It’s a wintertime conundrum. While no one thinks twice about drinking white wine in sweater weather, rosé vanishes from minds—and most liquor stores—as soon as the leaves start to fall from the trees.
The reasons are many. Any rosé expert will point to the damage pink wine sustained at the hands of white zinfandel—a juicy fruit-sweet tipple that was ubiquitous for a spell. Also, many producers of rosé wine are small, bottling only a limited supply, and once it’s sold, that’s it until next year, as the wine isn’t intended to age. In fact, most restaurants and retailers have to place orders for their summer stash in March—the majority is allocated then, and even if a retailer wanted to restock later in the year, they could very well be out of luck.
But all that is changing. Sales of rosé wine increased by 50 percent in the past year alone, as more people discovered the crisp, dry wine is pleasing to both white wine lovers and full-bodied red wine drinkers. And many producers are taking notice, making more wine to slake the rosé craze.
“People are getting used to the fact that this isn’t your grandmother’s blush wine,” says Emily Nicholson, wine manager at Joppa Fine Foods in Newburyport. “This summer, [rosé] was vastly more popular than last summer, and last summer it was vastly more popular than the summer before.”
Nicholson says Joppa’s customers have become so attached that, for the first time this year, the shop is planning to carry a small selection of pink wines through the winter. While it won’t rival the prominence the bottles got over the summer months in a central rack brimming with selections, it’s possible that the commitment will grow if the experiment works.
That’s good news. This versatile bridge wine can pair even with the notoriously tough offerings of a holiday table—plus it looks really pretty in a glass. While there are many different kinds of rosé, produced by wineries around the world, they all have one thing in common. Rosé is crafted from a red grape—producers allow the grape skin to come in contact with the juice for a short time, which gives the wine its blush hue and also contributes more weight and tannins than are found in white wine, where skin contact is avoided. It is not, as some people think, a mixture of red wine and white wine, though a touch of white can occasionally turn up in a blend —especially in Provence, the capital of rosé.
“People are often surprised to learn that rosé is often made from grape varietals they are already familiar with,” Nicholson says. Grapes like Pinot Noir, Grenache, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon are commonly bottled in a rosé style.
“Rosé is the best of both worlds—it has the crisp acidity of a white and the round mouthfeel and structure of a red,” Nicholson says. That means it can complement everything from roasted vegetables to turkey all the way to a standing rib roast, serving as a refreshing change during a marathon holiday meal.
It also has the benefit of being very reasonably priced. One of the finest rosés in the world, Chateau D’Esclans Garrus Rosé, costs around $100—a bargain compared with a top white Burgundy. Yet a terrific pink wine can be had for much less—under $20, if you’re willing to explore some small producers. For example, Joppa carries Les Chemins de Bassac Isa, a luscious bright blend of Grenache, Mouvedre, and Syrah from Languedoc, France, that is elegant, beautifully balanced and complex, for just $16 and a tangy Scaia Rosato from the Veneto in Italy for just $14.
“Rosé is an elegant gift and you won’t break the bank,” agrees Juliann Gold-Gambino, whose company Gambino Prosecco produces a refreshing beautifully hued wine from Northern Italy called Jules Rosé Sparkling Wine, available at many retailers and restaurants around the North Shore. She says consumption of rosé grew more than 50 percent in the United States just in 2015 alone—with good reason. “Sparkling rosé is so versatile,” Gold-Gambino says. “It has body and structure—so there is much complexity to a rosé.”
Joppa Fine Foods
50 Water Street #305
The Tannery, Newburyport
Gambino Prosecco Sold At:
The Wine ConneXtion
Essex Wine Exchange