The biggest boom in wines right now isn’t red or white — it’s pink. Rosé wines are hot as a firecracker in North Texas, and there’s no end in sight.
“We used to have 12 rosés on the shelf and the maximum price was $20,” says Jonathan (JR) Clark, wine and beer manager at Central Market Fort Worth. “Now we’re carrying 107 different rosés, and they’re from California, Oregon, Washington, Virginia, North Carolina, Chile, Argentina, France, Italy, Spain, Slovenia ... everybody’s making rosé.”
So how did rosés overcome their reputation as trashy pink swill to become this year’s darling of the wine-by-the-pool set, prompting hashtags like #roséallday, #drinkpink, #yeswayrosé and #think pink?
Today’s rosés are not the “blush” wines of our teenage years, which are still widely available, adding to the confusion. “A lot of people were getting rosés confused with the white zinfandel craze of the ’80s. Pink wine was sweet and cloying, and only people who traveled to Provence got the chance to try rosé,” says Clark.
But now we’re all drinking pink. Why? Jasper Russo, director of wine marketing for Sigel’s, says the perception about rosés changed with one seminal event. “Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie bought an estate in Provence about four years ago. They took on as winemaking partners the folks that own Château de Beaucastel in in Rhône, and they make really good wine. That was the tipping point (for rosé wines) because when Miraval rosé came out, I was selling it before it arrived.”
While French rosés are nothing new — and they’re dry, not sweet — Brangelina brought rosés into the public consciousness. “You’ve always had small importers bringing these wines in small quantities, but you also had the perfect storm of a more sophisticated wine environment, more women buying wine, and more restaurants willing to sell rosés,” says Russo.
Contributing to the growth of rosés is the fact that wine has overall become less mysterious. Through social media, and the availability of information on the internet, it’s become more mainstream. “You see movies about sommeliers, podcasts and YouTube channels devoted to wine,” says Daniel Miller, sommelier at Grace in Fort Worth, where they now carry two dozen different rosés. “Years ago, the sommelier was an unapproachable figure in a tux who snubbed his nose at you, and now, the idea of a wine professional being someone you can rely on is more accepted.”
Even so, Miller says rosés can be challenging to sell to some who might not embrace the idea of trying something different. “It’s tough to gently, slowly educate people and to take small steps with them.”
Kent & Co. Wines keeps four to six California rosés on the shelves, and wine director Chester Cox says the wine bar has been going through “case after case after case.” He says his demographic for rosés is, “a little bit of everybody,” but above all, the social media-conscious millennial. “A lot of people follow different wineries and wine people on Instagram and Facebook, and there’s been plenty of in-your-face guerilla marketing for rosé, too. We have one from Santa Barbara I can’t keep in the store, called Liquid Farm. It’s from Happy Canyon and it has its own hashtag - #pinkcrack.”
Richard King, co-owner of Ellerbe Fine Foods, agrees that rosés are having their moment right now. “Rosés have been a big trend in Fort Worth recently, but we’ve loved rosés since we opened our doors — they’re one of the best wines for Texans, year-round.”
That’s a new twist on the old rosé story. In France, rosés are synonymous with the summer season and the lighter foods that go with it. You won’t see anyone drinking pink in the hexagon after September, which isn’t the case in Texas.
“I used to sell my last bottle of rosé in September,” says Russo. “Now I’ve got to have rosé year-round. The heat has a lot to do with it, because it doesn’t cool off until Thanksgiving. Plus I’ve found that with holiday menus, rosés are perfect. You have the red wine flavors — the cherry and the strawberry, and the bright zippy flavors the white gives you, plus the acidity that helps cut through the heavy flavors. We’ve started serving rosés at Thanksgiving. With turkey, it’s fantastic. With pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes — all of those flavors work. I love white wines, but boy, a dry crisp rosé adds another dimension to a turkey dish.”
