30 Mar 2011

Rosé comes with spring, and at different prices

The fashion for rosé wines has gone crazy here in France over recent years. And, so I hear, in a few other markets. Somebody even told me the other day (he was naturally a producer of rosé wine) that the French now buy more rosé than white. This seems quite hard to believe, and even to understand. But on the rare occasions when I venture into those horror chambers that are known as supermarkets (I am lucky to live in a place that has many street markets and still some good independant food shops), I do seem to see more shelf space devoted to rosé wines than to white.

At any rate, with the advent of spring, us wine hacks are regularly invaded by numerous samples of rosés (yes, I know, all of you who are not in the business are tut-tutting and saying: the poor sods, what a tough life!). And yet we do our conscientious best to do these samples proper justice by tasting them all. I have just received wines from two of the large-scale producers in Provence, the region which has, over recent years, become, for better or for worse, almost synonymous with this type of wine. The producers are Castel, one of France's wine giants in terms of size, and Gassier, which is part of the slightly less huge Advini group. The rosés I received from them are clearly at the upper end of the market, as for the 7 bottles we tasted, the price scale runs from 5 euros to a whacking 25 euros (gulp!).

I should first apologize for the very messy backdrop in my hastily improvised studio in the living room of my small flat. I promise to do this kind of thing better in the future, but I was in a hurry to write this piece.

In front we have the 3 wines that my colleague Sébastien and I preferred, unanimously. Interestingly enough they include the least expensive wine of the seven (5 euros, on the left) and the most expensive (a silly 25 euros, on the right). In the middle is a wine that sells for 7 euros.

I won't bore you with details such as tasting notes, as that is not the point here. What I do want to say is that there seems, in this instance at least, to be little correlation between price and a scale of quality. I will admit that the most expensive wine was the best. But, to be quite honest, if I was having a picnic or a barbecue with family and friends, I could almost buy a case of 6 bottles of the least expensive of these wines (the one on the left un the front row) for that price of a bottle of the one on the right. And I am quite sure that nobody would feel that I was being a cheap-skate and serving them with indifferent wine. The 5 euro wine is perfectly good, refreshing and with enough fruit flavour to give it character. In other words, I have yet to be totally convinced by the added value of expensive rosés.