Why We All Need to Chill Out About Rosé
We’re sure wine industry people have been quietly mocking the frenzy for rosé wine for years now, but why have we, usually not-too-discerning drinkers, decided that enough is finally enough?
Photo via Flickr user Mr.TinDC
Rosé has gone too far.
We're sure wine industry people have been quietly mocking the frenzy for rosé wine for years now, but why have we, usually not-too-discerning drinkers, decided that enough is finally enough?
Maybe it's the fact that twice in as many weeks I've run into The Fat Jewish, or some equally depraved creature, shouting about rosé while standing next to a person wearing a full-size rosé mascot costume.
Or maybe it's this article from The Guardian that revealed that rosé sales in the UK have doubled, doubled in the last year, mostly through sales of a kind of rosé slushie called frosé. First of all, if a wine trend is driven by slushie sales, that's a red flag. Also, these are British people—they're supposed to know better.
I'm not saying I categorically dislike rosé; in fact, it can often be quite tasty. There was a time not so long ago when if you gave me a cup of ice, some seltzer, a few grapefruit slices, and a box of rosé, I'd be the drunkest person on the boat before it even raised anchor.
But in the end, it was articles like the one in The Guardian and this one in Newsweek that describe brosé—a word describing the phenomenon in which men with fragile masculinities condescend to drink something that is pink, the color of a vagina, god forbid—as a "movement" that ultimately pushed me over the limit. The piece even describes rosé's popularity as "sparked by men standing tall and shattering gender stereotypes." Have you heard anything more depressingly of-the-moment than that sentence? Men, bravely, boldly casting off the yolk of their systematic oppression by raising a glass of shitty wine? And somehow, almost as an afterthought, taking credit for a drinking craze that has been driven by women for more than 40 years.
Suffice to say that boys making a big deal out of drinking a pink beverage is not subverting gender stereotypes; it's enforcing them. If drinking rosé really counts as taking a courageous stance for equality, then we should really think about raising the bar a little bit.
Anyway, I digress.
While rosé continues to pick up steam in the UK, we here in America have a lot to answer for.
Lauren McPhate is a wine expert who worked in the industry in wine-crazy Hong Kong for years before returning to New York three months ago to take a position as the fine wine specialist at Tribeca Wine Merchants. She was, to put it mildly, shocked by what she found here.
"I've been reading about this rosé phenomenon in trade media for the past year or so from Hong Kong, but the gist was essentially 'Americans are drinking more rosé.' Period," Lauren explained. "Then, I came back to the US and find out that Americans are not just drinking more rosé, they are actually guzzling it by the buckets. They cannot get enough, and more than that, it's not one demographic or another—it's everyone!"
"I have never seen a wine trend so pervasive," she says, and after watching American wine-buyers picking shelves of rosé dry, she has some pretty strong opinions: "I am pretty horrified by this whole rosé thing,"
"No one," she says, "cares so much about which rosé they're drinking so long as it's pink, cold, and not sweet… People will drink anything. You point and say 'rosé' and they load it up by the case. By the case! The horrified part comes because most of it is just crap."
Lauren says that she would guess that rosé sales have more than doubled in her store: "We're seeing more people picking up cases instead of the odd bottles"—though when we reached out to her boss, the well-known wine expert Ben Aneff, he was skeptical.
"I think rosé was starting to hit trend last year," she says, "but this year it's completely hit the masses."
Ah, the masses.
While the wine sellers at places like Tribeca Wine Merchants, with their elite clientele, may think rosé will "peter out" by next year, talk to the people that actually sell most of America its wines, and the news isn't so promising for those of us eagerly awaiting the move away from rosé.
Do you know what the biggest wine seller in the United States is? It's Costco. And at Costcos around the country, rosé is flying off the shelves.
Still, Siobhan Clements, Costco's wine buyer for the Northeast region, doesn't see what all of the fuss is about. She thinks the booming of popularity of rosé is just a natural byproduct of people becoming more informed about wine: "I think people are realizing that rosés are a good alternative," she says, "and that even though it is pink, that does not mean it is sweet."
While Siobhan claims that Costco is buying more rosé than before—the company doesn't disclose exact sales numbers—and selling all of it, she thinks there is still "room for growth" in the rosé market, and she's not alone.
Heather Meyer is a regional manager for Wine Monger, a wine importer and distributor that specializes mainly in German and Austrian wines—and the Austrians make a lot of rosé. She's been working in the wine industry since 1999 and says she's actually seen the trend building "on and off for the last five years," though these last two years were the craziest.
In some ways, the rosé boom has been good for her business. She's bothered not that people drink rosé, but that they all want the same kind: light pink wine from Provence, "the lighter the better." She says they're missing a lot of the good stuff. "I don't love trends … You give a little information to a lot of people who then think they have a lot of information."
Still, the rosé craze did come in handy this year for her company. Last year they had trouble moving bottles of a small-batch Holzapfel Austrian rosé. This year, she says they sold every bottle they had left over, "probably 100 cases worth." It sold out "easily." And she says another rosé that they've always carried sold out "two or three months sooner than I expected."
So Meyer concedes that in some ways the rosé craze can be helpful for people in the wine business. "But," she says, "it can also hurt you."
"For example, out in the Hamptons," she explains, "these people are buying $60 bottles of Provençal rosé—that there are hundreds of thousands of cases of—and drinking it like water. Which is great, but is there actually a trickle down to the smaller producers and winemakers?"
Meyer also thinks there is room for the market to grow but not in the same way it's been going.
"I don't think we've reached peak rosé. I would love to see the market grow past the summer, and grow past people wanting rose from Provence, or France, or people just wanting light light light," she says, "I would love to see people be more adventurous with wine in general. Especially rosé."
So maybe the trend isn't over, but at least from the view in rosé-crazed New York City, we just can't go on like this anymore. Can we? Do we want to go on like this anymore?
Every person I spoke to was eager to offer up their favorite alternatives, from light-bodied reds to a nice Muscadet with shellfish, and in the service of education we'd like to recommend our own suggestion for what you should drink instead of rosé: literally anything else.