Posted: Aug 13, 2018
A blue-coloured Spanish wine is making a troubled debut in France, with leading experts challenging the claim that the colour is natural and local winemakers arguing that the description on its label is illegal.
Veronique Cheynier, director of research at the prestigious National Institute of Agricultural Research, cast doubt on the producer’s assertion that the wine is completely natural.
According to the makers of Vindigo wine, launched in France this summer, it starts out as white wine but turns blue after being passed through a pulp of red grape skin, thanks to the natural pigment anthocyanin.
“I don’’t see how anthocyanin derived from red grape pulp can make this wine blue,” Dr Cheynier told the scholarly journal Sciences et Avenir. “Even if anthocyanin-derived pigments that are blue in colour in an acidic medium have been successfully isolated in the laboratory, these pigments are only present in tiny quantities in grape skin pulp.”
Dr Cheynier added that the pigments are “red in an acidic medium, at low pH, and only turn blue in a basic medium, at a pH higher than seven.” The pH value of wine generally falls between three and four.
Jean-Louis Escudier, a researcher at the institute, which comes under the authority of the French government, said: “A wine with a pH higher than four is unstable in microbiological terms, and oxidises much faster. You can see this effect in brick-coloured red wines, which take on an orange hue.”
Mr Escudier added that if the producer’s explanation were true, “that would amount to adding red grape skin pulp to white wine, which is illegal… even for rosé.”
Dr Cheynier said that a definitive answer could only come from an analysis of the wine’s composition.
A spokesman for Vindigo said the colour “is natural, there are no colorants"
Sciences et Avenir reported that another blue Spanish wine, Gik, launched in 2015, was found to have derived its colour from anthocyanin, “but also from the presence of indigo carmine (E132) colorants, whose presence was not explicitly indicated on the label.”
According to the journal, French supermarkets that had imported the wine withdrew it from their shelves. It is available online.
Gik’s producer told the Telegraph that was because under EU regulations, there is no ‘blue wine’ category, so it could not be labelled ‘wine’. The labels have been changed and it is now available online.
Under the rules of the inter-governmental International Organisation of Vine and Wine, to which the EU belongs, colorants are banned from wine. Any product containing them can be labelled as a “wine-based” beverage but not as wine.
The Inter Med Federation of wine producers in southern France objects to the turquoise-tinged tipple being labelled as a wine “de Méditerranée”, which is a “protected geographical indication” in France.
It has written to the producers urging them to remove the offending words, a demand they say they have accepted.
A spokesman for the producers, the Mediterra Vin company, which is headed by a Frenchman, René Le Bail, said: “There was an unintended labelling error relating to the Protected Geographical Indication, ‘de Méditerranée’, which we have withdrawn.”
But the spokesman said the colour “is natural, there are no colorants.”
Mr Bail had to shift production of Vindigo to more easy-going Spain after failing to convince dyed-in-the-wool French traditionalists to make his wine.
By David Chazan
August 10, 2018
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