Just a typical Summer Rosé…or is it? In the case of the newly launched Handpicked Rosé, there is much more to the story.
It began many moons ago when our customers first asked for a Rosé wine. We challenged Handpicked chief winemaker Gary Baldwin to make the sort of wine everyone is clamouring for. It had to be a savoury wine in the style of French Provencal rosé – light in colour, aromatic and with palate weight and texture.
Gary loves a challenge and, even with his vast experience, is still captivated by the possibilities of winemaking. Running through the options, his thoughts turned to Yarra Valley Pinot Noir from Handpicked’s Highbow Hill Vineyard. But Pinot Noir rosé wines are usually made by the saigneé method, a French term for bleeding off lightly-coloured juice after a very short time in contact with skins (it’s the skins that give red wines their colour and tannin). Gary knew a wine made this way would not have the depth of flavour and texture required. Not to be so easily defeated, he started thinking outside the box. “Marsanne wines have great texture and palate weight. There is a great Marsanne block at Highbow Hill Vineyard.”
Then came the light bulb moment: Pinot Noir juice + Marsanne skins = delicate colour + flavours + texture + astringency.
The first hurdle was immediately apparent – Pinot Noir ripens two to three weeks earlier than Marsanne. But, like we said, Gary loves a challenge. So he and Handpicked winemaker Peter Dillon hatched a cunning plan that, as far as we know, is unique in the history of winemaking.
The Pinot Noir fruit was harvested perfectly ripe and gently whole-bunch pressed, as you would if you were making serious methodé champenois sparkling wine. This created a juice with lovely aromatics and flavours and a beautiful pale colour. A portion was fermented as you would a white wine. Another portion was held chilled in tank, to hold off fermentation until the Marsanne had been harvested and pressed. After the Marsanne was pressed (for our wonderful Single Vineyard Highbow Hill Marsanne) the Pinot Noir juice was fermented on Marsanne skins, as you would ferment a red wine.
Gary and Peter hoped the resulting wine would have tannin and texture while retaining delicate fruit flavours and the beautiful light colour (winemakers call it “eye of partridge”, which you will know is quite apt if you have ever got up close and personal with a partridge). They were confident, but it was still an exciting day when it came time to press off the wine.
The new wine was fascinating, with complex aromas, a chewy palate and plenty of flavour and texture, but perhaps a little too much astringency, a minor problem solved by some time in barrel. And so, we bring you the Handpicked Regional Selections Yarra Valley Rosé – a quite unusual union of Pinot Noir, a black grape most famously associated with Burgundy in France, and Marsanne, a white grape most commonly found in the Rhône Valley, to produce a Provencal-style Rosé with pale eye of partridge colour, lifted floral and red berry aromas and a stunning full-bodied savoury palate with real texture.
A cunning plan, executed with precision and wonder. As we said, Gary loves a challenge and we haven’t seen him stumped yet.
You can now order the 2015 Handpicked Selections Yarra Valley Rosé online.
The Rosé will also be the star attraction at Handpicked’s Wine Wedding on a secret rooftop in Sydney – tickets available now.