Why Has Rosé Become so Popular?

I confess. My first wine that I bought, drank, and served to others was a Sutter Home Rosé. It may even have been called a blush. It was the early 90s.

Yesterday, while at the Club Pickup at Walsh, Co-Pilot and I talked about the current popularity of rosé and how it seemed to come out of nowhere. We tried to figure out why rosé, the wine our mothers drank that really was akin to Boone’s Farm strawberry wine, had returned and just exploded into popularity, and arrived at the general conclusion that the rosés of yesteryear were really sweet and sticky and kind of like the drinks we liked when were in college – those sweet liquor drinks that covered up the cheap vodka or other liquor so that we could actually consume it. We outgrew that taste fairly quickly as we moved into our later 20s and onward. That market also really died off in the later 90s, replaced by better cocktails and beers, and for those with a palate not ruined by cheap rosé, wine.

But these days rosé is being made thoughtfully, and it seems that attention is being paid to making it something better. In several of the winemaker interviews I have been doing, part of the discussion has centered around making rosé not as a byproduct of making red wine through bleedoff, but rather purposefully making a rosé that is delicious, that showcases specific grapes, and makes a good wine.

So of course my android phone is always in my pocket and google is always listening. And thus, an article about rosé appeared in my feed. In this article, a Canadian wine critic discusses exactly this topic, why rosé has reappeared, become popular and is so different from our parents’ rosé. Of course she is talking a lot about Canadian rosé wines, and a little bit about France and then Kim Crawford. I haven’t had any of these wines, but I like her discussion points. The link is to a transcript of the interview on a morning news show.

What’s different? We’re using different and interesting processes to make our rosé:

You know, it has everything. It has flavour, it has food versatility and yet it doesn’t have the heavy oak or alcohol that we sometimes find in big reds or even in some of the whites. So it’s very versatile and it has come a long way. It has really changed since what we may have remembered from the 70’s or 80’s if we still have memories of those days.
It was like alcohol flavoured by bubble gum and that’s where it got a bad reputation. But Rosés have changed in the way they’re made, dry styles, very elegant and they’re worth returning to.
What they’re doing is fermenting it in cool temperatures to keep the freshness of the grapes. Technology has come a long way. The reason why Rosés are so fresh these days is that they can control the entire process.

Basically, we’re using bigger, better grapes, and we have stopped treating rosé like the stepchild wine – what we make cause the grapes aren’t good enough for anything else. While 2018 Virginia monsoons made reds hard to make, those who took good care of their grapes in the vineyard and brought good fruit that was diluted but not rotten into the cellar were able to make some decent rosés with intention. As I shared in yesterday’s post about the Walsh pickup, we have some fun experiments, also made with intention – Walsh’s Mezcla and Arterra’s Malbec Spritz. While Early Mountain had previously produced Soif in a strong growing year, it’s the ideal type of wine to make in a “less-than-ideal” year like 2018. Chilled deep red wine in the summer? Yes, please, after my rosé appetizer.

Best rosés of Summer 2019:

Walsh Family Wine Twin Notch rosé

Walsh Family Wine Plateau (Petillant Naturel style) – a little fizz, a lotta fun


Arterra 2018 rosé of Cab Franc

Arterra 2017 rosé of Malbec and Petit Verdot (I snuck a bottle I tucked away, it’s solid, and if you ask nicely, they may still have a little left to sell).

Early Mountain 2018 rosé

Not Virginia, and hard to find: Herman Story “After Hours” Rosé of Grenache (Paso Robles) – this has had mixed response from various friends I’ve shared it with, but I love it – I think the mixed response is really because it is so different from the rosé we’re used to drinking that it shocks you at first, and you have to think about it. There are some complex layers in this wine that are simply not typical of a rosé, and if you’re not ready for it, you may not like it.

Rosé season is winding down, so jump out there and explore these. There may be a solid stock of them, because so much of the 2018 grapes went to rosé, but the ideal drinking time is the hottest parts of August and early September, for sure.

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