The Fall and Rise of Rosé

A timely pink reinvention started quietly, a long time ago in a Gallic land far away. Fuelled by celebrities & technology, it’s bringing a former wallflower in from the cold. It’s time to drink pink.

The ginger step-child of Red and White, poor Rosé has taken a beating over the years. Her too-pink complexion never seemed quite right with whatever happened to be on the menu. Fins or feathers? White. Hooves or trotters? Red. Cigarettes? Either’s fine, thanks.

Worse still, Rosé’s characteristically volatile presentation—there are still some real shockers out there to be fair—has given her a reputation for being awkward: bad at a dinner party, a difficult pairing, or at worst cloyingly sweet. No more, Cinderella.

It’s a class thing, obviously. Rosé, you see, was traditionally a poor man’s last resort (we’ve all been there, as it were). France, for example: After a rich ruby or deep purple red had been made for the nobility, or latterly the Academic, Business and Political classes, the vigneron would then pass a white wine over the lingering red skins to produce a paler pink and lower-alcohol wine for the workers.

So…that’s the sad tale of Rosé and how she came to be consumed by the flat-bereted, gap-toothed, ugly, leathery peasants of European yester-yore. Today’s “big reveal,” though, is how she’s going rogue, and set to storm the banquet halls of modern nobility in 2018. Are you sitting comfortably? I hope not.

Today’s “big reveal,” though, is how she’s going rogue, and set to storm the banquet halls of modern nobility in 2018. Are you sitting comfortably?
I hope not.

Firstly, where, when and how did this trend gestate? Elizabeth Gabay, author of the book “Rosé” suggests that the turn of history’s wheel began in France in 2007, specifically Provence and the C?te D’Azur—famous for pink wines, and associated with glamour: pools, beaches, yachts, Cannes, Saint-Tropez, and latterly—somewhat counter-intuitively—feminism in the form of “Millennial Girl Pink Fun.”

Research by Robert Joseph in Wine Business International suggests that increased purchasing power and confidence of women is a strong influence in the rise of Rosé. In the meantime, tyrannical social media and the burgeoning culture of selfies (plus those annoying “my dinner” pictures) have allowed the young, rich and beautiful to exploit what was never properly acknowledged before: Rosé in the glass is fantastically photogenic.

The celebrity factor is also important. Transport yourself back to 2012. Back then Brad and Angelina were still a thing called “Brangelina.” Recall also that in 2012 they released their first vintage of the Proven?al Chateau Miraval, giving Rosé a hitherto unimaginable Hollywood A-list sheen. The first 1,000 cases sold out in just hours, according to Decanter. A year later, the 2013 vintage scored 90 points (outstanding) in a blind tasting in the New York offices of Wine Spectator. Critically acclaimed, elegant, and glamorously packaged, Rosé was becoming quite the debutante, reborn and raised with the iPhone, whose shallow consumers were to offer her free viral marketing on Instagram and Facebook.

The Brangelina wine was made in cooperation with winemaker Marc Perrin—in much the same way as Trump’s self-help memoir “The Art of The Deal” was created in cooperation with jobbing writer Tony Schwartz, if you catch my drift. The wine was composed of the noble Syrah and Grenache, Cinsault and a lesser-known white variety called Rolle. Meanwhile, Perrin was also working on an ambitious Rosé in the Rh?ne Ventoux area. Back in Provence, Sacha Lichine, a successful winemaker-entrepreneur and owner of several Bordeaux Grand Crus was also creating a higher-end Rosé with Chateau d’Esclan, which he’d bought back in 2006. It became for a while the world’s most expensive Rosé at about 80 dollars a bottle.

Now the science bit: The customary drinker’s body in the form of the trigeminal nerve (nose, tongue, palette) triggers expectations for alcohol-reward based on the characteristics of the drink-of-habit. For red, that includes tannins and intense fruit; white wine triggers through acidity and chill. Rosé—particularly if drunk rarely and at inconsistent temperature—may fail to trigger as effectively. A growing trend for Rosé may be simply a new generation with pink-drinking inclinations creating positive physiological feedback loops through routine. We like what we know, and increasingly the young know Rosé.

Whatever the cause, this summer raise a glass to the timely resurgence of the pink pretender. Pick a dry one, flat or fizzy, and serve it well-chilled with fish, meat or veggies. For all the renewed class, elegance, refinement and celebrity, Rosé will go with anything these days.