Best Australian rosé wines

From dry pinot gris to savoury nebbiolo, Australian rosé is diverse, versatile and made for warmer weather. There’s never been a better time to drink pink, writes Max Allen.

I drink a lot of rosé, especially at this time of year. There's always a bottle or two in the fridge, and I'll often order a glass of pink wine when I'm out at a restaurant, especially if the company is sharing plates and we're eating anything from crisp salad to garlicky fish to slow-cooked ribs. A good, food-friendly, dry rosé tends to go with pretty much anything.

I love pink sparkling wine, too - especially if it's made from top cool-climate grapes and given plenty of time on its lees to develop complex flavours. Sometimes I hanker for full-bodied, magenta-coloured, deeply fruity rosé from a warmer region such as McLaren Vale or the Barossa - especially if there's rare, juicy kangaroo fillet on my plate. And there's no better match with fresh, summery, fruit-based desserts than a sweet - probably fizzy - pink wine.

But most of my rosé drinking is done at the still, pale, dry end of the spectrum: this is where Australian winemakers really excel, producing wines that have the most to offer when drunk with food. Over the past 10 years or so more and more examples of this style have emerged from wineries across the country, made from an incredibly diverse array of grape varieties - from barely pink mountain-grown pinot gris to almost-red hot country grenache; from delicate, floral pinot noir to sturdy, savoury nebbiolo. There's never been a better time to be an Australian rosé drinker.

1. 2014 Castagna Allegro, Beechworth, Vic, $40
This biodynamically grown, wild yeast-fermented, barrel-aged dry syrah rosé has the most alluring, slinky, seductive texture, and flavours of hedgerow berries. Also look out for the complex, satisfying 2010 Castagna Sparkling Allegro ($45).  

2. 2005 Arras Rosé, Tas, $80
If anyone tries to tell you sparkling rosé is just a bit of fun, not a serious wine, pour them a glass of this stunning, late-disgorged pink fizz: its extraordinarily complex flavours of rosehip, hazelnut and brioche are guaranteed to impress. 

3. 2014 Holly's Garden Ramato, Whitlands, Vic, $30
The Italian word "ramato" means "copper-coloured", a perfect description of this wine, made from clear pinot gris grape juice fermented in contact with its dark skins for a while. Textural, dry but rich, like a cross between a full-bodied white and a light pink. 

4. 2015 High Noon, McLaren Vale, SA, $17
Hard to get hold of (most is sold direct from the cellar door when it opens for its brief annual season in mid-November) but absolutely worth the effort if you like full-flavoured, spicy, fruit-rich but dry grenache rosé. Excellent with gutsy grilled Mediterranean dishes. 

5. 2015 Nine Vines Grenache Shiraz Rosé, McLaren Vale, SA, $16
There are plenty of $15-ish pink wines out there, but few are as consistently good, and offer such good value as the Nine Vines. Early-picked grenache and shiraz give the wine plenty of fruit balanced by freshness and a little spice. 

6. 2015 Soumah Brachetto d'Soumah (500ml), Yarra Valley, Vic, $29
The rare (in Australia) northern Italian brachetto grape has been used here to produce a really charming sweet pink wine: pretty, spicy, almost vermouth-like herbal scents lead on to an enticing mouthful of ripe grapy freshness. 

7. 2015 Innocent Bystander Moscato (275ml), Swan Hill, Vic, $5
Made from sunshine-soaked muscat grapes grown along the Murray in northwest Victoria, this is so rudely exuberant and fabulously fruity it almost makes you blush. Also available in 375ml ($13) and 750ml ($20) bottles. 

8. 2015 De Bortoli La Bohéme Act Two, Yarra Valley, Vic, $20
This wine is a benchmark both for affordable, stylish, ever-so-pale dry pinot noir rosé and for fabulous art nouveau packaging. De Bortoli's 2015 Vinoque Nebbiolo Rosé ($25), also from the Yarra, is also very good. 

9. 2015 Spinifex Rosé, Barossa Valley, SA, $27
For such a pale and delicate-looking wine, this blend of grenache, cinsault, mataro and ugni blanc is chockers with deliciously fresh cranberry and spice flavours. Spinifex also produce a very good, more savoury, barrel-matured rosé called Luxe ($35). 

10. 2014 Ngeringa Rosé, Adelaide Hills, SA, $28
Don't be fooled by the pale colour of this biodynamic syrah rosé: there's plenty of perfume - white flowers, a hint of spice - and lots of creamy berry-fruit flavour, and it finishes dry and savoury. Great with a chunky rustic terrine. 

11. 2015 Sutton Grange Winery Fairbank Rosé, Bendigo, Vic, $22
One of the first wines bottled by new Sutton Grange winemaker Mel Chester, this unusual blend of syrah, sangiovese, cabernet, merlot and viognier is deliciously floral and intensely flavoured. Look out, too, for the paler, richer 2012 Sutton Grange Estate Rosé ($32). 

12. 2015 Freeman Rondo Rondinella Rosé, Hilltops, NSW, $20
This is possibly Australia's most singular pink wine. Brian Freeman is the only person to grow the rondinella grape here; even in its homeland of Italy's Veneto region it's rarely made into varietal rosé. Very pale and dry but full of lovely grape-pulpy texture.


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