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Katherine Canfield on the rise of rosé

Published:  07 June, 2013

In the midst of stagnant global wine production, rosé stands out as the only market segment that has shown significant growth since 2005, but its continued success depends on whether a collective definition on production can be made.

Twenty-five scientists, technicians and entrepreneurs discussed this issue before an audience of 200 attendees at the fourth edition of Rencontres International du Rosé in Marseille in April. The multidisciplinary theme was "The Market, Science and Ethics of Rosé Wine."

Bruno Maillard of Listel insisted that producers should only adhere to "direct pressing" in rosé wine production, thus distinguishing itself as a unique entity among red and white still wines. "Rosé wine cannot be a by-product of red winemaking," he said.

Still, winemakers in emerging countries continue to create products from mixing red and white wines, giving them a competitive edge by cutting production costs yet maintaining similar positioning as rosé wines made by traditional methods. James de Roany, export market specialist at OIV, underlined that failure to provide some common guidelines will increase the risk of an overheated global market for rosé wine with substantial appearance of blended products.

Federico Castellucci from the OIV and sociologist Stéphane Hugon of the University Paris V held a different view, suggesting that the lack of regulation on rosé wine production is precisely why it can be so innovative. The product has differentiated itself in the market by generating community-oriented approaches to consumption. It has become "a ritual of group participation" and a "remedy to boredom", said Hugon. This contrasts with red wine, which can alienate low-involvement consumers and non-wine drinkers.

Whilst it may prove difficult to agree on an international definition of production method for rosé wine, outlining common European values on the subject could defend against competition from those who do not adhere to rules set for the European market.

One proposal suggested the creation of a term to identify the traditional production method, but was later rejected by head of wine at the European Commission, Denis de Froidmont. "European policy in this sector is more focused on the defense of designations of origin," he said.

Sales of rosé wine have increased by 7.7% in the past nine years, now representing over 9% of total wine production. Rosé wine consumption follows a similar trend, representing 10% of wines consumed throughout the globe.