The first time I saw a chalkboard outside a café touting "frosé" I said, "Uh oh."
Rosé and I go back a ways. In 2007, I wrote a Wine Spectator cover story that explored a trend of growing sales of high-quality dry rosés and highlighted some of the best examples from around the world. The issue didn't grab much attention, which I like to tell myself means I was ahead of my time.
Now, of course, rosé is cool. While overall sales of rosé in the United States dipped 1.8 percent last year, thanks to the slow decline of white Zinfandel, imported rosé sales grew 44 percent, according to Impact Databank. In fact, imported rosé sales have doubled in the past five years.
I was happy to see all of this. True quality rosé is beautiful wine. It's a gateway wine—fun, easy and appealing to vinous newbies.
But then I saw that chalkboard. Was rosé in danger of becoming passé? Maybe I'm being elitist, I thought. What's wrong with having fun with wine … and serving it frozen from a daiquiri machine? [Sound of teeth grinding.]
Then a wine importer emailed me: "Have you heard anything about a glut of rosé?" He was worried about the category. "I think there is definitely too much supply in the pipeline, and low-cost rosé has impacted our ability to sell quality rosés in the $11 to $14 range."
He said that buyers—both the stores he sells to and their customers—don't seem to care whether the rosé is good. If it's pink and cheap, it sells.
That's the downside of being fun, easy wine. People think a summer sipper doesn't need to be good, just cheap. That way you don't care if you throw it in a daiquiri machine. Rosé, rather than being a category, is becoming a brand.
But the boom has upped rosé's game. A lot of rosé used to be a byproduct, bled from tanks of fermenting red grapes to help make the red wine left behind stronger, with deeper extraction. Now many winemakers see rosé as a goal in itself, and there's a lot of fun they can have with it. Which grapes look best in pink? How long should the wine stay on the skins? That's why we're seeing rosés in all shades on the store shelves. Once there was blush. Now there's onion skin to salmon.
It would be a tragedy to see those lovely rosés lose out to cheap pink plonk.
What do you think? When you buy rosé, do you look for variety and quality? Are you looking for a rosé that makes you think? Or does it just need to go down easily?
By the way, my importer buddy told me I'm behind the times. "Friesling is the new frosé, Mitch."
That sound you hear is just my teeth …