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stirring the lees with james molesworth

All-Star Team of Fred Franzia and Michel Rolland Form Joint Venture to Produce a New Rosé for $1

Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Apr 1, 2009 9:00am ET

California vintner Fred Franzia and renowned Bordeaux-based enologist Michel Rolland have announced a new joint venture, a rosé that will retail for just $1 per bottle, using a new grape variety called Caberose.

The all-star winemaking duo announced their new project following the recent news that the European Union is planning to change the legal definition of rosé as part of an effort to loosen the continent's strict winemaking rules.

It seems a rush is now on to capitalize on the recent boom in rosé consumption.

Previously, rosé has been made by the traditional method of crushing red grapes and then letting the juice extract a bit of color and flavor from the skins before draining it off for fermentation.

But some winemakers are now looking to exploit the new, looser definition of rosé, which would allow for the blending of red and white grapes together to make a rosé-colored wine. Franzia and Rolland have taken it a step further with plans to employ a new grapevine that produces both red and white grapes.

The new vine was developed by researchers at UC Davis, though Caberose, as the new variety is called, was produced apparently by mistake as viticulturists were attempting to a make cross of Pinotage and Seyval Blanc.

“We were aiming for a new variety that would ripen perfectly at the hottest time of the year, while still retaining acidity,” explained Dr. Charles Shaw, a professor of plant pathology at UC Davis. “The idea was to blend both warm-climate, jammy fruit and cool-climate acidity into one wine.” But the first generation of vines from the new crossing resulted not in a single new grape variety, but in a vine where both red and white grapes formed in opposing bunches at the same time. The new grapes were neither Pinotage nor Seyval Blanc, but instead entirely new grape varieties.

Shaw explained that when he tried a micro-vinification of the white and red grapes separately, he found the results less than impressive. On a lark, he then co-fermented the two grapes together, which resulted in a rosé-colored wine that he thought had commercial potential. Shaw then brought his findings to Franzia, who immediately purchased the trademark and began to propagate the vine for commercial use.

The gentically engineered new Caberose vines yield both red and white grape bunches.
“Why deal with blending when you can simply harvest the white and red grapes together, and then allow the color to become rosé naturally,” said Franzia. “It’s a no-brainer.”

Franzia, who has had great success with his "Two-Buck Chuck" line of wines sold at Trader Joe's, then turned to Rolland for the new joint venture, citing the winemaker’s experience in producing high-quality wines all around the world, regardless of their origin. He's worked with great Bordeaux châteaus, cult Napa Cabernets such as Harlan and other global leaders such as Chile's Casa Lapostolle and Italy's Tenuta dell'Ornellaia.

The two fast-tracked Caberose through the quarantine process and now have 500 acres planted on heavily irrigated land in southern Nevada, with hopes of cropping the new vineyard at a yield of 100 tons per acre.

“This should reduce costs, and allow us to produce a high quality rosé that would retail for less than $1 a bottle,” said Franzia.

The first commercial harvest for the wine will be 2009, which Franzia plans to have on retail shelves in time for April Fool's Day 2010.

Dr J Rosenblatt
Montreal, Canada —  April 4, 2009 7:39am ET
James, I have to admit you had me going there for a minute reading this article! A wine for a buck developed by Michel Rolland - what a thought! Hope you're enjoying(ed) France. Did you get to Bordeaux for some "en primeur", or is that pleasure only reserved for the "other" James. Happy April Fool's Day!
James Molesworth
April 4, 2009 9:26am ET
Dr. J: Glad to know I hooked someone ;-)....No, didn't get to Bordeaux. I leave that stomping ground to my colleague...
Dr J Rosenblatt
Montreal, Canada —  April 6, 2009 3:14pm ET
James, love reading your stuff - while I have to admit the French wine I love is a little less in your stomping ground, reading your blog is always a treat. Best... Jerry

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