For several summers running, a collective shudder has run through greater wine-loving New York over news reports of an imminent shortage of rosé. What? No more Whispering Angel?! Absent crisp, refreshing, quaffable pink—a wine the very color of fun—what would Hamptons beachgoers sip through sultry afternoons? In fact, the numbers tell the tale: U.S. consumers have been on a recent tear to buy ever more rosé. Last summer, Nielsen reported a 53 percent growth in rosé sales (by volume) over the previous year.
To meet the New Yorker’s growing demand for rosé, a pop-up Rosé Mansion is opening July 12 (through early October) on Fifth Avenue with 14 rooms celebrating the pink wine and enough wine education to challenge your interest span after a couple of glasses.
New Yorkers, and the rest of us who have appropriated rosé as our warm-weather beverage of choice, are taking a page from a playbook written in the south of France decades ago. The 1960s saw a sea change on the Côte d’Azur, as adventurers around the world with greater income to spare, discovered an irresistible lifestyle of leisure on this sunny coast. The yacht harbor in Saint-Tropez filled, and glasses filled with local pink wines. François Matton of Château Minuty, a winery overlooking the Saint-Tropez peninsula, explains, “The wine’s reputation is closely linked to the French Riviera story. Visitors discovered the local way of life—relaxing on the beach, appreciation of shared moments around a table of good food with rosé. The French Riviera and Saint-Tropez are unique places, and rosé perfectly reflects the spirit.”
More than any other kind of wine, rosé has the ability to summon scenes of an easygoing lifestyle—the café-table moment in Provence. And yet, we were very slow to embrace the trend in the U.S. Credit a winemaking accident in California for making pink problematic for people who were serious about their wine. In 1975, Bob Trinchero, whose family estate is a Napa Valley icon now, was attempting to make a dry white wine out of red grapes (Zinfandel, in this case). Since the juice in most red grapes is, in fact, not red, the process involves pressing it off the skins quickly (it’s extended skin contact that gives red wine its color) and fermenting it like a white wine. That year, though, the fermentation stuck, as they say: The yeast died before consuming all the sugar in the juice, leaving the wine slightly sweet. Trinchero bottled it anyway, and Sutter Home white Zinfandel was born. The enormous success of that wine (to this day) identified pink wine as a sweet, syrupy starter drink for years to come.
Funny enough, though, rosé itself was born as a wine not unlike this, more than 2,000 years ago, which was also when it gained its toehold in the south of France. “Rosé is the oldest wine in the world, and its production in France dates back to 600 B.C.,” Matton points out. “When the Greeks arrived in Marseille, they brought with them the culture of the vine.” It seems, though, they didn’t fully understand how to leave the juice on the skins to macerate long enough to pick up dark color. “They were making a rosé wine that was probably sweet,” he says. Today, of course, rosé in Provence must be dry, by regulation.
And American drinkers, especially on the coasts, have clearly shed their notion that pink wine is invariably sweet. They’ve also gotten past gender stereotypes associated with the color—just call it “brosé” for its legions of male fans.
Fueling our thirst for dry pink wine is the fact that, in the last decade or so, the best versions have been getting astonishingly good. At the epicenter of this evolution in quality is Château d’Esclans, a winery in the heart of Provence, acquired by Sacha Lichine in 2006 and devoted to rosés—which now include the aforementioned, wildly popular Whispering Angel and the estate Rock Angel, Les Clans, and Garrus (the latter being the first rosé in the world to be priced at $100). Lichine says simply that his goal was “to make rosé grand.” It was no small ambition. The cellar technology they invested in reads like the equipment wish list of the best wineries worldwide: state-of-the-art sorting machines, sophisticated cooling and refrigeration systems, temperature-controlled barrel fermentation systems, and more.
On California’s Central Coast, Fintan du Fresne, winemaker for the new, all-rosé label Malene, sees an exciting quality curve too. “Rosé here used to be a byproduct of red winemaking. ‘Bled’ from fermenters to concentrate the red wines [a process called the saignée method, from the French term “to bleed”], the juice was over-ripe, dark, tannic, and lacking acidity. As we’ve started to craft rosés with intent [that is, the grapes are meant to be made into a rosé from the beginning], we’re picking specifically for rosé and pressing it like a white wine, and the resulting rosés are pale, delicate, and acid-driven. Delicious!”
Bottles We’re Loving This Summer
Blackbird Vineyards 2017 Arriviste Rosé Napa Valley
Rose petal aromas, vibrant strawberry and cherry flavors, and beautiful minerality on the finish ($28).
Château d’Esclans 2016 Garrus Côtes de Provence
The bar-setter—powerful, with oak integrated into red fruit flavors brightened with lemon ($100).
Château Minuty 2017 “281” Côtes de Provence
Complex and delicately mouth-filling, with fresh ocean-breeze aromas, peaches, and a burst of lemon on the finish ($79).
Chêne Bleu 2017 Rosé IGP Vaucluse
Notes of rose petal, cherry, and citrus layered with lovely, mouth-filling textures ($28).
Clos du Val 2017 Estate Pinot Noir Rosé Carneros, Napa Valley
Tart raspberry, sweet watermelon, and an orange-peel kick on the finish ($30).
Gran Moraine 2017 Rosé of Pinot Noir Yamhill-Carlton, Oregon
Palest peach–colored, but vibrant with delicate florals, grapefruit, white peach, watermelon, and crushed stones ($28).
Inman Family 2017 Endless Crush OGV Estate Rosé of Pinot Noir Russian River Valley, Sonoma County
Wild strawberry and watermelon edged with crushed herbs and citrus zest ($38).
Malene 2017 Old Vine Rosé of Grenache Santa Ynez Valley
Complex, mouth-filling, and intense, with rounded citrus and tropical notes ($35).
The 50 by 50 Rosé of Pinot Noir Carneros
Bright, clean, and silky, with peaches and tart cherry flavors ($23).