Innocent Bystander Moscato 2008

I’m a bit late to the Moscato bandwagon, not often craving this style of wine. But tonight, after a rather odd weekend, I felt like an uncomplicated drinking experience, so here we are. Certainly, the packaging makes me smile. Crown seals are quite snazzy-looking in their way, and the pink of this wine reminds me of rouge on the cheeks of an old china doll. So far so good.

A nose that is moderately expressive, fresh and, most of all, grapey. It’s grapey in the manner of overripe table grapes, with a couple of raisins thrown in for good measure. No great complexity worth pulling apart, so one is free to enjoy what is a straightforward aroma profile. Very much more of the same on the palate, with grapiness taken up a notch and accompanied by well balanced fizz, light acidity and enough savouriness to cut through the residual sugar. In fact, there’s a lovely clean after palate here, very much on the savoury side, that reminds me of high quality confectionery. A clean finish that somehow echoes orange juice.

J. K. Carriere Glass 2008

This is the second vintage of this wine I’d had the chance to drink, and you know what? I just don’t get it. I love pink wine, I love JK Carriere’s pinot noir and chardonnay, and this wine? Let’s just say that anyone who likes this wine presumably really, really loves this wine; to me, it’s kind of like reading Pravda: it’s still recognizably a newspaper, but it sure doesn’t read like one, at least not to me.So what is this wine like? It’s impossibly pale in the glass, more pale than any other pink wine I know. The smell, such as it is, is faint, fragile; it reminds me of traditional English summer drinks such as elderflower-scented water, potentially even rose-and-cucumber water. The acidity is lively, there’s just a hint of carbonation – OK, not really, more the suggestion of spritzig-ness – but on the whole it feels empty, strangely lacking to me. I suppose it’s just missing some ephemeral complementary foodstuff that I haven’t figured out yet – my friend Mark was thinking maybe goat cheese? – but on it’s own it’s very much an enigma, at least to me. J. K. Carriere
Price: $20
Closure: Cork

Chateau de Trinquevedel Tavel 2007

I can’t imagine anyone under the age of 60 not being embarrassed being seen with this bottle in their supermarket basket; it just screams ostentatious, what with the heavy embossed glass and old school gold capsule… and then there’s the label itself, which looks like a bargain-bin Mexican circus flyer and not even remotely like modern packaging. Still, what’s in a package?The color’s beautiful, far richer and darker than you’d expect from a nominally pink wine. For better or worse, though, the color is a near match for Hawaiian Punch, a favorite children’s sugar-water from the 1970s that Donny and Marie Osmond used to pimp when I was young. Great, not only is the bottle naff, but it’s like I’m back in short pants with a sippy cup again. Sigh.Anyhow, if such a thing as strawberry floor wax exists, then surely it smells like this. Scratch that, it smells like Soviet bloc “strawberry” ice cream dreamed up in an East German cooperative, manufactured from apples and Bulgarian grapes. It is, however, enchanting in its oddness, dredging up memories I’m absolutely sure aren’t mine of Russian tea rooms with small cakes that appear more painted than frosted.Ungodly huge in the mouth, the taste of the wine takes a hard right turn towards the medicinal: St Joseph’s orange-flavored aspirin (you know, for kids!) and prescription cough syrup, all cranberries, alcohol, and unpronounceable molecules promising relief from the ague. It’s all bone dry, creeping out ever so slowly on mineral feet, blood orange rind and candied lemon peel, gentle clover honey and all the time in the world to appreciate what just went down.Honestly, wines like this make me despair that we’ll never get it right in the New World. As much as I love a Susana Balbo rosé of malbec, Bonny Doon’s vin gris de Cigare, or any number of New World pinks, they seem, well, works in progress compared to this wine. What’s taking us so long?Chateau de Trinquevedel
Price: $20
Closure: Cork

