When discussing European wines I always mention how strict their classification system is when compared to wine regions in the new world. Strict is putting it lightly. During an Italian wine class last Fall with Vias Imports, our friend Mike Petrizzo validated that one vineyard within the Brunello region of Tuscany was indeed found to be in violation of their DOCG regulations in regards to making and labeling something as "Brunello di Montalcino". The subsequent wine had to be removed from the market and relabeled as "Rosso di Montalcino" which commanded a much lower price in addition to all the money lost not only with legal fees, but how about being held up in port while the entire situation is being investigated? There's no joking around when it comes to the Old World and how they label their wines.
Friday morning I received an email from an unknown name asking very specific questions in regards to a certain Rose that we are carrying. The nature of the questioning begged me to believe that this could potentially be another retailer looking to find this wine for their inventory which happens more than you think. Hey there's this thing called "Google" or call your own sales person. Customers would not be asking such specific questions. These were questions people within the trade would know to ask in regards to the who, what, where and why's of a wine.
I check the name out online, hey Google. All the information that turns up is in relation to the Cotes de Provence which is Rose central!! I email back this person to confirm that this is indeed who I am speaking with and they return back with their exact credentials. Turns out this person is on the Syndicat des Vins Côtes de Provence. Rut Row!! That's enough validation for me. It appears that a certain brand of French Rose is under question as to the validity of where it comes from as stated on the label. This is a very big deal. Trying to explain this to my son so he could wrap his head around the severity of it, imagine a pizza restaurant in Middle America serving what they call "Wooster Street" Pizza. If you know anything about pizza, Wooster St in New Haven is to Pizza as Provence is to Rose wine. If said pizza in Small Town USA is made in a microwave with a name like "Wooster St" then how does that reflect on the original brand in New Haven, CT?
A lot of Old World regions are beginning to crack down on some of these "impostors" that don't follow their regional laws and restrictions in regards to wine making. Case in point with a certain big box retailer's $6.99 Rioja Reserva. Yes that's right $6.99. Our good friend that represents a variety of vineyards in Rioja insists that it's impossible for any wine maker in Rioja to make a Reserva for $6.99 given the strict aging guidelines put in place for a red Rioja to be classified as "reserve". The biggest complaint is that this Reserva is not a good representation of what Rioja Reserva produces thus tarnishing the credibility of the designation.
Going back to our Rose in question....I explain that in my opinion the importer/distributor of the product is going after a certain other brand with their packaging and branding. The "Responsable Juridique" (their title not mine) was very appreciative and offered their help with anything pertaining to the Cotes de Provence region. Pretty cool. I email back and ask if there is anything wrong with the Rose. Their comment, "not just yet. We are investigating all of the paperwork because we did not have this wine on file." Serious wine biz.
If it's on the wine label, it has to oblige by all of that region's AOC, DOC, DOCG, DO etc laws, regulations everything! The percentages of grapes used, possibly the yields, aging requirements, blending, etc. It's pretty serious business and one that could cost the importer/distributor some dollars to rectify. Or it could simply be a mistake in paperwork on both parties. In any event the Rose under the microscope is tasty nonetheless. If it's a fraud of it's indicated appellation then I hope there was enough revenue from the $12 per bottle to pay for a lawyer. Wine happens. Don't mess with the Old School.