As the weather’s getting warmer, we’ve seen more and more bottles of pink wine lining store shelves, and it got us thinking — why is rosé so popular right now? Just a couple of years ago it seems like prosecco and pinot grigio were our go-to summer sippers, but these days rosé is so ubiquitous, it’s practically a lifestyle. It’s not just in our heads. According to Nielsen, sales of rosé last year grew by 53 percent from 2016. One restaurateur we spoke with (Meaghan Hughes, the wine director at Alchemy on Martha’s Vineyard) shared that sales of rosé at the restaurant actually grew by 6,000 percent a couple of years ago, and it’s now one of the top three wines they pour. Whether you already #RoséAllDay or just want to learn more, here’s what you need to know about the pink drink of summer.
Not Your Grandma’s Rosé
For a lot of us, our earliest memories of pink wine are the ice-filled glasses of white zinfandel that older relatives who “don’t usually like wine” would sip. While it did become incredibly popular in the ’70s and ’80s, it also basically ruined rosé, according to Mark Spivak, a former certified sommelier, wine expert, and food blogger of Eat Drink Journey. “When white zin caught on, sales of rosé collapsed,” he says. “Dry rosé wasn’t sweet enough for white zin drinkers, and serious wine drinkers didn’t want to be seen in public with a glass of pink wine.”
These days, dry rosé has made an impressive comeback. “I first started noticing small rosé productions at boutique California wineries in Santa Barbara County and Paso Robles,” says Jessyca Frederick of Wine Club Reviews. “They’d sell out so quickly that if you didn’t get your member’s allotment in the first few months, you were out of luck for a whole year. This created a strong demand profile among wine influencers (not the social media kind — the kind that tell their friends what to drink).”
This was about five years ago, and since then, rosé has picked up steam. These days, the style tends to be on the dry side, with classically acidic, mineral-ly bottles hailing from Provence and Tavel and more fruit-forward (but still dry) bottles coming from California and New Zealand.
Pretty and Aspirational PICS
They say don’t judge a book by a cover or a wine by its label art, but we all do it, right? According to many of the experts we interviewed, social media image sharing and innovative marketing have played a huge part in rosé’s rise to success. Just ask Sarah Billstein of Rosé All Day, a rosé lover and the co-creator of National Rosé Day (the second Saturday of June), who shares aspirational rosé lifestyle images on Instagram. “The rosé lifestyle is pretty people enjoying pretty drinks in pretty places, and those aspiring to do so… When people hear rosé, they think of good memories, having fun, and being stress-free,” she says.
Sarah Tracey, a sommelier in Brooklyn and blogger at The Lush Life, agrees. “The wine is so pretty! It photographs well in the age of all things Millennial Pink,” she tells us. “While you may not be jetting off to the French Mediterranean, it’s simple to pick up a bottle of rosé and feel like you’re a part of that lifestyle.”
THAT Magical merchandise
Innovative rosé merchandising, with everything from edible rosé treats (remember Sugarfina’s rosé gummies?) to T-shirts emblazoned with the popular Rosé All Day slogan, has helped bring the wine from plain old drink to lifestyle statement. Even its packaging has had a bit of a makeover, “You’ll find rosé sold in pouches, small and large format bottles, and in the form of frozen popsicles, ice cream, chocolate, and Jell-O,” says Billstein.
Unlike pricier varietals of wine, rosé is very affordable. “Even the ‘fancy’ rosés rarely break $25 a bottle. It’s easy to find good rosé in the $10-15 price range. This means everyone can afford it and everyone can splurge on it,” says Frederick. The main reason for this is that rosé doesn’t need to be aged. In fact, any bottle that’s more than a few years old is probably going to taste a little funky. Because it doesn’t need to spend a lot of time sitting in a cellar before it can be sent to stores, it’s easy to produce, and wineries can quickly reap profits from the current vintage.
Pairs Well With… Almost Anything
It’s affordable and pretty, sure, but that still wouldn’t save rosé if it weren’t so darned drinkable. While you can definitely enjoy rosé year round, it’s especially great in the summer, when its crisp acidity, light fruitiness, and very subtle sweetness pairs with the foods we tend to eat in the warmer months, including shellfish, seafood, and crisp salads.
the Perfect Bottle
Most rosé is very drinkable, but as with all wines, there are certain things to look out for.
Say #YesWayRosé to:
- classic dry rosé from Provence
- fruity but dry rosé from “New World” wine regions
- local, small-batch wineries
- dry sparkling rosé from Spain, Italy, and Greece
Say #NoWayRosé to:
- gimmicky rosé (these wine brands often spend more on marketing and a fancy label than they do on ensuring they’re producing a quality product)
- rosé labels that don’t list the grape varietals used to make the wine
- rosé blended from more than five types of grape varietals
- wines like pink moscato and white zinfandel (most of these wines are made with low-quality grapes, because any off flavors are masked by the intense sweetness. If you do like sweeter wines, try an off-dry Riesling, bubbly Lambrusco, or slightly fizzy Moscato d’Asti instead)
Most importantly, all of the experts we spoke with said that the best way to find a bottle you love is to taste, taste, and taste some more. Everyone has different preferences, so only by trying lots of different types of rosé can you find the wine that you’ll want to drink all summer long.
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(Photos via Ekaterina Molchanova and webphotographeer / Getty Images)