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In Europe, It's War of the Rosés

Mar 31 2009 - 10:15am

Everything is not coming up roses for French producers of rosé wine. Winemakers have been up in arms over proposed EU Commission legislation that would allow rosé wine to be made from the mixing of red and white wines [1].

Rosé is traditionally produced by leaving the skins of red-wine grapes in along with the white juice for several hours, a method that tints the wine to a blush color. The European Commission, however, believes that relaxing its rosé guidelines will allow France, Italy, and Spain to increase exports to burgeoning markets like China. To producers of classic blush wine, allowing red wine mixed with white wine to be called rosé could be considered heresy.

Classic rosé makers have won the right to carry a special designation indicating their wines are made by "traditional" methods but see the concession as insufficient. Said Anjou wine growers association president Olivier Lecomte [2]:

We have worked very hard to improve the quality of our wines and to prove that a genuine rosé is not just a mongrel or hybrid, but a different and excellent wine in its own right. In recent years, our sales have been rising rapidly. It is not surprising that others want to jump on the bandwagon. Now, abruptly, we are told that rosé wine can be concocted any old way, to an industrial formula, a money-driven formula.

Judgment day comes on April 27, when the commission will vote on the proposed legislation. In my opinion, the new law chooses commercial interests over deeply rooted, venerable quality standards. How do you feel about this debate: should mixed wine be allowed to be called rosé?

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