I think it's time to talk a little bit about rosé wine. As I wrote last week, the springtime weather is just starting to come around, the trees are budding and the days are getting longer — just the perfect introduction for crisp rosé wines.
Interestingly enough, rosé wines have been gaining in popularity over the past 10 years in the American market and there seems no end to the enthusiasm shown for these wonderful releases. Wine drinkers are gaining an appreciation for these lovely wines for a few reasons, not the least of which is the immense numbers of new rosé wines arriving on the retail shelves every spring. Suppliers are beginning, as well, to understand that this boon in rosé awareness is also making them rethink what had once been a lackluster offering in their portfolio as a potential front-runner during the warmer months. It is becoming a win-win situation in the world of wine. Let's take a closer look at rosé wine.
Historically in the United States, rosé wines were not considered serious offerings. When I began in the retail wine business in the middle 1960s a few wineries released offerings one could say resembled liquid cotton candy. With just a few exceptions, including the very lovely Almaden Grenache rosé, almost every release of rosé wine showed low acid, sweet flavors, low alcohol and a thin grip on the palate. The market for rosé was geared for sipping without cuisine, yanked from a bucket of ice and soon forgotten. To compound the problem, these cheaply made, inexpensive, sticky-sweet rosés were being offered in garishly labeled, twist-off half-gallon- and gallon-sized containers that contained sickening amounts of sugar. This was the rosé wine scene and the consumer really had no exposure to much of any other types or styles of domestic offerings.
During my time working in France, my wine sensibility was blown away by the amazing variety of intense, dry, thirst-quenching and quite beautiful cuisine-oriented rosé. Ironically, when I returned home, "blush" wines were just beginning to hit the shelves. Again, "traditionally," these blushed-out wines were almost entirely made from zinfandel grapes. Sutter Home white zinfandel became the iconic label most sought out for these (again) sweeter, thin, low-acid, Kool-Aid kinds of offerings. Yes, the market went crazy over these blushed wines but, personally, especially after having had such wonderful European rosé, I began to seek out solid, cuisine-oriented rosé wines to retail. It wasn't an easy task.
Very fortunately, I was not the only person to begin to have this epiphany. It seemed that many of the restaurants in San Francisco and Oakland were jumping onto the same wagon and were beginning to offer these wonderful rosé wines on their menus at about the same time I had begun to see the possibility of dry rosé as a viable alternative to dry white wine. Secondly, and seemingly overnight, the large wine wholesalers as well as the French importers were beginning to hold trade tastings featuring, exclusively, dry rosé. I really do not understand how this all began to blossom at about the same time, but I am thankful that it did because I firmly believe that rosé wine belongs on every wine lover's table.
The very encouraging development is that now — and this has been the case for about the past 10 years — solid, well-made rosé wines are being made all over the wine-producing areas of the United States, with sometimes-stunning results. Good rosé is now here to stay and we, the wine-drinking public, are going to witness wonderful efforts in the months and years to come.
Lorn Razzano is former owner of the Wine Cellar in Ashland and works there part time. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.