Joelle Thomson

Writer, author, journalist

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It's all about skin contact...

The day is looking distinctly pink or should that be pale pink through to deep salmon? There's a line up of pink wines in front of the computer and the colours seem to span every hue of the pink rainbow, if there was such a thing. It's a far more varied range of colour than it would be, if this was a line up of red or white wines. 

Where does colour in pink wine come from? Why does it vary so widely and what does it suggest about the taste of the wine? 

Firstly, it's a myth to believe that colour is directly related to sweet flavours in pink wine but a deeper colour can often suggest sweetness, says Central Otago winemaker Duncan Forsyth, who shared his thoughts on rosé, along with his new 2022 Mount Edward pink wine at a tasting this week. There we were tasting our way through a bunch of Pinot Noirs made from elevated hillside sites in Pisa and Bannockburn when the rosé was poured. Pale in colour and dry as a bone, it ticked all the fashionable boxes of light colour and dry flavours that are currently in high demand by pink wine drinkers. 

Pink wines tend to elicit a love or hate relationship with the drinker but one thing is certain in New Zealand today; more rosés are being made intentionally with quality top of mind rather than produced purely to ride the wave of global pink wine popularity, which was the case a decade ago. 

Forsyth says that pale pink wines tend to suggest drier flavours because the wine has spent less time in contact with its grape skins, which is where the colour comes from. The reason for the higher level of sweetness in a deeper coloured wine is not due to the skin contact time but the need to balance the harder tannin profile in the wine which comes from grapes spending more time on their skins. If a light to medium bodied wine has gained a more tannic texture due to skin contact, then it often begs to be balanced by a little residual sugar and so we come full circle - to a deeper coloured pink wine with a hint of sweetness to balance its higher tannins. 

If you're a fan of pink drinks, as a vast number of people are right now, here is a diverse line up to choose from. This line up also highlights the fact that great pink drinks in New Zealand can be made from grapes other than Pinot Noir as well as this most planted and most popular red grape variety. 

18.5/20

2022 Mount Edward Rosé RRP $29
Dry, plush and pale in colour from the grapes spending just three to four hours on skins. This 100% Pinot Noir rosé is made from grapes grown solely on Mount Edward winery's Pisa Terrace vineyard. It tastes dry, fresh and fruity without sweetness. There's a really lovely balance of fresh berry aromas with a dry flavour from start to finish. 

17.5/20

2022 Wild Earth Pinot Noir Rosé RRP $30

Made from grapes grown on an elevated vineyard in Pisa, one of Central Otago's warmer sub regions just north of Cromwell on the western side of Lake Dunstan. This wine is bright ruby with medium intensity, again made entirely from Pinot Noir and with stronger fruitier aromas of strawberries, raspberries and fresh ripe stone fruit and a slight hint of fruit sweetness. 

17.5/20

2022 Carrick Organic Bannockburn Pinot Noir Rosé RRP $28

Pale pink and dry with a light bodied and extremely youthful flavours. This rosé is also made entirely from Pinot Noir and was fermented and aged on lees in barrel for four months to build texture into this lightly fruity pink wine. It tastes young and needs time to mellow. Official release is October this year. 

18.5/20

2022 Redmetal Vineyards Rosé Bridge Pa Triangle RRP $24

Refreshingly different style of Kiwi rosé, made from 80% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Franc and 4% Syrah with 2 grams residual sugar making it totally dry. The grapes were given two hours of skin contact and the wine spent four months on lees following fermentation, which builds weight and texture onto the palate. A stunning rosé from Hawke's Bay's Bridge Pa Triangle sub region. 

17.5/20

2022 Trinity Hill Thomson's Block Rosé Hawke's Bay RRP $39

Fresh new dry Hawke's Bay rosé made from grapes grown on an elevated north facing hillside vineyard on Roy's Hill called Thomson's Block (no relation). This wine is made entirely from hand picked Syrah grown on this heat soaked site and given whole bunch pressing to extract minimum colour. A short time on lees builds a little weight into this light bodied, bone dry wine with contains 0.24 grams residual sugar. Dark fruit flavours come through on the palate, despite the pale colour. 

Tastes extremely young and will benefit from a couple of months in bottle prior to drinking.