BRUSSELS, May 28 - Europe's farm chief on Thursday defended her plan to allow winemakers to make rose by blending red and white wine, saying this would put EU producers on an equal footing with non-European rivals.
The plan has angered quality rose makers in France, Italy and Spain -- the world's three leading wine producers -- who say the two methods are completely different and mixing two wine types to make a third is misleading to consumers.
Next month, experts from the European Union's 27 countries will vote to scrap a longstanding ban on rose blending. Most countries say they will vote to end the restriction.
"I have no interest in jeopardising the quality of European wine production," EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said. "But the fact is today, according to the OIV (International Organisation of Vine and Wine), we already import wine that is a melange .
"So my idea would be to give our European producers the same possibility as their competitors outside Europe," she told a news conference.
"Real" rose, made according to traditional methods, could carry a mention on the label, it says. Producers in France, Spain and Italy reject that idea, since it would be left to each EU government to make it compulsory.
Usually, to make a blended rose, white wine is used as the base and coloured with between 3 and 5 percent of red, giving a colour that approximates to standard rose but with a different structure, taste and bouquet, producers say.
Recognised quality rose, however, is made through maceration of black grapes where the wine's colour comes from contact between the juice, initially colourless, and the grape skin and seeds that contain natural pigments.
EU experts on June 19 are due to vote on the Commission's proposal, part of a wider set of rules on winemaking practices.