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Griffith Park Sparkling Rosé NV

Another Australian wine this week, following on from last week's museum release from Jacob's Creek, the 2002 Steingarten Riesling. This must be a first for Winedoctor.

And yet again in this wine we have a wine that is divorced from its origins, reflecting neither terroir nor history; this is not a wine born of the passion of a vigneron for his or her land. For the second week running we are looking here at a commodity wine, a wine that serves a purpose but teaches us nothing about wine itself, or the people or vines that made them. That is not necessarily a bad thing though, and it certainly does not imply any lack of skill or commitment in those responsible. Rather, it requires a different set of skills, including sourcing, selection, network-building, blending and of course marketing. This last one is very important - a major hurdle with a new label such as Griffith Park is persuading the consumer to take on the unfamiliar wine. The solution? Build the brand, through television, printed media, the internet and through wine competitions. This is not a wine short of exposure - not only have I seen it on television in the last few weeks, but it has been popping up in print all over the place during the last year or two. It has also picked up a significant award in the International Wine Challenge, no mean feat, and it has its own website.

Griffith Park Sparkling RoséSo what of the wine itself? What are we actually dealing with here?

Well, the Griffith Park Sparkling Rosé is a non-vintage blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, two classic grapes for fizz and two stalwarts of the Champagne region, mixed with a dollop of Shiraz. The latter member of this trio might seem like an unusual contributor, but Australia has a long track-record of including this variety in sparkling wines, producing some admirable red sparklers as a result, so why not? The base wine here is first fermented in steel, then transferred to bottle with a liqueur de tirage (comprising fresh yeast and sugar) and then sealed with a crown cap, ready for the second fermentation. All this is fairly standard for sparkling wines, but the next step is where it deviates from the méthode traditionelle. You might expect the wine to be left in the bottle after the second fermentation, riddled (a process to move the sediment and dead yeasts down to the crown cap) and then disgorged (to remove this sediment) ready for topping up with the dosage, but it is not so. In the case of Griffith Park this process is replaced by the transfer method; here the wines are taken from the bottle for blending in a large pressurised tank, where the dosage-equivalent is added and the wine filtered to remove the yeasty sediment before fresh bottles are filled. I suspect this process is the prime reason the wine is so affordable - it comes in well under £10 - as the process of riddling and disgorgement, being labour-intensive, is expensive. All this is supervised by Islay Kennedy, a graduate of Australia's Roseworthy College and the mastermind behind Griffith Park.

So what of the wine?

The Griffith Park Sparkling Rosé has a good colour in the glass, quite rich in hue, with a shade somewhere between salmon pink and lightly bronzed onion skin. The bead is moderately fat, and there is plenty of it too. On the nose, a good presence of strawberry and raspberry fruit, with a suggestion of a lovely, sweet creaminess. This is followed by plenty of flavour on the palate, broad and gentle but very well integrated, with a creamy texture from a decent dollop of residual sugar putting this firmly into the easy-drinking category. It is soft and approachable, but also nicely defined, with a little steely edge - very subtle - sitting underneath all the fruit, together with a gently prickling mousse and good acidity. Overall this is a very accessible and fun wine which also has a good composition and a linear underpinning beneath the plump fruit, so it should keep everybody happy, from cheery wedding party guests and BBQ-ers to those with a more analytical approach. A good wine. 16/20 (24/8/09)

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