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2017 William Downie Cathedral Rosé
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2017 William Downie Cathedral Rosé

From Bill:

2017 William Downie Cathedral Rosé

When I met Rachel in France in 2001 one of the first things I learnt was how essential rosé was to a good and balanced life. Not the sickly toilet cleaner that I knew of in Australia but dry, pale and delicious wines where a bottle lasted barely past the first course, usually of oysters, pickled fish, or charcuterie. The second bottle matched perfectly with the roasted chicken or bouillabaisse and the third was inevitably a fine accompaniment for the acidic mountain cheeses that catch and burn on the back of your tongue. What better way to wash them all down than with a refreshing pink wine?

The rosés I remember from that time were mostly simple but always expressive of their landscape and culture. The bright pink wines made from gamay, grolleau or cabernet franc in the Loire Valley were tart and refreshing. Their acidity and chalkiness were a perfect way to wake you up in the spring with a plate of fatty rillettes, cornichons and a sharp little goat cheese. The rosés of the Southern Rhone were warming and almost sweet and perfect for the autumn months. They made a fine match for rabbit legs grilled over rosemary twigs or roasted chestnuts. The soft, relaxed roundness of the rosés from the coastal appellations of Provence demanded sunshine and summer vegetables dipped in a burning hot garlic aioli. We have since, however, been known to also serve them in the dead of winter, around the fire, with bread and bright green new season olive oil.

During the 2004 harvest at De Bortoli I decided to make my best attempt at a Yarra Valley version of a rosé that might seem familiar to someone from the south of France. The wine was made from Pinot Noir, which is not at all grown in Provence, and was received with very little enthusiasm. Undeterred, in 2009 my friend Jason Searle and I decided to start a new wine brand based solely on rosé. The first vintage of our only wine was a pale, dry merlot from the King Valley. It was received with even less excitement than the 2004 wine at De Bortoli.

Now, however, the best rosé wines are tightly allocated and sought after by many people. Today in France there is more rosé sold than white wine. It is also the fastest growing wine category in Australia, and with good reason in my opinion. If ever there were a kind of wine which most well suited the Australian lifestyle it is without doubt pale, dry, delicious rosé. For this reason, and few others besides, we have decided that after 13 years of experimentation it is time for a William Downie rosé. It is, of course, made from Pinot Noir and comes from a vineyard we thought to be extremely well suited to this kind of wine. The vines are planted at the bottom of a granite outcrop just north of the Yarra Valley where the climate is warm and dry during the day but cool air falls down from the hills in the evening. The wine is flinty and tight but textured and refreshing. It asks for your attention but never distracts you from lunch or good company.

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