Rosé is on a roll. It was the strongest selling wine type in Australia (off-premise) in 2017/18, with 32% growth. In the US, rosé sales grew 40% in 2018.
In recent years, Nic Peterkin, this magazine’s 2016 Young Winemaker of the Year, has been putting more effort than most into doing interesting things with rosé – which he doesn’t call rosé, incidentally. It’s Albino PNO. His brand is L.A.S. Vino – which stands for luck, art and science.
Two years ago, Peterkin showed me samples of four components of the 2017 L.A.S. Vino Albino PNO, which were eye-opening. There was a chardonnay fermented on pinot noir skins, a pinot fermented on chardonnay skins, a chardonnay made conventionally, fermented in seasoned oak and allowed to have a malolactic, and a pinot made similarly – without its skins but whole-bunch pressed and barrel fermented.
The final blend was the winner. It combined the best elements of each component. It was delicious, but then it did cost $55.
Last year, Peterkin pushed the envelope a bit further. He wanted to see if indigenous flora could have an effect on his wine. He had read that native flowers have large populations of yeast on them and he wanted to see if native yeasts from different Australian flowers would influence the flavour.
I tasted his three 2019 vintage rosé wines.
White Flower Ferment was made by macerating the flowers of Marriwood trees (Corymbia calophylla) and using that juice as an inoculum for the fermentation. Red Flower Ferment was made similarly, but substituting the flowers of red grevillea (Grevillea banksii). A third, control wine was wild-fermented without any flower-yeast input.
All wines were fermented in seasoned barrels, and each was bottled separately.
After tasting the three wines side-by-side I can confirm that something was certainly giving these wines very different characteristics. Whether it was the yeasts or the flowers themselves is harder to say.
The Red Flower Ferment smelled strongly of dried flower heads and minerals, and was delicate and steely to taste.
The White Flower Ferment was softer and rounder and smelled of licorice and ginger.
And the Natural Ferment tasted more like pinot noir, with smoky jamon, cherry, strawberry notes, and more evident nuttiness from the barrels. All lovely, but the Natural Ferment won my vote.
It all reminded me of something I read several years ago out of New Zealand.
Professor Matt Goddard found that the yeast species that conducted wine fermentations varied from place to place, depending on the plant species and geology of those places. He also found that Michael Brajkovich’s winery, Kumeu River, did not contain any saccharomyces species – the yeast most prevalent in wine fermentations - prior to the harvest being brought in. So the ferments were conducted by the yeasts that came in with the grapes.
This seems to disprove the widespread theory that most wild fermentations are finished by resident strains of saccharomyces. So, if yeasts are as territorial as that, then the claim that yeasts are a critical part of terroir is given extra credibility. I love that.
Peterkin bottled 20 dozen of each wine, and sells them online in three-bottle packs for $100.
See lasvino.com for more information.