François Millo, president of the Provence Wine Council, has slammed saignée-method rosé as “not true rosé.” Speaking to the drinks business at the London International Wine Fair, Millo said: “People who make saignée rosé are opportunists. In their mind they are making red wine – the rosé just happens to be a by-product. The saignée method is a bad way of making rosé. The wine is more of an afterthought, very few people in Provence use it.”
“85% of the wine we produce in Provence is rosé, so it’s at the top of our priority list – our grapes are grown for rosé,” Millo added. The saignée method (meaning “bleeding” in French), involves making rosé as a by-product of red wine fermentation, where a portion of the pink juice from the grape must is removed at an early stage, which is then fermented separately to produce rosé.
Millo favours the skin contact method, where black grapes are lightly crushed and the skins remain in contact with the juice for 1-3 days. The must is then pressed and the skins discarded. Millo said that rosé producers in Provence are aiming for the lightest colour possible without compromising the flavour profile, in response to consumer demand.
“There’s a strong demand for the signature pale onion skin colour assocaited with Provence. Consumers see a lighter colour as a sign of quality,” he said, adding, “We’ve worked really hard recently on methods which allow us to extract the maximum flavour while keeping the wine as light in colour as possible. Techinques like night harvesting and macerating at lower temperatures have helped.”
Millo has seen exports of Provence rosé surge in the US, up 20% on last year, with China and Brazil also proving lucrative markets. Despite its recent success, he feels the rosé category is still lacking both a recognised vocabulary and a world expert. “Rosé is the hardest wine to taste – there is no specific vocabulary for the flavours and aromas and no world expert specialising in rosé,” Millo admitted.
Asked whether he is keen for rosé to be taken more seriously as a wine style, Millo warned of the dangers of naval gazing. “We want our wines to be taken seriously, but we don’t want to take ourselves too seriously. Bordeaux started taking itself seriously and it got boring,” he said.