French Vineyards Win War of Roses
Although Italy jumped ahead in the global market, France has a secret trick up their sleeve.
As with jewelry and products made in rose gold, the wine market has been opening up in the 21st century to Rose wine. This is very good news for France which, despite losing to Italy in global production rankings last year (based on data by the International Organisation of Vine and Wine), has seen worldwide sales of Rose grow by nearly a third in 10 years. Worldwide rose production grew just 15 percent between 2002 and 2013 – but French winegrowers spotted the trend, and rode the wave by boosting their output 31 percent in the same period.
Much of this growth comes from demand in the US where Rose is starting to be seen as an accessible (read not pretentious) wine. Oliver Brun who runs a family vineyard at Chateau Brigue, at Le Luc-en-Provence in the southeastern Var region, noted that part of the appeal is the fact that “there’s no need to be an expert to enjoy it”. 70% of the sales from the Brun family vineyard comes from exports, and half of of that business is in the US. Florida, California, New York and, latterly, Chicago who lead the way.
The region French Rose is most associated with is the southern Provence region, where the climate, grapes and soil are just right. It is home to 600 producers with 39% of the coveted “registered designation of origin” certificates. Some of the popularity of Provencal Rose can also be attributed to marketing, such as British writer Peter Mayle’s best-seller “A Year in Provence” that describes life in the region. A bit of it is also the celebrity shock that occurred when Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie purchased the Chateau de Miraval, complete with a vineyard – where they came up with their own “Pink Floyd” Rose.
Despite its accessibility though in terms of consumption, things aren’t so easy on the production side. The process is a precise art-form, and in 1999 a Rose research center was opened at Vidaudan in the Var to seek out the best quality. Roses are made when red grape varieties are harvested via a short maceration (soaking) period, while the technique of direct pressing may also be used once grape skins have been stripped or punctured before the juice is sent for fermentation. There’s also a saignee or “bled” method that sees juice bled off from nascent reds and placed in a separate vat.
“You have to be able to get up at the dead of night (to check on the brew’s progress) — it’s a little like the ultra-precise cooking of a grand chef,” said Philippe Faure-Brac, who was voted the world’s best sommelier in 1992. Thanks to that technical dedication and the seductive image, as well as the accessibility, it looks like it’s time for Rose to shine in the wine market.