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Wine of the Week for week ending 7 December 2003
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Gladstone Wairarapa Rosť 2003
Wairarapa, New Zealand

The pink wine revival has arrived in New Zealand. There couldnít be more evidence than the entry count at the 2003 Liquorland International Top 100 Wine Competition judged in September and the Air New Zealand Wine Awards judged late October. The local entry in the former had risen from a pitiful four to a staggering sixteen while at the Air New Zealand the entry similarly increased to 21 wines in total. However the results did not weigh the classes down with heavy metal. The delightful Esk Valley Merlot Rosť 2003 from Hawkes Bay was the only silver medal at both competitions while six bronze medals were awarded at the Top 100 and just five at the Air New Zealand.

I've been looking for another pink, a special Rosť, ever since. With half a dozen recently landed on my doorstep I hoped I'd find something to wax lyrically about.

Often it's hard to know what a pink wine has been made from. The label may give reference to Pinot Noir or Merlot but time and again there are no clues. So I decided to look for was a wine that was appealing to the eye, a gem-like translucent pale pink to light pinky purple, a youthful looking wine that was brilliant in its appearance as well as being light and clear. It had to have an appealing bouquet of fresh summer berries and perhaps a namesake rose. It had to have good attack, good mouthfeel and a reasonably persistent flavour. It had to have judicious use of oak if any had been used, oak to add structure without overseasoning. It had to be in balance with its sugar, acid and tannins. But most of all it had to come up with the goods in a real life situation. That is when it has been poured from a well chilled bottle that's come straight out of the fridge or when its been warmed up as it does on hot summer days as it sits in the glass. It had to taste good on its own or with light summery foods.

The Gladstone Wairarapa Rosť 2003, a blend of about 90% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and 10% Malbec was the one that did it for me. I didnít know the composition of the wine when tasting it - and this particular one does not give any clues on the bottle - but it had to be the sexy Malbec, even though in tiny proportions, that reached out and seduced me.

From the deep watermelon pink that was gemmy in appearance to the fruity floral and spicy rose petal nose to the full-bodied, mouthfilling, refreshing flavour and the lingering strawberry aftertaste, this was the wine that delivered in all my tests. Filled with tropical fruits with hints of pineapple and a zesty spicy peppery backbone, it's not too sweet and not too dry. Itís light enough for a summer afternoon aperitif or pre dinner drink and heavy enough to enjoy with reasonably substantial foods. I think it will be delicious with ham, a Christmas ham studded with pineapple and cherries, or my favourite Rosť finger food accompaniment, Peppered Strawberry Bites.

We accompanied the wine with marinated and barbequed pork chops, barbequed herbed potato slices and tomato and basil influenced salad. The wine went a treat.

The notes on the Gladstone website says itís a new wine style for them. It carries 13.8% alcohol by volume, 6.5gL residual sugar, it's packaged in a clear bottle that lets the pretty colour of the wine allure you and is sealed with a screwcap*. It costs $18 from the vineyard. Add freight to any order but subtract a 10% discount on mail orders of 12 bottles (of any Gladstone wine) or more.

Gladstone Vineyard in Carterton, a little north of the famed Martinborough wine region in the Wairarapa district, sounds like a magical place. There's a Wine Garden and Cafe that opens in the summer, vineyard accommodation, a petanque court, a croquet lawn and clay shooting can be arranged for those who like a challenge. There are weekends with music and sometimes plays Ė Shakespearian, for example. One can walk through the vineyard or the bush reserve next door.

For more information on these activities or where to buy the Gladstone Wairarapa Rosť 2003, go to the Gladstone website.

* Of the six wines opened for this tasting three were in screwcap, one had a synthetic cork and the other two had natural cork. There was one 'corked' wine, a tally of 50%.

© Sue Courtney
30 November 2003

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