Rosé wine is winning friends and becoming increasingly popular, thanks to its freshness, fragrantly spicy aromas and appealing colour. It has long since shed the reputation of being “neither fish nor flesh”. Austria offers a wide range of rosé; some are particularly delicate, while others can be racy or powerful – a few of them even with protected designation of origin!
Austria is still a little bit of an insider tip for friends of this style of wine. Those who know about it want to keep it secret so that they can explore its diversity in peace! Because those qualities for which Austria’s red and white wines are best known also apply to rosé: a distinctive and unique balance of fruit, body and freshness. Austrian rosés not only perform as splendid solo artists for an apéritif or an evening on the patio, but also offer great choices to accompany the country’s traditional dishes, as well as international fare.
Excellent rosés are found in all of Austria’s winegrowing regions and take many different forms: ranging from charming nouveau styles to refreshing examples of Zweigelt and Sankt Laurent from Niederösterreich, to racy Schilcher from Weststeiermark or spicy Blaufränkisch and Zweigelt rosés from Burgenland.
In some regions, the tradition reaches so deeply that their pink-shaded delicacies are protected by the DAC system. If you see the name of the winegrowing region on a label followed by the abbreviation “DAC”, you can be sure of holding a wine typical of this region in your hand.
Rosalia DAC Rosé
Burgenland’s winegrowing region Rosalia (named after the Rosalia range of hills) was the first region in Austria to include rosé in its list of regionally typical wines. Beginning with the 2017 vintage, Rosalia DAC red wines are vinified from Blaufränkisch and from Zweigelt, as well as Rosalia DAC Rosé from one or more red Qualitätswein grape varieties. The warm Pannonian climate, sandy soils and the dedicated work of the winegrowers come together here to create rosé with charm, fruit, freshness and spice.
Weststeiermark DAC Schilcher
Blauer Wildbacher clearly wears the crown in the Weststeiermark. This native grape variety grows there on two thirds of the area under vines and provides the raw material for a rosé with centuries of tradition: the Schilcher. Once a rustic farmer’s wine, it has developed into a fine, fruity drink (exuding strawberry, currant and cassis aromas) with invigorating acidity, thanks to the constant striving for higher quality on the part of the local winegrowers. Weststeiermark is the only region in the Steiermark allowed to provide the Schilcher – along with the typical Styrian white wine varieties – with a protected designation of origin.
Sparkling wine can look back proudly on 175 years of history in Austria. In addition to the classic white and the rare red sparkling wines, rosé Sekt is becoming increasingly significant. If regional character is of interest in your sparkling pleasures, the best option is a Sekt Austria (Sekt with protected designation of origin). The red-white-red banderole on the capsule guarantees, as with all Qualitätswein, sparkling wine of the highest standards from Austria.
Rosé not only combines the best of red and white wines in the visual sense, but also in terms of taste: freshness and structure, fruit and spice. Depending on the grape variety and production method, it is sometimes lighter, sometimes more powerful, sometimes fruitier or even spicier. In general, however, rosé wines tend to display the following aromas:
First of all: rosé is not produced by mixing white and red wines, but rather is vinified from red wine grapes. The traditional Austrian varieties Zweigelt, Sankt Laurent, Blaufränkisch and Blauer Wildbacher (for Schilcher) are particularly popular within the country’s borders. Both monovarietal wines and blends find their way into the bottle.
There are several ways to vinify rosé; all of them share the short amount of time that the juice is in contact with the grape skins. Because: the shorter the time on the skins, the less colour and aroma (especially tannins) are drawn from the dark blue berries.
In the saignée method (French: la saignée = bloodletting), rosé is a partial product of red wine vinification. Red wine grapes are pressed, and after a few hours to a day resting on the skins, about 10–20% of the must is drawn off; the maceration vessels are – so to speak – bled. The juice extracted is processed into rosé, and the rest of the must into red wine. Due to the reduced ratio of juice to skin, this red wine will have a more intense colour and more prominent tannin.
Grapes are crushed after the harvest and subsequently remain on the skins as long as necessary (and as briefly as possible). The longer this contact lasts, the darker the shade of pink, but also the more intense the flavour of the rosé. This methodical way of making rosé results in many different shades of colour.
Since this method – in contrast to the saignée process – is already working towards rosé in the vineyard (for example less defoliation and earlier harvesting, in order to obtain less tannin and good acidic structure), the result is usually more delicate, refined and higher-quality rosé wines.
Glass & service
A glass with a bowl that is not too wide and tapered toward the top is most suitable for rosé, concentrating the fragrant notes of the wine. This sort of glass – with or without a rim – also guarantees a precise flow of the rosé onto the tasting zones of the tongue, which emphasises its delicate interplay of fruit and acidity.
Ideal serving temperature is 8–11°C, drinking temperature some 2°C higher. The more powerful and more complex the wine, the higher the serving temperature ought to be, in order to allow the aromas in the nose and on the palate to develop optimally.
A bottle of rosé can indeed be aged and benefit from a certain degree of maturity. As with white or red wine, it all depends on the style: complex and well-structured wines are generally better for the cellar than light and fresh wines. It is better to get those into the glass earlier. If in doubt, simply ask the winegrower directly what recommendations on aging and maturity they can give.
Dining with rosé
Thanks to their refreshing structure and aromatic variety, rosé wines from Austria are wonderful companions to creative cuisine. There are virtually no limits when it comes to combinations: from roasted poultry, grilled fish and seafood to spicy salads and braised vegetables with a Mediterranean flavour, especially if there are olives, tomatoes or garlic involved – their field of application extends to traditional snack bread with Liptauer (a paprika spiced spread), cold cuts or minced lard. One even encounters successful pairings with Eastern cuisines, ranging from India to China.