It’s almost August, so chances are you’ve seen at least one glass of a pretty, blush-colored wine make an appearance in your Instagram feed with the hashtags #roséallday, #yeswayrosé, or something of the sort proudly typed beneath. Maybe you’re even among those who’ve contributed to the 55,000-plus #roséallday posts (and counting), captured with your Wölffer Estate’s Summer in a Bottle by the pool or ocean.
The refreshing spirit is experiencing a prolonged heyday, which Vanity Fair attributes to everything from The New York Post to Brangelina. But, while the craze has become sort of a joke, even inspiring comedian The Fat Jew to actually produce his own brand, White Girl Rosé, there is a reason for its popularity. Actually, there are lots of reasons. To that end, we asked rosé lover and expert Carol Todd, owner of Wine Geeks Armonk, to tell us what’s up with everyone downing so much of the pink stuff.
What’s your take on why rosé has become so popular of late?
We’ve actually found a steady increase in rosé sales over the entire seven years that Wine Geeks has been open, and the rosé-drinking season has extended in both directions, so that it’s now selling well from early spring through early fall. It’s certainly our single best-selling category throughout the summer months, which makes me particularly happy because I’m such a big fan. I think that the backlash against certain mass-produced, highly processed white zinfandels has finally become disassociated from the rosé category, and people are finding through experience and word-of-mouth that rosé is a terrific warm-weather alternative to both white and red wine—it’s refreshing, easy-drinking, and it pairs beautifully with everything from burgers to barbecue to clambakes. Since it’s made from red-skinned wine grapes, but vinified with considerably less skin-contact than traditional red wine, it’s a great option for the red-wine drinker who wants to try something a little lighter and colder for the season.
Rosé has become known as the drink of the summer in the Hamptons. Has that affected its place and price point in Westchester?
I think rosé’s massive popularity surge in the Hamptons has definitely influenced awareness in Westchester. We can see that specifically in the runaway popularity of Long Island’s own Wölffer Estate Vineyards rosé. Although we order multiple cases early in the season, it has completely sold out by the end of May for the last two years running. And I think that availability issue is definitely related to its Hamptons popularity. We also have a fair number of local customers who load up on a case or two of rosé on their way out to the Hamptons because they report that they find the Hamptons’ retail selection to be limited and the prices to be higher. Pricing varies widely state by state, but within New York I think it generally stays within a certain narrow industry standard. Variations can be found when wholesale bulk discounts are involved or real estate for shop owners is substantially pricier.
What are the main differences between rosés?
The flavor profile of rosé wines tend to fall within a somewhat narrower spectrum than the general categories of white wines or red wines. That being said, you can still find some meaningful variations. With some exceptions, Provencal rosé tend to be paler and to show traditional notes of strawberry and white peach, with the more prestigious Provencal appellation of Bandol possibly showing more complex floral notes of lavender and rosé petals. Italian rosés are often darker, showing notes of watermelon, cranberry, and cherry. Portuguese Vinho Verde rosés and Basque Txakolinas tend to be slightly effervescent. Rosés from Sancerre in the Loire valley are always made from Pinot Noir and usually salmon colored, showing elegant notes of wild strawberry, red currant, and rosés. These are all generalizations of course, but decent rules-of-thumb if you don’t have first-hand information.
What would you tell people to look for in a rosé?
I’d encourage people to be adventurous and try rosés from all over the world—really test your palate and find out where your preferences lie. Develop a relationship with a wine-shop owner whose recommendations tend to work for you consistently and let them surprise you with your new favorite rosé. And with a few notable (and often pricier) exceptions, rosés are meant to be drunk young. So unless you’re looking at a bottle that’s meant to age, you’re looking for 2015 rosés.
What are your top five rosé picks for this summer and why?
This is so much harder than I thought it would be. Being such a big fan of the category, I have more like 15 favorites, but here’s a few (all of which are available at Wine Geeks) we heartily recommend:
- Domaine Ste. Lucie ‘MiP’ Rosé 2015 from the Cotes du Provence of France, $17.99 This has been a best-seller of ours for years, and it has loyal fans for a reason. It’s a lovely blend of Cinsault, Syrah, and Grenache. While still qualifying as dry, it has tremendously juicy and layered fruit to it, showing pretty notes of wild strawberry and white peach alongside subtle aromas of orange zest and lemon blossom.
- Armas de Guerra Mencia Rosé 2015 from the Bierzo region of Spain. $12.99 This organically grown Spanish beauty is 100 percent Mencia vinified bone-dry, showing notes of red currant, strawberry, and watermelon with nuances of rosé petal, pink grapefruit, and white pepper. A total bargain at just under 13 bucks.
- Castellani Villa ‘La Gazzara’ Toscana Rosato from Tuscany. $16.99 Classic Italian rosé, organically grown, made from Sangiovese with a slightly deeper jewel-tone and notes of crisp watermelon, Bing cherry, wild strawberry, cranberry and wildflowers. My favorite recommendation to go with any kind of a red sauce, because I also detect a subtle hint of tomato vine on the nose. And anything with a red sauce is notoriously difficult to pair with wine.
- Clos Alivu Patrimonio Rosé from the French isle of Corsica. $21.99 Corsican wines are unique because they combine French and Italian influences. This lovely, dry organic rosé is 100 percent Niellucciu, a grape varietal that is closely related to its Tuscan neighbor Sangiovese. Pale and pretty with a strong minerality, showing notes of cherry, raspberry, and wild strawberry balanced with nuances of wildflowers, peach, and nectarine.
- Robert Sinskey Vin Gris of Pinot Noir 2015 from Los Carneros in the Napa Valley. $35.99 This is a great example of a rosé that is ready to drink now, but that can also stand up to some aging in your cellar. Made by notable winemaker Robert Sinskey and bio-dynamically grown, this complex pink Pinot shows notes of peach, apricot, and pink grapefruit with nuances of macerated strawberries, savory herbs, and kaffir lime. It’s also a heavily allocated product, so it can be tough to get your hands on.