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 blending: Ickworth 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.