What do wine judges talk about when they break for lunch? I can’t speak for all wine judges, but a couple of weeks ago, while I was chairing the New Zealand International Wine Competition, the topic of conversation was rosé. We had just judged a large flight of very tasty pink wines and awarded a good number of them gold medals. The standard was very high.

That explains why rosé has suddenly become so popular worldwide, I suggested. In this country, rosé has been a “by-product” wine. By bleeding off a little pink-tinted grape juice before fermenting their red grapes, winemakers can make a deeper, more flavoursome red wine because they now have a higher skin-to-juice ratio. The French call this process saignée, which means “bleeding”.

That’s a useful technique in “difficult” vintages when red wines might otherwise lack colour and body. Rosé is almost an after-thought. It becomes a “red-repairer” rather than a quality wine in its own right.

Few red wines in the past three New Zealand vintages (2019, 2020 and 2021) have needed cosmetic surgery. Red wines and rosés have benefited from mostly dry, sunny weather. Build a better rosé and the world will beat a path to your door, or so it seems to me. 

Climate change has heightened demand for rosé, one of the judges ventured. It is the perfect antidote to hot, sunny weather, she explained. 

Improved packaging, suggested another judge. Everyone agreed that rosé packaging has certainly got better in recent years. 

There was some discussion about colour; the conclusion was that very pale pink is probably best. Rosé should have a silken, ethereal texture without being coarse or astringent. It should be flavoursome, with the scent of summer fruits and flowers. Sweetness should be subliminal and certainly not obvious. 

Top 10 New Zealand Rosés

Terra Sancta 2021 Bannockburn Rosé, Central Otago, RRP $29.45
Creamy, ethereal rosé that has clearly been made with a light touch. A hint of sweetness is perfectly balanced by fruity acidity to give a dry and lingering finish. Summer berries and a suggestion of spice are tantalisingly integrated. Charming wine.
Stockists: The Good Wine Co., Auckland, $24.99; Vino Fino, Christchurch, RRP $24.99

Misha’s Vineyard 2021 The Soloist Pinot Rosé, RRP $28
100% pinot noir with a small percentage fermented in old barriques to promote a richer texture. This wine combines intensity with delicacy. Dry with gentle acidity and with cherry, floral/red rose and subtle spicy flavours.
Stockists: The Winery, Arrowtown, $25.99; WineNZ.com, Queenstown, RRP $26.59

Paddy Borthwick 2021 Pinot Rosé, Wairarapa, RRP $22 
An attractive pale-pink rosé with strawberry, cherry and a dash of cranberry character. Silken-textured wine with an initial hint of sweetness that is balanced by gentle acidity to give it a crisp, dry finish.
Stockist: Martinborough Wine Merchants, Martinborough, RRP $25

Redmetal Vineyards 2021 Cabernet Franc Rosé, Hawke’s Bay, RRP $25
Delightfully fragrant rosé with ripe raspberry and cherry flavours. An initial hint of very subtle sweetness is nicely balanced by gentle acidity to give the wine a dryish finish. Charming wine.
Stockist: Redmetal Vineyards, Hawke’s Bay, RRP $24

Wooing Tree 2021 Rosé, Central Otago, RRP  $29
Attractively scented pinot noir rosé with moderately intense flavours of strawberry, raspberry and watermelon. Charming wine in a fairly robust and, thankfully, dry style.
Stockists: Vitis Cellars, Auckland, $23.90; Whisky and More, Waikato, $23.99

Te Whare Ra 2021 Rosé, Marlborough, RRP $29
Dry pinot noir rosé with subtle cherry, strawberry, pear and wild flower flavours. Delicate wine with an ethereal texture. Charming and refreshing, with a lingering finish.
Stockists: First Glass Wines and Spirits, Auckland, $23.99; Te Whare Ra Wines, Marlborough, $29

Mondillo 2021 Pinot Noir Rosé, Central Otago, RRP $30
Quite a deep-tinted rosé, pink with a hot of purple. Flavoursome, charming wine that captures the scents of summer with strawberry and raspberry characters. Lovely wine with a subliminal hint of sweetness.
Stockists: Vino Fino, Christchurch, $25.99; Point Wines, Auckland, $26.90

Palliser 2021 Rosé, Martinborough, RRP $30
100% pinot noir rosé with a pretty, pale hue. Delicately aromatic with the scent of crushed raspberries and flavours that suggest red rose petal, strawberry and watermelon supported by deliciously tangy acidity. An initial hint of sweetness leads to a crisp, dry finish.
Stockists: Moore Wilson’s, Wellington, $25.95; Regional Wines and Spirits, Wellington, $29.99

Amisfield 2021 Pinot Noir Rosé, Marlborough, Central Otago, RRP $35
Creamy-textured and deliciously fruity rosé with crushed strawberry, raspberry and subtle spicy flavours. A hint of sweetness perfectly balances gentle, fruity acidity, leading to a pleasantly refreshing finish.
Stockists: The Wine List – NZ, Auckland, $30.95; The Good Wine Co, Auckland, $31.99

Jules Taylor 2021 OTQ Pinot Noir Rosé, Marlborough, RRP $35
Made from pinot noir grapes grown specifically for rosé. Mid-pink wine with a fragrant and quite floral aroma that leads to sweet berry fruit and a touch of fresh herbs on the palate. Intense and appealing wine.
Stockists: Jules Taylor Wines, Marlborough, $33

Read more from Bob at therealreview.com