profile is much more delicate and in some of the lovely South African examples we tasted lately, we enjoyed notes of nectarine, melon, rose petal and even a delicious salinity.
According to SAWIS statistics, rosé / blanc de noir wines make out 12% of the domestic still wine market. Unfortunately 42% of these wines sell between R30 and R40 per litre (all types of packaging). As Covid and financial insecurity challenge South Africans, many are trading down and only 9% of SA rosés in the domestic market sell for more than R70.
Rosé is a thing of beauty and it is nothing strange to see pink bottles making up half the ice bucket at summer parties. With the South African climate, our alfresco lifestyle and the delicious selection of rosés available, there is much potential to grow this category. Perhaps we’ve moved on from the idea of sweet in flavour and fuchsia in colour, but can it be that we are not ready to at least take out a pink note to pay for our pink wine?