Biondi-Santi Rosato di Toscana 2006

Thanks to a good friend, this bottle showed up in my house last night. As it was imported sub rosa, it’s difficult for me to tell what kind of wine this is, who produced it, you name it – the label is confused and resembles a Mexican lottery card more than it does anything else. I gather – thanks to Google – that this is some kind of Brunello di Montalcino, or maybe not: the producer’s Web site seems to indicate that they invented that DOCG or something, but who knows?Anyhow, on to the wine itself. The color’s beautiful – basically somewhere between blood orange and watermelon. Better yet, it doesn’t have the look of a wine that’s been filtered to death; it’s a bit hazy, which is appealing (to me, at least).On the nose there’s a huge whack of sulfuric acid: this positively reeks of the stuff. Ouch. You want the smell of the cold country? Well, there you go. Sadly, it’s nearly impossible to get beyond that sulfur smell – is there a trick to this? Just drink it?As far as drinking it, it doesn’t taste like “wine” at all to me, but rather like some kind of very low alcohol ápertif based on grapefruit rind with a pepper edge to it. Curious! If New World pink wines are all about little red fruits, and if French pink wines are all about strawberries and herbs, then this Italian wine is all about bitter citrus. It was a shock at first, but it’s growing on me.Texturally, the wine is fascinating, exhibiting a kind of creaminess that surprises me. The acidity, present as you’d expect for an Italian wine, is bright and perfectly balanced against the fruit, and it all ends on a long, smooth note of creamy strawberrie and lemon curd with that same bitter edge to it. All in all, a remarkable wine.Franco Biondi Santi
Price: €36
Closure: Cork

Alan McCorkindale Cuvée Rosé 2002

There’s something about incredibly naff labels on fairly spendy bottles of wine that catches my eye, every time. This bottle is from a Glengarry wine shop in a snobby suburb of Auckland somewhere east of the harbor; I picked it up on the way back to the airport last month. Given that today is St Valentine’s day, pink sparkling wine is a categorical imperative, so here we are.Sure, the label looks like a near-sighted librarian threw it together in Microsoft Word after a hell of a bender the day before, but what’s in the bottle is impressive. A dark onionskin color with a somewhat anemic bead, the nose is very much that of a proper red wine and is at first somewhat jarring. However, paying careful attention reaps rewards: there is definitely a lessy note thanks to extended maturation on the lees, and there’s that telltale fine aroma of brioche that marks this as a superior wine.Rich and full in the mouth, balanced by wonderfully refreshing acidity, the first impression I get is of freshly sliced Bosc pears, which seems incongrous with the, well, pinkness of the wine. Stepping back for a minute, the effect is of crushed roses in a forgotten corner of a spice market; then again, roses do have a spiciness inherent to them, so I’m probably just being overly enthustiastic here. All put together, this wine is mesmerizing; the bead may not be noticeable, but it provides a certain fullness in the mouth which is charming and rare. Add the spices, fresh pears, and rosy notes and I’m certain that no person in the world would prefer a box of chocolates to this bottle of wine. Delicious.Alan McCorkindale
Price: NZ $50 (appx.)
Closure: Cork

Plantagenet Eros 2007

A rosé style made from predominantly Merlot grapes. First, a word of warning: I served this wine quite cold, in accompaniment to an Indian curry. Whoops. Not an experience I’m keen to repeat, and not entirely the fault of the wine.

Quite a deep colour; one might mistake it for a light red rather than a rosé. On the nose, somewhat reticent aromas of strawberry and herb. It’s nicely savoury but lacks the sort of outré character that I (guiltily) enjoy in a rosé. The palate is livelier, with more light strawberry fruit and herbal overtones. There’s some astringency here, initially driven by acid but carried forward on fine tannin. This aspect of the wine is less than satisfying because, although its structure is quite prominent, the wine lacks a sense of freshness, perhaps due in part to a certain lack of intensity of fruit flavour. Although generally in fear of gratuitous residual sugar, I wonder if this wine might benefit from a less austere approach in the winery. Certainly, it lacks stuffing and, in a style that is often all about effortless enjoyment, I’m having to work fairly hard to get flavour from it. A nice lift kicks in towards the after palate and brings some aniseed-like flavour to the finish.

I’m not sure where this wine sits in the scheme of things. On the one hand, its savouriness demands more concentration than fruit-driven, breezy rosé styles. On the other, it lacks the attributes of a truly fine wine: intensity, balanced structure, complex flavour.

Price: $A14.25
Closure: Stelvin
Date tasted: October 2009

Solms-Delta Lekkerwijn Rosé 2006

At first sniff, I thought I’d happened across an egregiously overpriced South African version of white zin: this wine smelled simple and fruity, that’s it. Turns out I was wrong: it was just too cold to smell like anything. After a few minutes’ reprieve from the fridge, the smell turned to something like flowers that smell like meat in order to attract insects: florid, yeah, but also very, very meaty. Overall, it’s something like bacon that’s sitting in front of an open window in the countryside; very odd. It almost smells like Malbec, but there’s a definite uplift to the nose.Anyhow: the wine is rich and full in the mouth, starting on a generic red berry note and then quickly resolving to an almost oily, honyed sort of feel combined with black pepper and cherry. There’s good freshness here, a bit of residual sugar, and a lovely aftertaste of strawberries and cream that persists well.All in all, this is an odd one: I don’t know of anything like this from the States, Europe, or Australia. It’s not cheap, but it’s distinctive enough to be good value. Solms-DeltaPrice: US $17.99Closure: CorkDate tasted: April 2007

