Hooray for Rosé!

June 10th, 2009

With a ruling that rosé wine must be made in the traditional method, using contact with grape skins rather than blending red with white wine, Europen Union officials this week reversed what could have been a low blow for French wine-makers.  But it wasn’t only the voice of French vignerons that turned the tide:  Italy, Greece and Hungary raised their objections to blended rosés. The ruling was due to take effect as of August 1, so the pressure on Brussels this month was insistent – to the point that the European Agriculture Commisioner, Mariann Fischer Boel, withdrew the upcoming June 19th vote.  A sigh of relief was voiced in regional newspapers across southern France.  If passed, the ruling would have decimated over thirty years of refining quality control in making French rosé, and would allow blush-plonk to flood café terraces across Europe.  Loss of jobs would accompany loss of quality and leave the growing, discerning rosé market in the lurch.

Making rosé is not a simple process, as I learned in a recent conversation with a Bordeaux winemaker, Jacques Demonchaux. “It is more challenging to make a good rosé than to make a good red wine”, he explained in the tasting room at Château Pierrail. The temperature must be cool, between 5 and 15° c/42° to 59° f, and maceration (when skins and pulp are left in contact with the fresh grape juice)  is closely watched for 2 to 24 hours. I lifted a glass of the limpid rosé to the light, admiring both its luminosity and translucent qualities before sipping the fragrant, refined wine. To get to this point is a tricky process, one that can be appreciated best by sampling the many styles and hues of traditionally made rosé, whether from the Var or the southwest – each region has its own twist on the refreshing theme. The rosé learning curve is underway, with summer months ahead to pair rosés with fresh fish and cold soups.  And we can cheer with the Italian agriculture minister who acclaimed the decision: “Tradition has prevailed!”

Sites for more about rosé:   Look for wines from a vinyard in the Var, www.peyrassol.com – try their fruity, pale rosé. For a deeper toned, complex wine, try rosé from www.chateaupierrail.com, made in the eastern reaches of the Bordeaux Supérieur region. Both are well worth a visit for their historic settings, as well as their fine wines.

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