Should we challenge rosé orthodoxy?

Posted on April 12, 2016

Ian_Cauble_interview

 

Master Sommelier Ian Cauble wrote in one of his newsletters in February that while all the trade are focused on selecting the new vintage of rosés, some 2014 rosés are tasting even better after 1 year in bottle. I have often complained that rosé (especially from Provence) has to comply with an increasingly narrow definition of colour, taste profile and age. In other words, it must

a) be a very pale pink, with a hue that is neither too violet nor orange

b) must have less than 14% alc, minimal tannin, maximum fruit and not much of anything else and be very quaffable.

 

Why is it that with red and white wines we celebrate a vast range of diverse styles while rose is treated like a classical ballerina who is only allowed to perform certain steps and must comply with a strict morphology? I shouldn’t complain really, rosé sales have never been better and I enjoy our style of rosé as I enjoy classical ballet; however as a wine maker I feel like our creativity is being stifled / curtailed / censored.

 

I wonder who is driving this – is it the trade or consumers? Is it the trade that has over-simplified rosé to make life easier for consumers? Or is it the collective wisdom of consumers who over time have figured out that rosés that generally fit the above criteria taste better?

 

I find it interesting that those willing to challenge this rosé orthodoxy are more likely not going to be from Provence as is evidenced by Ian’s newsletter (Ian is American). This year I am launching a new rosé “Aurelia”, named after my first child born during the last harvest, which is in clear breach of the rosé orthodoxy. Nearly all 6000 bottles produced have been pre-sold but not one of them in France!

Here is a transcript of Ian’s newsletter:

“It feels as if Spring is upon us and the 2015 rosés will soon descend on the market, but the truth is, the most serious rosés from Provence need more than a year to blossom. The 2014 rosés are just now starting to soften and reach their ideal window of drinkability. Today’s 2014 L’esprit de Provence Rosé from Le Grand Cros has structure, texture, minerality and perfect freshness—this wine is everything we look for in a great rosé and is hitting a sweet spot that will continue for next few years. For less than $25 a bottle, this is everything we seek in the best examples of Rosé in the world.”

Staff training in Manila

Julian’s SE Asia tour

Posted on April 26, 2014

Having spent the last 2 weeks living out of a carry-on bag and from restaurant food, this morning I can enjoy my first lazy breakfast at home and reflect on the 2 weeks spent in Singapore, Malaysia and Philippines. When I first explored those markets 10 years ago, there was the usual young market demand for the top Grand Crus for the tiny population of uber wealthy and for everyone else you could find the cheapest editions available of recognizable names such as Bordeaux, Chablis, Chianti, merlot etc. Basically the antithesis of what I aim to offer with Jules – I steer clear of names that command premiums and look for the best value in grapes and styles but never the cheapest.

Fortunately much has changed since then, following the typical pattern of maturing wine markets. I found a wide selection of wines from all over the world, with most expansion happening in the middle range as wealthy consumers become more discerning and value driven and middle classes drinking more.

Staff training in Manila

Staff training in Manila

I also found the most regular drinkers were rating wines on mobile apps such as vivino which plays to men’s competitive nature of rating more wines than their peers. I think the old days where wine was shrouded in mystery and snobbery propped up by men with fancy titles are kind of gone. Consumers are confident and curious and see through the old smoking mirror tricks.

shop tasting in Straits Wine store Manila

shop tasting in Straits Wine store Manila

I look forward to the challenge of engaging with these consumers in ways that are relevant to them. However the local trade has not really risen to the challenge and is not innovating. A big part of the problem is that the hospitality sector does not attract these same consumers. This is mostly because jobs in restaurants and wine stores are poorly paid and wine taxes are high so waiting staff cannot afford to be regular wine drinkers. I spent most of my time there doing staff trainings and while I found their level of knowledge low, they were interested and asked lots of smart questions so I think the situation will improve with time as more producers invest their time in the market.

shop tasting in Kuala Lumpur  with chinese food

shop tasting in Kuala Lumpur with chinese food

Many thanks to our Jules wines partner in the region Straits Wine Company who have been pushing the envelope notably with their events and who won the Award of Excellence / wine distributor of the year at the World Gourmet Summit this year – Congratulations.

Wine dinner in Kuala Lumpur

Wine dinner in Kuala Lumpur

I would also like to thank the BERJAYA UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF HOSPITALITY for kindly inviting me to speak in their splendid lecture theater to distinguished F&B professionals; it was an honor and I learnt a great deal from the challenging Q&A at the end. Their facilities were very impressive which I think is an indication of what we should expect from Malaysia as their F&B sector continue to raise their game.

Speaking at Berjaya University College in Kuala Lumpur

Speaking at Berjaya University College in Kuala Lumpur

What is minerality in wine?

Posted on August 13, 2013

mineralityThere was a very interesting article in the RVF last month about minerality. It questions the popular notion that minerality is actually the taste of minerals in the wine and come from deep roots that are in contact with the bedrock from which it extracts the unique minerals therein. To my knowledge, it is the first article in a popular consumer wine journal I have read on this subject.

Those who know me are familiar with my eagerness to blow away romantic notions about wine that have no scientific basis. I feel that makes me a bit of a kill-joy and against trade interests (that I share), as we need to peddle a bit of magic so that wine doesn’t become just a cheap commodity. Yet I am fascinated that people can believe crazy stuff like that and producers can say it with a straight face.

When I started in wine 14 years ago and I was doing my masters in Bordeaux where I met Denis Dubourdieu and his PHD students, I asked them a lot of questions as I tried to figure out the “laws” of wine science, including this very question. They are the main proponents in this article offering an alternative explanation of what minerality really is: a combination of acidity, thiols, CO2, sulphur and other compounds that have no direct correlation with minerals in the soil.

I was unsure of myself back then and I was wondering how customers would react if I ridiculed such a poetic and popular notion; so I published an article about it in our newsletter (copy attached). A couple customers commented: we didn’t have a blog back then so they had to email me responses that I published in the subsequent issue.

At the risk of sounding patronizing, it feels like telling children that Santa Clauz doesn’t really exist. I would hate to be the last schmuck who believes in Santa. I would also hate to know if my girlfriend cheated on me just once. So what kind of truth is this? One we should keep a secret or one that needs to be cried out?