It seems the French are seeing red over Spain’s blue wine. The blue-hued Spanish wine has landed in France and has not gone down brilliantly. Leading experts have challenged the claim that the blue colour is natural, and local winemakers voiced their concern that the label’s origin description is illegal.
Veronique Cheynier is Director of research at the National Institute of Agricultural Research, which is extremely prestigious and is carried in high regard. She has publicly questioned whether the strangely coloured wine, called Vindigo, is completely natural, as the producer insists it is.
Vindigo made its debut in France this summer and, according to its producers, begins its life as a white wine. After it’s passed through a pulp consisting of red grape skin it turns blue because of the natural colourant called anthocyanin. So, that’s the official story, but Dr Cheynier doesn’t think it’s possible.
Dr Cheynier said: “I don’t see how anthocyanin derived from red grape pulp can make this wine blue. Even if anthocyanin derived pigments that are blue in colour in an acidic medium have been successfully isolated in a laboratory, these pigments are only present in tiny quantities in grape skin pulp.”
Does it add up?
She goes on to point out that the pigments are: “red in acidic medium, at low pH, and only turn blue in a basic medium, at a pH higher than seven” while the pH of wine is usually between three and four.
Her colleague, fellow researcher at the French government owned institute, agreed. Jean-Louis Escudier 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.”
They also say that if the producer of Vindigo’s claims are true, then he’s effectively saying that they are adding red grape skin pulp to white wine, which is illegal even with rosé.
The disquiet is such that apparently French supermarkets who had imported the wine from Spain, consequently withdrew it from their shelves. It’s still available online, but Dr Cheynier insists that a definitive answer to its blue colour can only come from a proper scientific analysis of the composition of the wine.
A different blue Spanish wine, called Gik, which was launched in 2015 was analysed. While it was discovered to have derived its colour from anthocyanin, it also contained “indigo carmine (E132) colourants, whose presence was not explicitly indicated on the label.”
The producers of Gik said at the time that this omission was due to EU regulations. They said that there was no category for ‘blue wine’, so it couldn’t be labelled ‘wine’. The labels were subsequently amended and it’s now available online with a full ingredients list.
Under the rules of the International Organisation of Vine and Wine, which has the EU as a member, colorants are totally banned from wine and any product containing them should be labelled as a ‘wine-based’ drink but not as a true wine. On that note, the Inter Med Federation of wine producers in the south of France have demanded that Vindigo remove its labels that say it’s a wine de Méditerranée”, as this is a “protected geographical indication” in France.
It has written to the producers asking them to delete the offending words. They say they have accepted this demand. A spokesperson for the Mediterra Vin company, producers of the blue wine (which is led by a French businessman Rene Le Bail) said: “There was an unintended labelling error relating to the Protected Geographical Indication, ‘de Mediterranee’, which we have withdrawn.”
However, they insist that the colour “is natural, there are no colourants.”
Mr Bail moved production of his blue wine to the more laid-back Spain after failing to convince French traditionalists to make it.