Riaan Smit: Pink in Provence


Riaan Smit looking very fresh during his French harvest.
Riaan Smit looking very fresh during his French harvest.


Riaan Smit, Winegoggle’s Man in Provence, gets talking on his making of ,pink wines and gives an update on French bureaucracy.

I thought ros+¬ was made by crushing red grapes and leaving the juice in contact with the skins, at least for a couple of hours, to pick up some blush.
It is probably one of the methods, but not here at Chateau La Gordonne in Provence. Free-run juice is separated from the skins at crushing and destemming and never the two shall meet again. The best ros+¬ is made from the free-run. Presses ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ juice from pressing the must ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ produces a lower quality ros+¬.
Typically, the presses is no more than 17-18 % of total juice per day. Incidentally, for the Sunday night harvest through to Monday morning, 1082 hl (108200 l) was produced. Normally, it is between 700 and 900 hl per day.
Most of the harvesting is done with a mechanical harvester ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ here a New Holland VL6050 is used. It is an imposing beast. I have only ever seen one of these machines in a South African vineyard, and it was at a distance.
I thought a mechanical harvester pulps much of its pickings. Not so ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ a lot of it arrives at the tipper as whole bunches. I have also walked through a variety of vineyards that had been mechanically harvested and there is very little evidence of damage to the vines.
Earlier in the year, the French government approved a plan by European Union bureaucrats in Brussels to allow the production of ros+¬ by blending red and white wine. Naturally the ros+¬ producers in Provence were outraged. To them it is sacrilege to produce ros+¬ in this way. But I suspect there was a good dose of economic protectionism included in the howls of protests. Sales of Provencial ros+¬ were hardly affected by the global economic down turn. The Brussels bureaucrats also probably saw the blended ros+¬ proposal as a way of draining some of Europe’s wine lake.
The French government’s acquiescence with the EU plan was seen by the vignerons as just another example of the Sarkozy government’s ignorance of the dire economic circumstances of many French winemakers. In June, the plan was dropped.
At about the same time as la crise ros+¬, the French government also announced plans to ban wineries from pouring tasting tots for visitors to wineries. This also was eventually scrapped. On top of all this, the French Health minister issued a decree that wine is bad for your health.
Maybe the Sarkozy government will eventually realise that its actions against its own wine industry may destroy one of the cornerstones of what is referred to, usually in a revered tone, la France profonde (the heartlands of France).
From 1 August this year, the cepage(s) ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ the varietals ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ may now be indicated on the labels of French wine, due to a change in EU regulations. I get quizzical looks here when I point out what a big marketing opportunity this is for exporting French wine., Even when I explain the set up in a typical British or USA supermarket with shelf upon shelf of wine displayed according to varietal and how ordinary consumers get confused by French labels with no varietals, they still do not seem to get it.
There still seems to be a reluctance to take on New World competitors on their own marketing terms. But it is being done in the Languedoc. Check out www.arrogantfrog.fr ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ Old World wines with New World attitude.

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2 thoughts on “Riaan Smit: Pink in Provence

  1. Nice article! Enjoyed reading it and I learned a few things: about the government decreeing wine bad for the health. And are you saying that they were proposing no tasting to visitors at the wineries??

  2. Jip, they did propose no tasting at wineries – can you believe it? Fortunately, sanity prevailed and the ban was dropped.

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