Wine / Dinner table battle of the rosés

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IT started out to be just a normal Sunday dinner with my adult children where we would eat and they would intermittently groan at my dad jokes, the telling of which appears to be entrenched as an expectation when we gather.

A penguin walks into a bar and says to the barman: “Have you seen my brother in here?” The barman says: “What does he look like?”

Richard Calver.

We wanted something out of the ordinary, not quotidian. (Relatedly, what do you call a conformist cloud? Stratus quo.) So, we made it a celebration by comparing two rosés. The early evening temperature was warm and the wine was chilled and each bottle cost $24 from BWS at Kingston so the style of wine suited an informal celebration and it wasn’t a wallet buster. Plus, rosé is an easy-drinking crowd pleaser that was well matched with the Serrano ham salad (it was too hot for a Sunday roast).

A rosé is any light pink wine, generally coloured by brief contact with red grape skins.

We pitted a Canberra district rosé against one from SA. Both were pinot derived and from the 2018 vintage. Lerida Estate is at the foot of the Cullerin Range at Lake George and it specialises in pinot noir. Bird in Hand is also a winery with cool-climate influences, based in the Adelaide Hills.

The Lerida Estate was a much more vibrant pink than the almost translucent Bird in Hand. The Lerida was slightly higher in alcohol content at 12.5 per cent, the Bird 12 per cent.

Six wine glasses and three water glasses adorned the dinner table as I and my pigeon pair took on the mantle of critic, a person, according to the “Devil’s Dictionary”, who boasts himself hard to please because nobody tries to please him.

The bouquet of the Lerida was heady, with perfumed raspberries a feature. A big slug of water ensured that the taste buds were refreshed before the other wine was tasted. The Bird was also pleasant on the nose.

The first taste of each reinforced the contrast between a richer, complex local wine and a pleasant but not outstanding rival. As each gained air though, the differences became less pronounced with the verdict from the three of us that the Bird in Hand was enhanced by the food whereas we preferred the Lerida as a stand-alone drink.

I called Andrew McFadzean, general manager of Lerida, to comment on this observation.

“I am pleased that it’s approachable as a stand-alone drink despite the fact that it goes with the Australian way of eating,” he said.

“One of the things we talk about at the winery is the way Australians eat. It’s 7.30 at night and it’s really hot and we eat outside, so a number of the lighter varietals suit the way we eat, especially as we go into summer.

“We do make a rosé that is a lot more structured that is more a food wine, a saignée style that is barrel fermented for extra interest.”

Dear reader, saignée means “to bleed” and is a method of rosé winemaking that involves “bleeding” off a portion of red wine juice after it has been in contact with the skins and seeds and makes a bolder wine. But that style of rosé was absent and, despite the dad jokes, there was no family bloodshed, although I did tell a porky about great grandad who glowers down from a hand-coloured photo above the dining room table.

“My lovelies,” I remarked, “great grandad died peacefully in his sleep…” They nodded, impressed with this historical remembrance. “Unlike,” I added, ”the passengers in his car.”


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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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