War of the rosés

We don't really consider rosé wine as being the real thing. The initial reaction of most dedicated tinto fans, when they see someone drinking rosado, is that there goes an amateur wine drinker. It is usually considered more of an accessory to wine culture rather than an essential feature. At least that is the macho view.....

It is best not to enter into the argument about which type of rosé is best. The purists always maintain that the classical 'onion skin' Provençal version, frankly insipid in both taste and colour, is the gold standard, while southern Europeans hold on to the belief that wine, whatever it looks like in the glass, should taste like wine.

Vineyard prices in Provence have gone crazy, and many well-known wine brands from other areas have spent fortunes in order not to be excluded from this burgeoning market. Clearly there will be a levelling out, but, as one of the major players has been quoted as saying, "We don't sell rosé wine, we sell the dream of the French Riviera".

Hollywood personalities, including Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, and George Lucas, have invested in the rosé phenomenon, but it has to be admitted that there is a lot of junk wine also coming out of the region. Consumption of rosé went up by 40% last year in the United States, a huge increase if the statistics are to be believed, but where does it all come from? There is no rule that it has to come from Provence, and many wine-producing areas make excellent rosados, including Spain's Navarra and Somontano.

In fact the business is showing signs of mafia-type practices. The sommelier of a top New York restaurant recently went public about a phone call she had received. The caller told her a particular brand of rosado, famous for its brash promotional campaigns but short on quality, should be on her list. A personal sweetener of $5,000 was mentioned. Her reaction was the appropriate one, "Here I choose the wines on the basis of quality and value. No-one influences my selection".