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A Rosé Is a Rosé Is a Rosé. Or Is It?

Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Apr 28, 2009 3:04pm ET

It was gray and rainy last Wednesday in New York, yet all was rosé inside Fig & Olive in the Meatpacking District. More than a dozen producers from Provence were pouring their rosés from the 2008 vintage.

I like a good rosé. It’s an ideal accompaniment to light, one-dish meals, specifically salads and cold plates, during the warm summer months. The fresh, delicate berry flavors, full body and dry profile seem to harmonize with a wide range of foods, like salade Niçoise, gazpacho, seafood platters and charcuterie.

Among the rosés being poured, I liked the fresh, spicy Côtes de Provence Rosé Whispering Angel from Château d'Esclans ($19). It’s a blend of Grenache, Rolle, Cinsault, Syrah and Mourvèdre. Château de l’Escarelle’s Coteaux Varois en Provence Les Belles Bastilles ($14) offered delicate strawberry and watermelon notes. From Château de Pourcieux there was a round, fruity Côte de Provence ($10) made mostly from Syrah, with Grenache and Cinsault. The Château de Saint-Martin Côte de Provence Grande Réserve ($17) was on the austere side, firm and laced with mineral and spice flavors.

The quality of the rosés on offer was consistent. They are made almost exclusively from red grapes, with a short period of skin contact. Thus, they are full flavored for wines that are fresh, delicate and pink.

Yet, there’s a move afoot by the European Union to allow rosé wines to be made by blending red and white wines. Currently, this is only allowed in Champagne.

Naturally, the Conseil Interprofessionel des Vins de Provence (Wines of Provence), the organization representing the regional producers, is against this proposed legislation. So is the French government and apparently, the Italians have joined in opposition too.

"We understand blending is a method to produce wine with pink color. When you blend you have a wine that’s 95 percent white and 5 percent red," said François Millo, director of Wines of Provence. "So what you end up with is a white wine."

"We should not confuse the consumer, so we asked the E.U. to say if you make a wine this way [by blending] you don’t call it rosé," he continued.

Of course, Millo admitted the Provence contingent was protecting its own interests. But he has a point.

"Rosé comes from skin contact and it’s very hard to do. The aromas and flavors come from the skins and in Provence we have some very specific technology to catch the aromas and structure, but not too much color and tannins. We want to make light-colored wines with intense flavors."

Should blending be allowed? If it resulted in less expensive "pink" wines, is it better for the consumer? What do you think?

Vince Liotta
Elmhurst Illinois —  April 28, 2009 9:54pm ET
I love a good rose. Often, only because it is simple and refreshing. Sure, there are some more serious examples of rose. Domaine Tempier is great, but rarely do I want to spend $30 for a beverage for simple refreshment. Other than Champagne, was rose ever intended to be a serious wine? I have no problem adding red to white to make rose. Tom
Eric Yates
Geneve, Switzerland —  April 29, 2009 8:41am ET
The wine world can be a confusing place for most wine buyers. This would seem to add another element which would confuse more people in the end. Specific techniques are used to make rose buyers have this expectation. If the technique is altered buyers will have to be very informed about each winery and their proces used. Thus creating another barrier for the common wine drinker. Wine lovers will always do the homework to understand the wine but the average person is not armed with this information. If allowed, rose may ultimately be hurt. I say create an new buzz word and add it to the label. This way the average consumer can be informed. Cheers!
Jason Fernandez
Boston, MA —  April 29, 2009 11:19am ET
I agree with the Conseil Interprofessionel des Vins de Provence; blending white and red wines for "Rose" production should not be allowed. Rose has established a production process that delivers a product that the customer knows and appreciates. Why muddle that and risk hurting the sales of this genre of wine? Especially in this economy.
Troy Peterson
Burbank, CA —  April 29, 2009 1:59pm ET
I do enjoy Tavel rose's in general, particularly for picnics, but I'm not up to paying more than about $20/bottle. I don't know that I can tell the difference between blended and traditional rose's though. I'll have to put that on my list of experiments!
Jim Becker
Whittier, CA —  April 29, 2009 5:15pm ET
A Rose is a Rose is A Rose.... ??? Okay, let's see... Opened a bottle of 2007 Angoves Nine Vines Rose last night... and, well, it was just okay... a bit unbalanced... some strawberry-like fruit but too much acidity to just sip... maybe some kung pao chicken would have helped....Anyway, this got me thinking about Rose's. I never thought I would like them until I visited the Archery Summit winery in Oregon a couple of years ago. They poured a tasting of their Pinot Rose.... wow! This was a delicious wine... not wimpy... hell, wasn't even ashamed to admit that I liked it to my beer-guzzling friend who was courteous enough to show me around the valley. Since then, I've tried a few more Rose's that I really enjoyed... L'Aventure, Beckmen, and one from Tobin James in paso... a Syrah Rose! Check 'em out. Just don't invite your NFL-fan-friends over to share it with you unless you've got some spicy kabob's to go along with it. Posted by Beckerjim's Rock'n Roll Wine Blog at 10:31 AM
Jordan Harris
Niagara, Ontario —  April 29, 2009 6:25pm ET
It would be an absolute shame if they allowed blending for rose. It creates a wine without harmony. That five percent never seems to add much to the aromatic profile or the flavor, it does however tend to leave a phenolic note of the finish. Blended Roses make wines similar to a white that has been overpressed or pressed too hot. If it is allowed to blend like this it will hurt the market for fine Rose as it already has. Consumers will get more use to believing rose is only a $10.00 bottle made from wine that was de-classified instead of looking at rose as the fine wine that it can. Great rose should cost more and should be understood as well as reds and whites. A great rose like many from Domaine Ott, Chateau d'Esclans or Chateau d'Aqueria deserve respect and a higher price tag.
Michael Krogh
Eden Prairie, MN USA —  May 1, 2009 6:45pm ET
Let the results decide. If the blend makes a tasty wine, drink up!
Keir Mccartney
League City,TX —  May 7, 2009 12:34pm ET
I dont think the rule change will insist that all rose is made by this blending process.The traditional method will still be used. We will need to be discerning consumers and buy the wines we enjoy. If that turns out to be the traditionally produced bottlings then we will automatically sort out the issue without help from the EU bureaucrats. If we choose the blended offerings then maybe the suppliers are just catering to demand? Could we not just insist that the blended rose gets dumped on the shelf next to the white zins??
Bruce Sanderson
New York —  May 7, 2009 1:56pm ET
Keir, you are correct. In Provence, the traditional method of skin contact will continue. The argument against blending is that it will tarnish all Roses with the same brush. Wines made by blending taste different than those made by skin contact. You can taste the difference with Champagnes made using the two different methods. Secondly, as a consumer, how will you know the difference, other than price? If someone buys an inexpensive Rose made by blending and dislikes it, there will be no incentive to pony up the extra dollars for the real deal.
Keir Mccartney
League City,TX —  May 8, 2009 2:03pm ET
I guess that is where labeling could come in. Couldn't the traditional producers label it as such? Or does the fact that a Rose is labeled "Appellation Cotes du Provence Controlee" already mean that it is traditionally made. Much in the same whay that we know for instance that a Gigondas is made under certain rules that govern grape variety, blend ratios or yields, etc?

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