Yalumba Y Series Sangiovese Rosé 2006

Straight outta the fridge, opening a bottle of this is going to get you an dark, coppery pink wine, bright and clean in the glass, that smells largely of uncomplicated strawberries. Give it time to warm up a bit, and the smells spread out, becoming a little bit peppery, with something like freshly churned butter as well. Eventually, it all tends more towards fresh Rainier cherries.In the mouth, there’s a very slight spritziness that’s a bit distracting from the actual wine, which is fairly simple, but with an interesting dark downturn on the finish. There seems to be just a bit of residual sugar, which is more than adequately balanced by the wine’s acidity. It finishes broadly, satisfyingly, with notes of rhubarb and mace. It’s all less complicated than the best pink wines from Australia (or California), and far from a Provençal rosé, but it’s a lot of fun and a welcome change from sickly sweet white zinfandel.Yalumba

Price: US $9.99
Closure: Stelvin
Date tasted: January 2008—Julian and I visited Yalumba last February, and had a fascinating discussion about wine trends with the tasting room staff. Apparently this wine is selling like crazy down there; up here in California, pink wines are still desperately naff and no amount of marketing is going to change that, at least not for the foreseeable future. White zinfandel was the #4 best selling wine in the USA for a long, long time – and that started to change in 2006, when imported pinot grigio began to outsell it (something to do with the ongoing middlebrow fascination with Tuscany, I suppose?). My guess is that it’s going to take time for pink wine to become popular or trendy – we have to shake off that white zin hangover first.FWIW, some excellent California pink wines to try would include Pax (wonderful, but expensive; the winery seems to quickly becoming a Parkerized mail-list-only outfit to boot), Bonny Doon (their Vin Gris de Cigare has gone from strength to strength in the oughts), and JK Carriere Glass (a rosé of Pinot noir; I’ve never actually tasted it but I love their other wines so darn much that I can’t imagine it’s anything other than wonderful).

Unison Vineyard Rosé 2006

Another wine from Unison that we tasted (and purchased) at cellar door. It seems everyone is producing a rosé nowadays, and it’s curious to watch the influence of fashion on wine production, especially regarding a wine style that has gone from terminally daggy to hip in the space of a very few years. Unison is quick to point out that its rosé is made from grapes of the same quality as the used in rest of its range, not inferior grapes as may be the case with other producers. The proof is in the pudding, of course.
A bright, almost lurid rose petal colour, good clarity, fun to look at. The nose is surprisingly complex and contains elements of bright red fruit, some peppery spice, and fresh flowers. It’s not a superficial flavour profile, and the wine hints at a depth of flavour that doesn’t always present in rosé styles.
Entry is bright and ushers in a palate of quite generous body. The flavour profile is fun and friendly but also possesses a savoury aspect that adds sophistication to this wine. It’s totally dry but full of fruit flavour, such that there’s the impression of sweetness and weight without residual sugar. Good acidity, not overdone, keeps things fresh in the mouth. Tannins are pretty subliminal on the finish, and it’s not the longest wine around.
This is a good wine to haul out if you want a rosé with some sophistication to serve with, say, paella.
Unison VineyardPrice: $NZ24Closure: StelvinDate tasted: December 2007

Pascal Delaunay Rosé d'Anjou 2005

I bought this wine because it is under screwcap. When it comes to bargain basement French wines, sometimes one needs to look for reasons to purchase. Perhaps I’m being a bit mean — this wine is super cheap, from a good year in the Loire, and its main grape is one you don’t get to taste in local wines: Grolleau (40%, with Gamay and Cabernet Franc both contributing a further 30%). I cracked this little number open to accompany Thai food.

The colour is quite watery, though not unattractive in its way. It’s sort of a faded peach colour. Excellent clarity. Moving on to the nose, there are faint aromas of floral fruitiness, with some spicy edges. That’s about the best way I can characterise it. No intensity here, but it’s clean and at least it smells good. The palate is again clean, but the lack of any real intensity of flavour becomes quite apparent. The wine just slips into your mouth, registers a few simple fruit flavours, and then it’s gone again. Sort of like a depressed singing telegram. Technically a demi-sec style, there’s a smidge of residual sugar to add body but, mercifully, no excess sweetness.

On the plus side, it’s a clean wine, well made, pretty. But terribly dilute. Food overwhelmed it a little. Serve this chilled at a casual summer lunch in lieu of Chateau Cardboard.

Pascal Delaunay
Price: $A8
Closure: Stelvin
Date tasted: December 2007