Chilled Ginger Rosé the Pilgrims’ Progress

Devout pilgrims trekking to Santiago de Compostela along the 500km route from Conques in the Aveyron via Toulouse to Saint Jean-Pied-du-Port will soon find themselves sorely tempted by the vine and wine of the Midi Pyrenees.

Saint Foy Abbey at Conques, France (Credit: Wikipedia)

Although crafty vintners are not exactly planning to line the roadside with stalls touting suitably sugared chilled Rosés, to lure hundreds of devout pilgrims from the straight and narrow, they hope to encourage them to dally, sample the hospitality and stay overnight in specially prepared pilgrim accommodation at some of the vineyards of the south-west.

For seeking ways of further enhancing the reputation of its vast terroir the IVSO – Interprofession des Vins du Sud-Ouest has designated a new St Jacques de Compostelle wine-tourism route that starts at Conques and runs through some of the widely-dispersed but famous terroirs of a region extending westwards to the Atlantic border en route to Spanish Galicia, the pilgrim’s destination.

This plan to combine wine and a religious pilgrimage is of course merely resuscitating ancient traditions (it was monks after all that first distilled the region’s famous Armagnac at Condom 700 years ago) but today’s pilgrims will be offered varieties and amenities that their forbears would never have imagined.

For according to Paul Fabre, a director of IVSO, the vineyards of a region where 5000 winemakers produce 450 million bottles of wine on 50,000 hectares of highly varied terroir, have been seriously updating and adapting their produce to modern tastes and lifestyles.

As Jean Francois Roussillon chairman of IFV Sud Ouest recently told Objectifnews magazine, consumer preferences today are for “amusing” wines. The younger drinker, he says, “enjoys more sugary and coloured wines associated with leisure — life is more hectic and eclectic and today’s consumers want fun wines”.  To meet the trend Vinovalie cellars in the Tarn has developed the Rosé Piscine or swimming pool Rosé and the Ginger Rosé, a wine that includes ginger and lemon aromas to give it zest.

“Ginger Rosé has been a tremendous success” says Jean Francois Roussillon who  since June has sold 20,000 bottles with no real marketing effort at all.  Similar success has been enjoyed by Le Secret de Anais from Comte Tolosan, which is described as “a Rosé with 65 g of residual sugar sitting in the bottle”. This same producer also markets a Rosé called Amour de Violette – Love of Violet, a homage to Toulouse and its emblematic flower. This is a semisweet Rosé with an added soupçon of violet to taste.

Apart from new flavours that will surprise, even shock the traditionalists , the winemakers have also been adopting high tech to help entrench authenticity.

This includes the Prooftag developed with and used by the Plaimont vineyard. According to Olivier Bourdet-Pees, technical director at Plaimont winemakers in the Southwest, the device is more elaborate than the Geowine flash code that the vineyard first employed. Prooftag is a relief image of randomly arranged bubbles– a “bubble code” which was developed with Prooftag, a Montauban-based firm. This enables a consumer who downloads free code reader software onto a smartphone, to access  2D or 3D Google Earth views of the exact plot on which the wine in the tagged bottle has grown, together with information about geo-climatic conditions, varietals, vintage, winemaking, and the amount of added sulfates. The database was developed from earlier studies done by Toulouse’s Purpan University and based on thorough soil studies.

A bottle of 2006 Producteurs Plaimont Les Vignes Retrouvées, Saint Mont. (Credit: eltham_mob)

Plaimont says the user pays no more for this interactive labeling and can access the same information without a smartphone on the website –  The first 50 000 bottles carrying the new labels — AOC Saint Mont Château Saint Go rouge 2008, blanc 2010, and Béret noir 2009, will soon be on sale.

The code tag on the bottles not only offers a mine of information about the vineyard and the wine making process, but also tackles the more damaging issue of  counterfeiting. Olivier Bourdet Pees of Plaimont says three million bottles of Plaimont are sold in China each year “although we in France only export 1.3 million bottles of this label to China”. The bubble code will effectively end a significant counterfeiting problem. For more on the scale of the problem and the solution watch the video clip in English below:

Now if the reader has recovered from the thought of Rosé wines with a tang of Violets or Ginger, bear with us while we visit a related development, the move towards bizarre or outlandish wine labels.

If you are a rock music fan for instance and so disposed, you could, for a mere 10 euros, try a recently-developed label called Vin de Bagnole which attempts to emulate the image of “Never Mind the Bollocks”  by the Sex Pistols rock group (no don’t ask).  Other so-called “punk wines” are reportedly available at a store in Lyon called Romain du “Saint Jus”, which is described as a marchand de pinard cosmique.

According to Rue 89’s best wine blogger — Antonin Iommi Amunategui: A new generation of winemakers is taking its lead from the Internet and has developed a range of LOL wine labels (that is LOL as in “laughing out loud” – a term that entered the lexicon thanks to Internauts). These LOL labels, writes the blogger “are wines that aim to deliver a comic or ironic surprise”.

He goes on to list what he considers to be the ten best LOL wines. Here is a sample :

Sitting bulles, or Sitting bubbles — a sparkling redskin wine (ouf).
Sebastien Fleuret a young Anjou winemaker who describes himself as  a ‘micro-vintner’ says he chose the name “as a way of saying that wine is fun. From a marketing point of view, I really know  nothing but  I hope my wine sells because it is good, and not just because it is called Sitting bulles.”

Ceci n’est pas une banane (This is NOT a Banana)
Speaking about her issues with bananas, winemaker Lilian Bauchet said her  Beaujolais Nouveau wine had long been criticised for packing an aroma of banana (due to the excessive use of certain yeasts). But she maintains it  ‘is very good”. Lilian is also responsible for a limited range of other LOL labels : Guns’n’rosé, Pif Purple and Barrique White. Asked why she chose such outlandish  labels, Lilian’s answer was: “It’s a way of saying that I do not want to let all this booze go to  my head, all these grands crus classés  or grands domaines of Burgundy and all the hoopla around their owners is just not my thing.”

To be or not to be – a veritable dilemma (Credit Rue89)

Tout bu, or not tout bu (To be or not to be drunk)
This vintage ‘Shakespearean’ wine by Loïc Roure (Domaine du Possible, in the Roussillon) is  a carefully vinified “surgical assembly of Syrah and Carignan,  and really delicious.”  As to the Hamletian dilemma  – the question does not even arise apparently. (And before you ask here is an academic reference — albeit Indian usage — to the H-word “Hamletian Dilemma and Eliotesque Profundity. Md. Asad Ullah-Al-Hussain. Professor. Department of English. Islamic University, Kushtia”)

Disconcerting or not this LOL labelling is not just a bit of wine nonsense. North American market researchers claim that bizarre names can demand a premium price in the wine world. According to a marketing experiment done by Antonia Mantonakis, a wine researcher at Brock University in Ontario, “participants not only reported liking the taste of the wine better if it was associated with a difficult to pronounce winery name. But they also reported about a $2 increase in willingness to pay”.

Story: Ken Pottinger

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