Walk by any sidewalk cafe in Manhattan, Houston, San Francisco, Atlanta, or Milwaukee and count the glasses of pink wine on the tables. My friends, we are in the midst of a Rosé invasion and all that I can suggest is to surrender.
Being in and around the beverage biz for three decades (but who’s counting…) I’ve seen my share of trends and fads but one of the most compelling and welcomed is the rise of Rosé.
Three decades ago Rosé was a fringe category with anyone serious about wine occasionally waxing poetic about the wines from Tavel and the casual wine drinker absorbed in Mateus, in its narrow-neck, flask-like bottle, or Lancers. (I’ve lost the millennials but my contemporaries just got a chuckle.)
In the mid 80s we saw that rise of White Zinfandel. Sutter Home is to be credited, or blamed according to your point of view. Sutter Home made White Zin as a “mistake” in the 70s and then soon ruled the American wine world. Other brands follow, as is the wont in the industry, and there wasn’t a bar or restaurant in America that didn’t serve White Zinfandel in 1990.
There is no doubt that White Zin was the gateway wine for many rookie wine drinkers who would in short order deny ever drinking the stuff. “Serious” wine drinkers had moved on from White Zin by the middle 90s. Pink wines were passé and no wine aficionado, “or want-to-be wine aficionado,” would be caught dead in public with a glass of pink wine.
Then came the new millennium – perhaps it was a Y2K bug or just a coming of age but Rosé was starting to gain traction. By 2005 Rosé was in vogue. Each May and June the latest crop of Rosé would hit store shelves and by the time we settled into July much of it was gone. Wine lovers had not simply embraced Rosé, they devoured it.
By 2010 nearly everyone was drinking the pink stuff. Importers of Provence Rosé, as well as other Euro appellations, were begging their trusted producers to make to make more Rosé while also looking for additional reliable brands to feed the growing demand. The South of France, Provence in particular, is the inspirational home of fine Rosé. In California many producers who shunned Rosé in the post White Zin backlash were back making Rosé (if even just for themselves).
Today the pink stuff couldn’t be hotter and it has become a bit of a victim of its own success. Provence Rosé is now ubiquitous. the demand has out-paced the natural supply. Brands that were once reliable are now pale pink in color with muted flavors as well. Further painful is that the once inexpensive patio-pounding Rosé has crept up to $20 and beyond in some cases. Unless you know the Rosé well and are willing to hand over $25 a bottle you are better served to explore labels sold at $15 and under. Part of the undeniable charm of Rosé is it’s cheap and cheerful status. When a simple Rosé sells for the price of a non-vintage Champagne I look elsewhere.
Luckily, the wine making world has stepped up to fill the growing demand. Now you can find lovely Rosé from South America, Spain, and most every region in Italy from Veneto to Sicily. Most of the Rosé that I have sampled from these nations are sold at sensible prices.
Go out and get yourself some Rosé for the weekend. It’s the official, unofficial wine of summer.