"We're a happy family, we're a happy family…"

by Katie Pizzuto on May 29, 2009

in France,Regulations,Rosé

rose-wineAnyone who has a kid…aww, hell, anyone who even knows a kid…has heard, at one point or another, the “but everyone else is allowed to” defense. We roll our eyes, shake our heads and fall back on the well-seasoned retort about jumping off a building or bridge, as if it were the most sound piece of logic ever bestowed upon us when we turned 25 and became adults—yes, I do mean 25. My son, for instance, is always bugging me to let him to bring his iTouch with him to school. That’s answered with an immediate “no” which is then supported by, “someone might steal it because they want one, or it might fall out of you bag and get lost.” He’s already waiting with the “yeah, but so-and-so’s mom lets him bring his to school” bit, but I cut him off at the pass and respond with something to the effect of, “well then so-and-so’s mom must have money coming out her asshole if she doesn’t mind that a gadget with a $230 price tag gets scooped up by some conniving juvie!” or something to that effect—I’m hazy on dialog details.

Something similar is now happening in Europe. No, no, no…I don’t mean between European mothers and their kids. France’s winemakers (a.k.a the kids) are having tantrums and the EU government (a.k.a. the moms) is caught between a rock and a fucking concrete boulder. Why? Because of how rosé wines are traditionally made and the proposed legislation that would toss that winemaking method to the lions. A couple of years ago, many European winemakers started whining that their “value brands” couldn’t compete with similar wines coming from the New World (mainly the southern hemisphere) because European laws forbid cost-saving (a.k.a. corner-cutting) techniques like using oak chips instead of aging in oak barrels. They complained that, in order to successfully compete with the competition, they needed to be able to use similar techniques—the old, “but everyone else is allowed to” defense, in action. So, in 2007, the EU’s Agriculture and Rural Development Commission developed amendments to existing winemaking laws, essentially loosening the regulations, and the 27 member states of the EU, including France, gave their initial nods of approval.

But here’s the rub…now, many traditional rosé-making wine regions are protesting the proposed amendments. Historically, French rosé has always been made by crushing red grapes, allowing the juice to extract a little color and flavor from the skins, and then straining the juice into another tank for fermentation. The amendments now on the table would allow winemakers to take already-fermented white wine and add some red wine to create the rosy-colored wine. Problem is, this stuff tastes as much like traditional rosé as grape soda tastes like grapes. Not to say that it tastes bad…it just doesn’t taste like a true rosé. When the rosé-making regions of France flipped out, the EU proposed a compromise that, true to government, pleased no one: Rosés must be labeled either “traditional” or “blended.” The retort? True to tradition-entrenched Frenchness, France’s Agriculture Minister flipped them the bird and said France would simply outlaw blended rosés if the EU proceeded with the changes. Unsurprisingly, the EU has now announced delays—my guess is, in order to decide whether to use the “don’t cause a scene or I swear I’ll…” threat, or capitulate like an exhausted mother that winds up handing her kid the blasted iTouch and wishing him “bon chance.”

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Linsey May 29, 2009

Oh dont get me started on the bloody European Union rules – try living with them invading 75% of the laws created in your country – pain in the backside!

The rules and regs laid down for food has left us with an almost ruined fishing industry, unprotected traditional foods, stupid hygiene laws that make selling a simple product a mountainous event … it goes on and on.

Fair enough they are doing some good, like protecting things like parma ham, melton mowbray pies, champagne etc so they are only produced in the region they were developed in originally – but they then interfere on traditions like rare breed like pigs, rare apples and other fruit – making them expensive to then produce leading to them going into extinction

basically ur rose is the tip of a bloody great iceberg


2 Katie Pizzuto June 1, 2009

Funny you mention some of these points, Lin. I’ll be posting an article soon on the debate over COOL labels (Country of Origin Labeling), as well as protected food-making regions. Thanks for the rant!!!! Love it!


3 Linsey June 1, 2009

we Brits dont need much encouragement to have a rant against the European rules lol



4 Stewart K Kelly June 5, 2009

Excellent post.

The one thing that sets French rose apart from its competitors in the blush category is its quality.

Market it as a quality product for more developed palates — so be it if the price needs to go up a little.

A race to the bottom in wine-making practices is bad for consumers and bad for France’s (and the rest of Europe’s) reputation.

The problem with EU involvement, especially in agriculture and food, is that it always ends up in some kind of murky compromise that works for nobody.

Alas, this rose issue is but another symptom of the malaise the French wine industry finds itself in. This is of course in large part due to a dramatic drop in domestic consumption.

For more on rose wine, check out my new wine column at Shoestring Magazine.


5 Katie Pizzuto June 5, 2009

You make excellent points, Stewart.

“The problem with EU involvement, especially in agriculture and food, is that it always ends up in some kind of murky compromise that works for nobody.”

Could not agree more. If on the one hand you have wineries on a race to the bottom who want to be allowed short cuts, but on the other hand have wineries that want to protect their traditional methodology, finding a common ground (ah, you have to love government) usually pleases no one.

As for marketing rosé as a higher quality product, I think they first need to somehow shake off the mistaken believe that many people have that blush = plonk.

Thanks for the comments.


6 Katie Pizzuto June 8, 2009

As an update, apparently the EU has (thankfully) removed allowance for “blended rosé” from the amendments:



7 Jeff June 9, 2009

As Eddie Izzard would say, “I’m very positive on the French…but they are kinda fuckin’ French at times!”



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