This summer, locally and nationally and more than ever before, has been a time to “drink pink.”
And there’s absolutely no reason to stop now.
While people in the wine trade have loved rosé forever, “this year it seems like everyone has gotten on board,” said Erica Rokke, wine buyer at Zipp’s in Minneapolis.
Rokke is not the only wine-monger who has sold more rosé than ever before. Craig Ritacco, general manager at Mission American Kitchen, said he has been ordering two cases a week, a lot for a wine that generally is sold by the glass, even as summer wanes.
And for the first time, the wines are selling themselves, said Chuck Kanski of rosé mecca Solo Vino in St. Paul. “The biggest smile I get is when somebody comes in and instantly goes to the rosé section and starts grabbing,” he said. “Prior to this it was up to the wine industry to convince consumers that they were going to like it. Now it has gone viral, with friends and families and acquaintances spreading the word.”
On the other side of the river, Rokke has noticed the same phenomenon.
“We have handfuls of customers coming in, saying, ‘My friends are saying rosé is the thing to drink this summer. Can you help me find one?’ Or ‘My friend keeps talking about how great this thing called rosé is. What is it?’ It’s like every other customer this summer.”
One more thing: “We also saw a lot of people who were into it last year come back interested in spending more money this year.”
The Twin Cities area is not alone in embracing the pink stuff. Rosé sales in the U.S. grew 25.4 percent last year and are growing at least 10 times faster than overall table wine sales, according to Nielsen Research. National retail sales of premium imported rosé wines ($12 or more a bottle) grew by 41 percent in 2014.
The media and marketers have noticed. Check out these magazine headlines this summer: “When Did Rosé, Like, Become a Thing?” in Vanity Fair and my favorite, “Make Way for Brosé: Why More Men Are Drinking Pink” in Details. Toward that end, each case of the tasty Charles & Charles rosé (2,000 cases a year in 2009; almost 50,000 this year) comes with a sticker that reads “Yes, you can drink rosé and still be a badass.”
The whys and wherefores
Many factors have led to this category’s ascension. The first involved what Ritacco calls “a little stigmatism that attached it with white zinfandel, separating itself from that.”
As that cultural shift unfolded, more and more wineries started making what was once the province of Provence, with most pink wines emanating from the south of France. Now they come from anywhere and everywhere.
Kanski, whose store carried more than 150 rosés this summer, has been especially impressed with what’s coming out of central Europe. “You go back five years, and we had two or three German rosés in the market, and none from Austria,” he said. “This year it was close to a couple of dozen options. And no countries are making such a diverse barrage of styles and interesting flavors as Germany and Austria. They are just having a lot of fun with it.”
Perhaps the biggest boost to rosé’s popularity, Kanski added, has come from an unlikely source. “I’ve got to give props to Brad [Pitt] and Angelina [Jolie],” who launched a Provençal brand called Miraval, which took off immediately. “I think a lot of the younger generation found rosé that way.”
It doesn’t hurt that the Miraval is delicious, if a bit spendy ($24 or so). It embodies the best of these wines: fresh and refreshing, packed with cherry/berry aromas and flavors, throwing in lip-smackin’ acidity and a clean finish that begs for more.
In other words, a perfect patio sipper, especially since it’s usually lower (12 or so percent) in alcohol.
But many converts are discovering that rosé can be much more than that: a fantastically versatile food wine (seafood, Asian dishes, appetizers, etc., etc.). Mission American Kitchen now offers rosé year-round — Ritacco’s current favorite: Whispering Angel — and Solo Vino’s Kanski is touting richer rosés such as Regaleali Nerello Mascalese and Domaine D’Arton this fall.
For her part, Rokke hopes that customers will discover how great pink wines such as Broadbent Vinho Verde, La Vieille Ferme (“we’ve sold a ton of boxes”) and a personal fave, Piaggia (exclusive to Zipp’s and South Lyndale) can be with seasonal produce.
“Rosé has been sort of looked at as a hot-weather wine,” she said. “Now that it’s cooling down, we’ll be starting to eat things like butternut squash, which rosé is great with.”
Before long, then, perhaps rosé will be regarded the way it should be: a wine for all seasons.
Bill Ward writes at www.decant-this.com. Follow him on Twitter: @billward4.