Not too many years ago, the only people drinking rosé were either French or tourists enjoying the sun-kissed lifestyle in southern France. What a difference a decade makes. Today rosé is the fastest growing category of any wine type, with explosive sales increases in the United States of 30% to 50% a year, depending on whose figures you check. The Wine Economist noted in early 2019 that rosé sales are growing at 40% a year.
Why is rosé wine suddenly everyone’s favorite summer drink? And, increasingly, also enjoyed the rest of the year with appetizers and light meals? One theory is that rosé is a red-ish wine that appeals to hard-core red wine drinkers. People who dismiss white wines as insubstantial or wimpy often warm up to rosé. And rosé is a great compromise when half the table wants a bottle of red, and the other half wants white. Rosés are typically less alcoholic than red wines and some white wines, making them an easy-to-drink afternoon aperitif. Women in the United States have especially embraced rosé, but male wine drinkers are also ordering rosé.
The fact that rosés are released annually and expected to be drunk during the first year of bottling is part of the appeal. A bit like the excitement around release of Beaujolais Nouveau each fall, rosé aficionados eagerly await each spring as rosés made from the previous harvest arrive in wine shops. Although some prestigious, more costly rosés can age, most are modestly priced from $10 to $25 and are meant to be consumed immediately. The most popular ones sell out before the end of the summer. Rosé fans spend the late spring and early summer tasting rosés and finding their favorites, well understanding that their favorites may not be available all year. The most popular rosés are dry but with a fruity, floral nose and palate that often suggest strawberries, cherries, rose petals, perfume and sliced fruit. The best rosés balance their fruity, floral palate with a dollop of acidity and some minerality. They can vary in color from light, nearly translucent salmon and gold, to deep pink and nearly opaque light red.
Rosé originated in France, and France produces and drinks more rosé than any other nation. France produces 31% of the world’s rosé, followed by Spain at 23%, the United States at 14% and Italy at 10%. As for consumption, France accounts for the consumption of 39% of all the world’s rosé, the United States drinks 14%, Germany drinks 9%, and Italy and Spain both drink about 6%.Every wine producing region in the world is joining the rosé parade. Rosés are made everywhere from South Africa, Lebanon and Slovenia to Sicily, Chile and Long Island. In Italian the wines are called rosatos, and in Spanish they’re rosados.
Rosés are typically made from red grapes, though what the French call “gris,” or gray-skinned grapes are also used. Even white grapes can be used. In Italy the gold-skinned pinot grigio grape is used to make wines that are apricot colored. The color of every rosé comes from the relatively short period, usually a couple of days, during which the grape juice is left in contact with the grape skins. In making rosé the juice is then drained off the skins before fermentation, which results in a relatively lightly tinted grape juice. In making red wine the skins and juice remain together during fermentation, a much longer period.
Fact: Rosé is never a blend of red and white wine. In some parts of Europe, it is allowable to blend white and red grapes at the beginning of the winemaking process. But rosé is never the result of mixing wines.
Fact: Though rosé is generally inexpensive, there are exceptions. Some southern French estates, such as Domaines Ott, are so well known for their cellar-worthy rosés that their cuvées can command prices of $50 or more per bottle. And there is the famous Sine Qua Non 1995 Queen of Hearts Rosé at sold at WineBid for an unprecedented $42,780. That’s for a single bottle.
If the world looks better to you through rosé colored glasses, there are plenty of delicious rosés to try – and you can enjoy them all year long.