You've probably been in the same situation at some point. Living on an assistant-to-the-assistant budget, going into the local liquor warehouse, and scanning the floor-level shelves of labels that are all trying to out-glimmer each other, trying to find a bottle you can bring to a party. Should you go with Barefoot? Or Yellow Tail? Bogle or Charles Shaw? You know this isn't the kind of handmade wine that makes collectors salivate and poets write pantoums, but once in a while, you find a cheap bottle that ends up being a better than expected. And we'd bet that some of those surprisingly drinkable bottles were from Rosemount Estate. As cheap wine goes, it's one of the safest bets we know.
The grapes from this line of affordable wines are from Southern Australia—sometimes the labels are as specific to mention 'South Eastern Australia'. Rosemount Estate was until 2011 the largest family owned winery in Australia; it's now owned by Treasure Wine Estates, which also owns Penfolds, Beringer Vineyards, Chateau St-Jean, Squealing Pig, Lindeman's, and many more around the globe. Rosemount exports 75,000 cases each year of their Diamond Label Chardonnay to the US, another 55,000 of the Shiraz, plus 50,000 cases of the Cabernet, 20,000 of Merlot, and on down the line.
We wanted to go back and taste the wines again with a fresh eye. Which is the best wine they make? Do these wines have any accurate varietal character—that is, does the pinot taste like pinot? Does the riesling taste like riesling? Which of the Rosemount wines should you grab if you're staring at the grocery store shelf and not sure what to buy?
We tasted our way through the entire lineup under $10 to find out.
The White Wines
For the most part, the white wines proved to be pretty solid budget options—fresh and clean, without much complexity or character or sense of place, but perfectly drinkable. If you're looking for tart and bright, go with the Sauvignon Blanc or the Riesling.
Rosemount Diamond Label 2012 Sauvignon Blanc ($9)
This is a solid value wine at under ten bucks. The scent is all tart lime, and the flavor follows suit: this is a simple, tart, fresh Sauvignon Blanc with zippy acidity and slightly rounded texture, the kind of thing you need for drinking outdoors when you're grilling seafood.
Rosemount Diamond Label 2012 Riesling ($9)
This is your home-alone affordable takeout sushi wine. The first sip is bright and piercingly acidic, with the faintest hint of fennel and green apple. This wine is pretty dry (and 13% ABV), and definitely doesn't offer any complexity of flavor or the minerality we might seek in great riesling, but it's clean, bright, and tart, the kind of refreshing wine that you need on a hot day.
Rosemount 2012 Chardonnay / Semillon Blend ($7)
A blend of 76% Chardonnay with 24% Semillon. A fresh and fruity wine with a slightly sharper finish than some of the others. This doesn't have a ton of Chardonnay character and almost no Semillon character, but it's pretty inoffensive, full of smooth apricot and yellow apple flavor with a slightly bitter bite at the end. You don't get a mouthful of oak chips here: the profile is just bright, juicy fruit. This wine would be right at home with puff pastry hors d'oeuvres, and it could handle a cheese plate, too.
Rosemount Diamond Label 2012 Chardonnay ($9)
This wine has a peachy scent and smooth texture; it's a little perfumey for us, but far from the worst Chardonnay you can get for under ten bucks at your local liquor store. It tastes as if the peach purée has already been added, so put this to use in your fruit-filled sangria.
Rosemount Diamond Label 2012 Pinot Grigio ($9)
This wine doesn't have a ton going on aromatically, and the flavor is likable enough, though pretty bland. There's nice puckering acidity up front, and soft (pretty neutral) fruit flavors in the center, but a weird hint of vanilla on the finish, like you just finished eating 'Nilla wafers and they're still dissolving on your tongue. We've definitely been served worse wines at parties, but we wouldn't likely seek this one out.
Rosemount 2012 Traminer / Riesling Blend ($7)
When these Australians say 'Traminer', they mean Gewürztraminer, which makes up 58% of this blend. The result is a super-floral and aromatic white, with a touch of sweetness and spice. This is going to be too sweet for some folks, but if you do like a tropical, floral wine to drink with coconut-milk based Thai curries or perhaps an order of Peking Duck, this wine, which tastes like canned pineapple and mandarin orange segments, will do nicely.
Rosemount 2012 Moscato ($7)
If the Traminer/Riesling blend is luscious and aromatic, the Moscato is even more so. (One hint on the residual sugar: look at the alcohol level. Here, it's only 8.5% ABV, while the Traminer-Riesling is 10%.) The Moscato is honeyed and rich, tropical and dessert-sweet. It might work alongside pineapple upside-down cake, but we can't imagine wanting more than a few sweet sips.
The Red Wines
The single varietal labeled red wines in the lineup tend to be easy drinking and uncomplicated: juicy and smooth, though you're unlikely to discover any interesting layers of flavors. Skip the blends though; they're a disappointment.
Rosemount Diamond Label 2011 Pinot Noir ($9)
Rosemount's Pinot Noir smells like roasted strawberries, and the flavor balances a deep, mellow clay-and-roast-plums flavor with a bit of cranberry-like tartness. It doesn't have much of pinot noir's charming earth-and-herbs quality, but this wine could definitely give any of these affordable pinots a run for their money. Pair it with your sausage-topped pizza.
Rosemount Diamond Label 2012 Merlot ($9)
The merlot's a shade purpler than the pinot, and the wine's a bit richer, smooth and full of baked blackberry and blueberry flavors. It's juicy, easy-drinking wine, and likely to be a crowd pleaser, though it lacks any of the interesting complexity of great merlot. Cooking a big cut of meat for a big group this fall? This budget wine will work well, and it's also a good one to have on hand for making mulled wine when the chill really sets in.
Rosemount Diamond Label 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon ($9)
The Cabernet has the most tannin of the Diamond Labels, but also a bit of heat the flared up on the end of each sip. It's savory and a little peppery, and robust enough for standing up to robust food—say, chili and cornbread—but this wine may be a little divisive depending on your party crowd's taste.
Rosemount Diamond Label 2012 Shiraz ($9)
This is about a close as a wine can get to tasting like alcoholic blueberry juice. Seriously—if you told us it was made from blueberries instead of grapes, we'd probably believe you. Ripe fruit is accentuated by a little sweet oak, and the final result could probably be paired with chocolate cake or gingerbread.
Rosemount 2012 Shiraz/Cabernet Blend ($7)
This wine says 'spicy and balanced' on the label. We agree with the spicy, but not the balanced. We found this wine a bit harsh and disjointed, and we wouldn't seek it out again.
Rosemount 2012 Cabernet/Merlot Blend ($7)
This was our least favorite wine in the lineup: it had a bit too much heat and a bit too much burnt-rubber flavor. Skip it.
Do you ever buy the Rosemount wines? Which bottle is your favorite?