Rosé from white and red blends now legal

Early in 2009, there was a lot of media fuss about EU plans to cheapen the image of rosé wine by allowing it to be produced by blending white wine with a little red – a plan which was eventually abandoned.  The tone of the way it was dealt with in the press is fairly illustrated by these articles in the Telegraph and Independent.  But no article bothered to explain exactly what the rules were, and in the end the overall impression given was that the EU is very quality conscious, unlike the nasty foreign countries which stoop to make inferior rosés.

Most wine buffs know that pink Champagne is normally created by blending white and red base wines, despite this being (according to the tone of the debate) far inferior to proper rosé wine.  But not many seem to know that, as far as the EU is concerned, this is allowed for many other EU wines too.  In fact it is only illegal for still table wines with no geographical indication.  It is OK for any sparkling or semi-sparkling wine, not just Champagne.  And it is OK for any PDO or PGI wine – which as far as France is concerned means any Appellation Controllée or Vin de Pays wine.

Don’t believe me?  Well check out  Commision Regulation (EC) No 606/2009, Article 8, Paragraph 1:

A wine may be obtained by blending or coupage only where the constituents of that blending or coupage possess the required characteristics for obtaining wine and comply with Regulation (EC) No 479/2008 and this Regulation.

Coupage of a non-PDO/PGI white wine with a non-PDO/PGI red wine cannot produce a rosé wine.

However, the second subparagraph does not exclude coupage of the type referred to therein where the final product is intended for the preparation of a cuvée as defined in Annex I to Regulation (EC) No 479/2008 or intended for the production of semi-sparkling wines.

The definition of cuvée referred to above is:

Cuvée shall mean:

(a) the grape must;

(b) the wine;

(c) the mixture of grape musts and/or wines with different characteristics,

intended for the preparation of a specific type of the sparkling wines.

So AOC or VdP producers of “quality” rosés were objecting to the fact that, with the proposed rule change, they would have to compete with rosé table wine made by the cheapest possible method.  But if they themselves wanted to avail themselves of the cheap methods there never were restrictions.  Not at the EU level at least, but of course their own AOC or VdP regulations may forbid it.  To me it seems perverse that EU regulations should be stricter for humble table wines than they are for PDO and PGI wines, and I think all wine should compete on a quality and price basis without restrictive regulation from the EU.

But apart from Champagne, are any other PDO or PGI rosés actually made by blending white and red grapes?  Producers of other sparkling wines are a bit coy about describing how they make their rosés, but I find it inconceivable that English producers would make their sparkling rosés in any other way, and here is one definite example of an English rosé sparkler made by blendingIckworth sparkling wine is produced from Auxerrois and Pinot Noir grapes.   The Pinot Noir grapes give complexity and elegance to this rosé called ‘Suffolk Pink’.  And what about cheaper sparkling wines from elsewhere in the EU?  As for still wines, I am not aware of any PDO or PGI rosés made by blending, but there are a lot of wine-producing countries in the EU now, and it is a brave man who would say categorically that they all ban the practice.

So in conclusion, although it is not news, it is indeed true that it is now legal in the EU to make rosé wine by blending white and red wines.  Why am I bothering to blog about it now?  Well, partly to put the record straight – in particular in response to those who continue to say that the only permitted blended rosé in the EU is pink Champagne.  But also partly to serve as a reminder to myself – so the next time I have to explain to someone I don’t have to go hunting through EU regs again to find the appropriate paragraphs.

Update 16/07/12:  I see that Gusbourne Rosé is also a blend of red and white grapes – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier.

Update 26/12/13:  And Nyetimber Rosé is Chardonnay with a touch of Pinot Noir.  Revealed in a piece by Tom Stevenson in The World of Fine Wine, Issue 42, 1013.

Author: Steve Slatcher

Wine enthusiast

7 thoughts on “Rosé from white and red blends now legal”

  1. I agree with you that the blending of white and red wines IS allowed for EU sparkling and semi-sparkling wines (since 2009) and it is a misunderstanding that only Champagne is the exception. Actually, this “blended wines method” is the rule. But do you know of any exception to that? Let’s say some production codes that stipulate that rosé sparkling can be made only by maceration or saignée?

    I’ve found that Crémant d’Alsace and de Bordeaux rosé wines are made only with red grape varieties, so I assume that in these two the method to make rosé is the maceration or the saignée.

    Also, do you know what was the EU regulation before 2009? I think there was a ban of blending white and red for all wines, but I haven’t researched that.
    Happy to discuss this with you,
    Best regards,
    Angeliki Tsioli

  2. Thank you for your comment and questions, Angeliki.

    Alsace Rosé must be 100% Pinor Noir, whether a still wine or crémant. I mentioned this in a later blog post BTW:

    That was the only exception I was aware of until you mentioned Bordeaux. I have just checked the cahier de charges for Bordeaux and discovered that rosé must be made from red grapes only if it has the word “clairet” on the label. But if it is not “clairet”, it can have up to 20% white grapes. I am not sure what that implies for the production method. Can you make a rosé wine from 80% red wine blended with 20% white? Only a very deeply coloured one I would imagine, and for lighter colours there would need to reduced skin contact for the red grapes.

    I do not know what the EU regulations were before 2009, but I am sure that rosé Champagne was made by blending red and white wines well before 2009.

  3. Thank you for your answer!

    I have advanced a little bit in my research for rosé sparkling wines and here’s what I found:

    – Crémant de Bordeaux: the “cahier de charges” stipulates that rosé crémant can be made either by maceration or by blending red and white wines (I did not look up the still rosé wines of Bordeaux, I assume your comment on Clairet regards these),

    – Cava: the Spanish “cahier de charges” stipulates that the base wines can be either white or rosé and that rosé Cava can be made with a minimum of 25% of red varieties. As a result, I understand that also Cava does not really allow for the blending of red and white wines, but allows for the blend of rosé and white base wines.

    – Franciacorta: the Italian “cahier de charges” (2011 latest modification) is slightly different: it allows for Pinot noir grapes to be made in rosé or red base wines and to participate with a minimum of 25% in the rosé sparkling blends. From this, I understand that Franciacorta rosé can be made with blending either rosé or red wines with white.

    It’s a complicated issue, but again thanks for making the point clear, there is a lot of misunderstanding out there!

  4. Ah, yes, I just searched the Bordeaux CdC for “rosé”. Didn’t think to check for a Crémant de Bordeaux CDC. As there is a separate CdC for the crémant, what I said only applies to still wines.

    To be honest, I had never before even considered the possibility that rosé might be blended with white wine. The possibility of the co-fermentation of red and white grapes is another potential complication!

    Also, in the EU regs, and what you just wrote, “red wine”, “white wine” and “rosé wine” is not defined. But I have never seen those terms defined. Have you? A definition cannot be straightforward. Maybe there are some definitions implied in production methods described in the CdCs? But I don’t think my French is good enough to dig those out.

  5. you are quite right about the boundaries between the colours of the wines, these are not strictly defined. Only the grapes are classified into colours, and then there are methods of identifying the pigmentation of the wines, but no clear definitions. the end result is what every producer is satisfied with, in order to offer it to his clients…

    thanks for the exchange, quite constructive, I think.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.