Wine / Everything’s coming up rosés

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RECOMMENDATIONS often work. But the giving of advice can be fraught: my favourite piece of advice is never play leapfrog with a unicorn.

Richard Calver.

So, there was a conversation amongst friends about good food with an extensive wine list in a restaurant I hadn’t tried in Civic. The dinner recommendation from an enthused friend was Raku near the Canberra Centre. Good Japanese food and a well put together wine list, so we were told.

Looking at the drinks’ menu, I didn’t get past the idea of a good rosé with Japanese food. A soft rosé would go well with delicate fish dishes and a bolder semi-dry style would match with anything spicier. We could have sushi or something more robust; rosé was likely to complement these flavours.

There were three rosés by the glass, one from Canberra and two interstate rivals. The food order could be my companion’s job. I would take on the role of wine assessor. On went my hat of pretension as I cleaned my palate with water, alas no bread or crackers to ensure I started fresh with neutral flavours (Knock, knock. Who’s there? Water. Water who? Water we doing after dinner?)

I commenced with the local. It was the 2017 Eden Road Long Road rosé at $11 a glass. In fact, it was a pinot gris. A small amount of skin contact had given it the typical rosy hue for this wine type and it had some texture with an acid bite that wasn’t overwhelming but palpable. It went well with the scallops served with green apple. But it was far from stunning.

The second was a 2016 Jamsheed “Harem Series” Jose rosé from Beechworth in Victoria, $12 a glass. The varietal is the Mourvèdre grape. It was lush, delicious and didn’t provide an acid hit.

It was so pleasant I called the winemaker Gary Mills to get more from the inside but alas the call went unreturned. Big wrap, Gary! You missed out. One intriguing question I wanted to ask was that, from his on-line bio, I saw he was Japanese speaking. Is that a clue to this wine’s propinquity, as in affinity in nature, to Japanese food? Many more questions nascently formed; but they are in the ether. The biggest question is what’s with that name? Quaint is as complimentary, as I would go in response to that question.

The third wine was $15 a glass. It was the 2017 Spinifex rosé from the Barossa. This wine had the most intriguing colour, an almost orange pink, like a prom ball gown. I swirled and I swirled that wine around as if it were my morning mouthwash. I couldn’t get the grape variety.

There was a spice after taste and puzzlement on my part. I didn’t like it as much as the Beechworth rosé but that was partly because it was unique and I just couldn’t nail down the flavour profile, hints of earth and light raspberry fruit and acid all fighting for recognition.

Later I googled the blend: 54 per cent grenache, 18 per cent cinsault, 28 per cent mataro. I wouldn’t be insulting you if you knew nothing of this grape variety. It is determinedly French. It is said to have a low level of tannin and acidity. These characteristics coupled with a strong aromatic quality is why it is often used in the production of rosé in Provence. But it is a rare beast in Australian wines and I cannot recollect tasting a 100 per cent varietal of cinsault. Mataro, or mourvèdre, on the other hand is a wild child, with earthy tones and red fruit highlights. Grenache gave the Spinifex its spice flavours and the hint of raspberry, and the acid of a young grenache. As a whole, the Spinifex blend was intriguing more than engaging.

In my view, the rosé journey was worthwhile, a real challenge and of itself better than the review outcome; probably what you’ll think after reading this!

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Richard Calver
Richard Calver walks, talks, thinks, drinks and writes passionately about wine, especially the wines of the Canberra region.

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