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May 26, 2013

GRAPE SENSE: Americans are falling in love with French dry Rosé

The numbers are staggering. Americans are falling in love with French dry Rosé. Last year imported Rosé went up 28 percent — most of that coming from Provence, France.

“The growth is partly led by the Mediterranean diet,” said Julie Peterson of the Provence Wine Council. “Rosé from Provence is less than 3 milligrams of sugar.  It’s not very sweet, but has fruit flavors. But it’s a dry wine and it’s made with red grapes. So you have that great character of a red wine that is dry with a white wine feel in the mouth.”

But the explosive growth is not new. While most of the wine market grows at single digits in the best years, Provence imports to the U.S. have grown at double-digit rates every year since 2003.

“Provence is the biggest exporter and producer of Rosé in the world and they’ve been making Rosé for 26 centuries — or as long as anyone has been making wine. The largest percent of their production is Rosé. Provence is the gold standard and Americans are discovering that.”

Peterson’s job is to help spread the word. She was in Chicago earlier this year for Provence producers’ first visit to the Windy City. More than 20 Provence winemakers poured their wines for importers, wholesalers and the wine media.

That salmon-pink wine is not setting on shelves long either. U.S. retail sales of Rosé wines priced at or above $12 a bottle grew by 28 percent volume and 23 percent on dollars in 2012. That’s a stunning comparison to the 1.8 percent of volume and 4.8 percent in dollars for total U.S. retail table wine sales.

Rosé wine has been a fixture in France for many years. It’s often consumed at lunch, near the ocean and particularly during warm weather. But it’s also a remarkably versatile wine with food.  

It’s important to understand, as Peterson noted, that the dry light pink wine is made from red wine grapes. Red wine is given extensive contact with the grape skins to create the color while Rose’ has minimal contact with the skins to get the desired pink hues and lighter flavor.

Provence Rosé is a blend made from some combination of Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, Mourvedre, Tibouren, Carignan, or Cabernet Sauvignon.

In Provence, Rosé is king with nearly 88 percent of all production devoted to Rose’ over traditional red and white wines. Provence produces 40 percent of France’s AOC Rosé. The French AOC designation is an assurance of authenticity and quality as established by government regulation.

Simply put for the average wine consumer, dry Rosé is not the pink white Zinfandel from the 1970s. Dry Rosé is a sophisticated wine of strawberry, mineral and acid that’s refreshing all alone or delicious with lighter meals. And most really great Provence is priced less than $10!

Howard’s Provence Picks: Chateau La Tour De Beraud, Chateau Revelette, and two personal favorites, Andieux & Fils and Domaine Ott.

Howard W. Hewitt, Crawfordsville, writes about value wine every other week for 22 Midwestern newspapers. Read his wine blog at: www.howardhewitt.net.

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