Rose wine

Stop and smell the rosé

Rosé hits the spot in the warm summer months. 

The drier version of that delicious blush wine known as rosé has been one of the success stories in the Cape wine industry. In fact, there are more quality rosé’s than ever on offer, and sales increase year by year. I, for one, am not surprised — South Africa’s climate and our get-up-and-go outdoorsy lifestyle makes rosé a perfect wine for the national thirst.

Provence, that southern part of France characterised by sea, olive groves, lavender and seafood, is the world’s central point for rosé. It is made by the hundreds of millions of litres, and from May to September, a glass of rosé is found on every table, picnic spot and al fresco restaurant.

This is also the region where the making of rosé has been perfected. Red Mediterranean grape varieties such as Grenache, Cinsaut and Shiraz are picked and the juice is immediately bled from the coloured skins, allowing just a slight blush colour liquid to make its way to the fermentation tank. Ferment, keep it on lees for a few months, and voilà, you have a dry wine bearing a subtle hue ranging from pale onion skin to salmon pink to one of the gorgeous light pink lipstick shades that were so in vogue in 1960s Hollywood.


For a long time, South African rosés were made sweet and sticky, the colour more candy-floss than the blossom duskiness of the classics. But over the past 15 years, more-and-more wineries have gone the classic Provençal route of offering dry rosés with a more refined colour. It is not just about the hue, though. Remember, these wines are made from red grapes, and even if the time spent on the colour-enhancing skins is brief, the wines do grasp some lovely berry flavours and a hint of tannin to give them a presence in the mouth.


What local producers also have going for them is the national red grape of South Africa, namely Pinotage, a variety that makes brilliant rosés. Delheim Estate in Stellenbosch was one of the pioneers of Pinotage rosé, and due to its success, continues to be one of the leaders in Cape rosé production.

The Delheim Pinotage Rosé has a cherry-blossom colour and what stands out for me is its bracing dryness. As one who enjoys all things cold and refreshing — including beer and gin-and-tonic — the Delheim Rosé can be found in my fridge for most of the summer months. And I have no qualms about adding an ice cube or two to the glass to increase the pleasure, as this is the kind of wine for drinking with wanton abandon.

Bone-dry, the wine has subtle notes of plums and crunchy berries with a bracing finish full of zest. It is the ideal partner for sushi, especially if you like to go heavy on the wasabi, and it is truly summer in a glass.


The world-famous Kanonkop Estate, like Delheim situated on Stellenbosch’s Simonsberg, is known for robust red wines, including the Paul Sauer Bordeaux-style that is arguably the country’s finest offering. But this iconic farm could not let the opportunity of tapping into the lucrative rosé market pass. Its Kanonkop Pinotage Rosé has become one of the most popular wines in this category.


Sourcing the finest Pinotage grapes, the wine is oozed off the skins, the ferment and other winemaking stages presided over by Kanonkop’s wizard winemaker Abrie Beeslaar. The result is an astounding rosé that I would like to see in a line-up of the best the world has to offer. For besides being a most charming pink wine, this has a true taste of the Cape.

Sure, being of local DNA, Pinotage does give the wine a wow factor with the vivid, bright berry profile and an underlying savoury character. But along with this elegant cool freshness comes a brisk note of herbaceous fynbos together with a saline, maritime thread.

Even served ice-cold and merrily glugged, the wine has a discernible refinement. It has a true polished class that shows that despite its glitzy, fashionable image, rosé does deserve a place on the porch of wine greatness.


For something completely different, there is the Diemersdal Sauvignon Rosé. Diemersdal proprietor and winemaker Thys Louw is a sucker for convention, but now and again, he goes off-kilter, following his nose with successful results.


So, Diemersdal Sauvignon Rosé eschews the classic route in the winemaking process. Two Sauvignon grape varieties are used: The red Cabernet Sauvignon and its white partner Sauvignon Blanc. Incidentally, Cabernet Sauvignon as a variety resulted in France as a cross between Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc, making the weighty Cabernet the offspring of the fresh white Blanc.

Sauvignon Blanc forms the foundations of the Diemersdal Sauvignon Rosé, and the pale garnet hue results from Thys simply adding a dollop of Cabernet Sauvignon to the white wine. The result is a fullish rosé, dry but oozing black currant and cherry while riding the characteristic wave of nettle and gooseberry freshness that Sauvignon Blanc is known for. Invigorating and juicy, this wine is brilliant with fish off the braai or a spicy curry.

But as we rosé lovers know, one does not need guidance or parameters to enjoy this style of wine, as a rosé of any name brings delight.