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Rosé: An Important Discussion on Popularity

Rosé: An Important Discussion on Popularity| The Latest | RedThumb Natural Wines

Has rosé jumped the shark? [Spoiler: no, it hasn’t.]

When Arthur Herbert Fonzarelli [aka Fonzie, aka the Fonz] donned a pair of water-skis in 1977 and jumped over a live shark in an episode of the then-wildly popular hit TV show Happy Days, there were certainly reasons to be excited about the stunt. It should go without saying that any opportunity for Henry Winkler to showcase his skiing skills [and bare legs] should be realized, not to mention the universal appeal of summer hijinx, plus sharks. But in retrospect, that moment raised some tough questions: Had Happy Days lost its way? Had the show’s quality dropped off? Had America seen too much? And why was the Fonz still wearing his leather jacket?

Nowadays of course, that phrase isn’t just used to pinpoint the moment a TV show falls off, but really whenever anything – brand, trend, cultural phenomenon – has reached its peak and is on the decline.   

So: has rosé jumped the shark?

A fall from its peak?

I haven’t been hearing any explicit trash talk about our favorite pink wine. But anecdotally, it feels like fewer people are drinking it, ordering it, talking about it, bringing it to the pool party. Gone are the salad days of the mid-2010’s when it was “rosé all day” and frozé machines, and me and the boys were known as “brosé.”  

By the time Brangelina bought Château Miraval and Instagram users had fully curated rosé lifestyles, we’d reached peak national obsession. Loads of producers were adding rosés to bulk up their lineup. People in sales continued pushing for more, more, more. Less desirable grapes were used. The market became flooded. Mistakes were made.  

Here’s the thing: rosé hype isn’t what it was 10 years ago. But when made right, it will always be a deliciously crisp, damn tasty wine. And while Happy Days lasted a respectable 11 seasons, our pink counterpart has been around for more than 2,000 years. Trends are cyclical. Rosé is here to stay.

How to rosé

A little education here: generally speaking, red wine is made with red grapes, and it ferments with the skins on, while white wine is usually made with white grapes [white=green or yellow], and the skins are discarded before fermentation. Rosé splits the difference. It uses red grapes, but it’s made like white wine – less time on the skin. Thus, the blush.

There’s a common misconception that darker color rosés are too sweet, taste cheap, or just plain bad. Maybe because Provence, one of the world’s oldest and most famous rosé regions, typically produces lighter, pale rosés. [I particularly enjoy Fleur de Mer and Gaussen Bandol.] But because of its popularity, many winemakers [bless their hearts] try to imitate the Provençal style, copy only the lighter-is-always-better adage, and produce pale-colored, wholly unsatisfying wines.  

Blush around the world

In fact, the French version is so ubiquitous that we’re calling all of these wines by their French moniker. The Italian version, “rosato,” is usually made with grapes only found in Italy  – Sangiovese, Canaiolo, Montepulciano, bunches more. These Italian varieties are typically darker and often have strong fruit notes [reminder: “fruit forward” doesn’t mean sweet]. A Spanish rosado might be the product of Tempranillo or Garnacha grapes. [You know one of our favorites.] Keeping it domestic? West coast variations might use Pinot, Cabernet, Zinfandel, or Merlot grapes. This is just a drop in the bucket. This wine can be made from any of the hundreds of red grape varieties.

Natural rosé

In the natural wine world, the blushing bottle occupies an even wider array of styles and flavors. The lack of traditional expectations allows winemakers to follow their instincts and make the best wines they think possible with the grapes they have. This can mean blends of grapes not traditionally grown together, and in the most interesting cases co-ferments of red and white grapes that, while maybe not technically a rosé, certainly occupy the same space on a wine list. The flavors and textures offered by these wines go far beyond the pale pink, light-bodied Provence styles that have dominated the last few years. 

The sheer volume of grape options, growing regions, and differences in styles and tastes makes rosé tasting endlessly intoxicating. So for now, with summer right around the corner, keep those water-skis at the ready, and rosé all day.