31 Jul 2011

Rosé is real

Here in Europe it is summer at last, after a spring that made summer look very precocious and a month of July that depressed many by its cold and rain. This is traditionally the time when rosé wines are drunk in increased quantities. Well, it used to be true that this type of wine was a highly seasonal drink, but this seems to be less and less the case, which is shown by the fact that here in France (at least), the sales of rosé wines have gone past those of white wines, and now account for 25% of all wine sales in the country. Elsewhere the fashion for rosés is also gaining ground, although to a lesser extent.

For some time recently many wine snobs considered that rosé wine was not "real" wine. This is just as ridiculous as any other form of prejudice, but it also shows considerable ignorance of the history of wine, since the first wines to be made were in all probability pale red or pink in colour.


photo David Cobbold

I have to say that I really like the graduation in tones of rosé wines, although I am not a great fan of the very pale ones that seem to dominate the biggest producing region in France for this type of wine, which is Provence. Some 90% of all wines now coming out of this part of south-eastern France are rosés, which seems a bit dangerous for the future of the region, which also make some excellent reds and the occasionally interesting white. It is as if the whole image of wine from Provence has been swallowed up by that of the wishy-washy pinks that it churns out to please fashion and the tourist market.

For me, a rosé become interesting when it is significantly different both from a white and a red wine. Otherwise, what is the point of it?  The above photograph shows some of the rosés that I will be drinking this summer. One comes from Beaujolais (gamay grape), two are from the Loire (cabernet franc, one of them being sparkling), one is from Corbières (cinsault, carignan and grenache, probably), and two are from the South-West (a Bordeaux clairet and a Côtes de Brulhois). All of them have plenty of character and are dry, which is what I happen to like.

As to the stupid debate that has riveted part of the French press as to whether rosé wines should be made just from red grapes or from a mixture of white and red grapes, I would like to refer those who have proclaimed, high and mighty and infering that there is some kind of world-wide conspiration afoot to "debase" true French rosé wines (which, according to these ignorant chauvinists, is only made with red grapes) to the simple fact that most of the main decrees for the production of rosé wines in France authorise both colours of grapes in the production of their rosé wines (Champagne, Provence, Côteaux d'Aix, Tavel etc). I cannot really understand what all the fuss is about. If the wine is good, what on earth does it matter how it is produced? Protectionism hides itself under many-coloured banners, some of which are pink.

Drink on, in all colours