A Provençal style rosé from the heart of the Barossa
I like the story of the Rogers & Rufus Rosé. Rogers and Rufus are both friends and winemakers who love the outdoor life and surfing. They also enjoy wine and good food. As a fan of surfing, enjoying good wine and food with friends, the story resonates with me. Celebrating its 11th vintage this year, I feel it is more than just this story of two friends getting together and planning how to make a Provençal style rosé. For the past 10 years, it has been made by Sam Wigan in the Barossa Valley working with some old vine Grenache. Annually they produce 5,000 dozen (60,000 bottles) selling out every year which not just reflects the popularity of the rosé category but this wine as well.
Sam sources the fruit from 6 different vineyards across the Barossa (northern Barossa and the Vine Vale region) from mainly deep sandy soils over clay where Grenache grows well. The vines range from 25 to 60 years old and are a mix of bush vines that have been trellised. All are hand pruned and hand-picked.
Growing up in the Barossa, Sam had always worked in vineyards (picking grapes, training vines) over the school holidays. It probably had a lot to do with his father being Chief Winemaker at Peter Lehmann Wines for 35 years.
However when he finished school 20 years ago, he was not sure what he wanted to do in his career but with a keen interest in Agriculture, Chemistry, Physics, English and Maths he decided to work the 2000 vintage with his dad and the winemaking team Peter Lehmann. A friend was then heading over to the States to Geyser Peak Winery where he also worked for 5 months. On his return to Australia, his dad sent him information about studying through Charles Sturt University which was 6 years part time while working full time. He then discovered that Yalumba had a winemaker traineeship but to join, you had to be enrolled at Charles Sturt. So Sam signed up for a 6 month contract and it was soon renewed to a permanent position.
Sam now is part of the winemaking team and also takes care of all oak and cork purchasing. Sam has achieved a great deal in his 19 years in the industry. I was keen to find out what he loved so much about his job.
What do you love about your job as a winemaker?
“I love travelling. The travel that it affords me, being able to work in all those different countries. I do a lot of work through China and last year I spent over 3 weeks through France and Portugal learning more about oak and cork.”
I am not good at gardening or dealing with plants but his enthusiasm for agriculture and working in the vineyard is almost contagious and I start to see his job through his winemaking eyes. He continues about how he loves his job as a winemaker, “Being out in the vineyard with it just starting to burst, the anticipation of the year ahead, checking the forecast, are we going to get rain? Is there wind coming? Then watching the vines grow, making that picking decision.” He then ends with; “I love creating things and having people enjoy them, I like and being able to make wine for a living.” The job sounds fantastic, sign me up! But of course it is not as simple as that. There are many components of the role and one of which is blending and the amount that is blended will vary from vintage to vintage.
A Provençal style rosé
Sam explains the style of rosé they are looking to produce for Rogers & Rufus involves blending. ”We are aiming for that Provencal style rosé which is typically lighter in colour, dry and textural on the palate and requires minimal intervention. This means it is all about getting it right in the vineyard. When it comes into the winery, we give it just a few hours on skins, before we press it off to barrel for natural ferment.”
He explains that after the short skin contact time that the juice is run directly into old French oak barrels. The barrels at the start of the barrel filing being light in colour and light solids and then gradually more solids and a deeper colour comes as the pressing goes on. He then blends the different barrels depending on the vintage and how he wants the colour, texture and the wine to taste.
Wanting to understand more about how they “get it right” in the vineyard, I asked about the sustainable vineyard practices which are used by the growers, many of which are long term growers, some fourth generations growing very old vines.
Sam and the growers are focused on good vineyard health encouraging minimal sprays in the vineyard. With the company owned vineyard Sam looks after, for every 1 hectare of vineyard planted, they have at least 1 hectare of native bush and a lot of companion planting of native grasses and bushes which he explains helps to increase biodiversity of the vineyard. In addition to what they are doing in the vineyard, they also have a huge 1.9 MW of solar panels across the winery, warehouses and nursery. Regarding water, all winery water is treated before being used to irrigate vineyards. He adds, “Everywhere we can save water, we do.”
What is your favourite grape variety and why?
As Sam enjoys rosé so much, I imagine it is no surprise that Grenache is his favourite grape variety at the moment especially coming into warmer months. He explains, “With it being lower in acid, high pH, they have a great drinkability about them but also the Grenache dry reds being made in a spicy Beaujolais or Pinot Noir style. People are using whole bunch or extended maceration and making wines of great drinkability at 13-13.5%; which can be slightly chilled (15°C) on a warm summers’ day.”
What would you say are some of your biggest achievements to date?
Sam is modest and doesn’t initially talk about his winemaking but instead his family which keeps him busy with 2 children under 3 years old. His wife is a winemaker at a nearby winery and it was their love of wine which brought them together.
With regarding to winemaking achievements, he again is modest explaining that his aim every year is, getting in there and trying to make the best wines that I can. He also enjoys working with new varieties. We all are aware of the effects of climate change and the increasing temperatures so it is interesting to learn that Sam is looking more at those grape varieties that do well in the heat, from Spain, southern Italy and Portugal. It is an opportunity not to be missed. Then when he tells me that it is possible to make wine from 5,000 to 10,000 different grape varieties, you can see how important it is to trial different grape varieties.
Are you looking to expand on your current production?
Sam explains that as they selling out of what they are making (they are in a very fortunate position), they will only look to increase production by finding the right vineyard and vineyard resource. They do not want to grow too big. Sam adds, “It’s that seaside feel, Provençal style, we don’t want to complicate it. We want to do something and do it well and not extend ourselves too far.”
What do you like to do on your days off?
Being a busy dad and husband, I appreciate that Sam doesn’t have much “clocking off time” which he calls it. But when he does he enjoys Muay Thai (kick boxing) cycling, going to the beach, love cooking, baking bread every week.
Sounds like a great way to spend clocking off time!
Here in Australia, Roger and Rufus Rosé is found in equal amounts in the on and off trade. You will find it in a mixture of independent retailers as well as seaside café, restaurants.
What is exported is mainly sent to the UK to the on-premise; in restaurants and bars.
Swanny Cellars is a big supporter of Rogers & Rufus Rosé 2018. Rogers & Rufus Rosé 2018 is recommended by the Liquor Barons Panel in the current issue of On the Vine.
Drop in and speak to us about this wine.
Text written by Ruth Turnbull, Swanny Cellar’s Roaming Reporter.
About the Roaming Reporter:
Ruth Turnbull is the Roaming Reporter for Swanbourne Cellars. Having studied the WSET Advanced Certificate and WSET Diploma in Wines and Spirits, Ruth has worked in the wine trade in both London and Perth for over 15 years. While living in WA, Ruth was a regular Panel member on the Liquor Barons Panel and managed the digital marketing for Swanbourne Cellars. Now based in Adelaide, Ruth focuses on meeting the winemakers and the people behind the brand in order to highlight and share their story on the Swanbourne Cellars blog and social media channels.