Rosé – Sweet or Dry – Keeps Increasing in Popularity

Fiona Beckett writing for the Guardian has pointed out that rosé seems to be getting sweeter in style these days: “I don’t know about you, but it has struck me for some time that rosé is getting sweeter. In fact, I now know it is, because I’ve been checking the residual sugar (the amount left in the wine once it’s fully fermented) from my tasting sheets and some are way higher than you’d expect from a so-called dry wine.”

Rosé has enjoyed a renaissance with it’s popularity rising year on year. WSTA (the Wine and Spirit Trade Association) reported this month that rosé wines have continued to grow in favour, with figures for Britain’s bars, clubs and restaurants showing rosé wine sales have risen by over 20% in value in the last year. WSTA’s Quarterly Market Report, show rosé sales from shops up by 9.2% in value (7.6% in volume) in the year to May while the value of rosé sales in the on-trade is up by 21.4% (18.4% in volume).

I think consumers preference for a sweeter style, as remarked on by Fiona, stems from the best selling White Zinfandel being produced in the USA. Oddly enough the early origins of White Zinfandel can be traced to a California winemaker’s attempt at making an Oeil de Perdrix style wine. In 1975 Sutter Home Winery experienced a stuck fermentation, and the pink, sweet style of White Zinfandel, that would go on to enjoy massive commercial success, was thus accidentally born. Bob Trinchero originally planned to name the new wine Oeil de Perdrix, but the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) demanded that Trinchero translate the name, so he added White Zinfandel to the label.

Oeil de Perdrix is an old name for very pale, dry rosé wine made by the saignée method. Its name means “eye of the partridge” in French, after the pink-copper colour of the bird’s eye. The history of the wine style dates back to the Middle Ages in the Champagne region of France. You can still find it in France although it is more well known in Switzerland where it is made with pinot noir grapes. It’s also making a come back in Champagne where you can find sparkling Oeil de Perdrix.

Champagne is also home to the rare Rosé des Riceys which is made from pinot noir in the 3 villages of Les Riceys in the Aube, Champagne: Riceys-Haut, Riceys Haute-Rive and Riceys-Bas. Rosé des Riceys is quite hard to find outside France and is produced only in the very best of years. This is a dark style of rosé and has aromas of ripe strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, hazelnuts and violets. When allowed to develop over a period of years, these aromas will develop with exotic, spicy overtones. The rosés have a distinctive taste known to the French as goût des Riceys.

Provence is the largest rosé producing region of France and saw its exports to the USA jump 62% in 2011. Rosés produced here are usually dry, refreshing and fruity in style so looking at the figures perhaps taste in the USA is swinging away from the sweeter blush rosé wines.

You’ll find that the French like to keep their hands on the rosés they produce – in fact sales of rosé wines in France have now overtaken those of white wine. Even the Bordeaux Grand Cru Classé Chateaux produce Rosé – these wines obviously come at a price and some are quite difficult to get hold of.

However Bordeaux also produces Clairet – a deeper, fruiter style of rosé wine – as well as Bordeaux Rosé at reasonable prices (if you enjoy Rosé wines you will find a selection from Bordeaux and the Languedoc Roussillon in Bordeaux-Undiscovered’s Rose Wine section.

I’d be interested to learn what style of Rosé you prefer – sweet or dry?  Or both?

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