For all of the attention, rosés aren’t meant to be kept in the wine cellar for special occasions; rather they’re meant to be enjoyed right now — and at the affordable price point of between $10 and $17 dollars, they can be, over and over again.
But don’t mistake their value for a lack of quality, experts say. Making rosé is as complex as producing a red or white wine; some say it’s even more so. “For a long time, people thought rosés were easy to produce and reds were harder, and that’s not true,” says JoAnna Sykes-Darmon, public relations manager with SOPEXA, the food and wine marketing agency that represents the Provence Wine Council. In Provence, where 89 percent of the wine produced is rosé, there is a research institute dedicated to rosé wine — the only one of its kind in the world. “One of the key findings is they’ve identified 30 to 35 different nuances of rosé wine,” says Sykes-Darmon.
“It’s produced in less than 20 hours, but if left too long, it becomes too dark and too strong-flavored. Provence’s distinctive fresh, crisp rosé is extremely powerful and pale in color, but extremely aromatic. This contradiction is why I love Provence rosés.”
Apparently, so do we. The U.S. market represents 43 percent of rosé exports from France, making us the second biggest rosé quaffers in the world, right behind the French.
But how long will our rosé crush last?
“We’ve been in the business over 110 years and in order to do that we evaluate what the market wants and respond to it,” says Russo. “We’ve seen countless fads come and go. It was German, then merlot, then syrah, then grenache. Then natural wines and orange wines. Rosé wines are a 20-year-old overnight success.”
The Rosés of Texas
Not surprisingly, the warm Texas climate makes for growing great grapes for rosés, not unlike those grown in Provence and Italy. Ellerbe Fine Foods carries a new Texas rosé by RLV (which stands for Rancho Lomo Vinyards in Coleman), and one of Central Market’s top-selling rosés, Rosa Blanca Sweet Rosé, is from Lost Oak Winery in Burleson.
Kim McPherson, owner of McPherson Cellars Winery near Lubbock, has been making rosé since 2007. He distributes his Les Copains rosé, made Provence-style with cinsault and rolle, for spice. “I might put a mourvèdre or grenache if we have it, but mainly it’s cinsault and rolle (aka vermintino),” says McPherson. “Last year, I did a tempranillo rosé and we only did like 350 cases, but it was a nice rosé.”
Even though his rosé was listed as one of the top 20 rosés in the country this year by Forbes magazine, McPherson says he makes rosés because he likes them. “I drink rosés all the time. I’m a huge rosé fan. I drink them year-round. I think they go with everything.”
Other Texas winemakers producing rosés are Bending Branch Winery, Brennan Vineyards, Duchman Family Winery, Pedernales Cellars, and Spicewood Vineyards. Unfortunately, these are primarily available at the wineries, not in retail stores.
Five Rosés to Drink Now
“In France, the wines are meant to accompany the foods of the region, and they have particular vineyards making nothing but rosé wine — with great flavors and a bright acidity, which works with food,” says Jasper Rosso, director of wine marketing for Sigel’s.
Here are his top picks.
1. Minervois Cuvée Spéciale Rosé, Château de Paraza, $9.99
“This has a bright, pale red — truly pink — color and captivating flavors of red cherries, strawberries, red currants and spice.”
2. Bordeaux Rosé, Château Haut-Rian, $9.99
“This dry wine is left on the grape skins overnight, resulting in refreshing and inviting notes of melons, strawberries and star anise. Outstanding with charcuterie, goat cheese, summer salads or simply as an aperitif — or with crab or spicy barbecue ribs.”
3. Jongieux Rosé, Domaine de la Rosière, $10.99
“This is a rosé of exceptional freshness, energy and expressive flavors, featuring red currant, strawberry and wild flowers. A pleasant minerality on the finish adds additional complexity.”
4. Les Baux de Provence Rosé, Mas Sainte Berthe, $16.99
“A rosé with elegance and finesse, with pink grapefruit, watermelon, raspberry and mineral spice notes.”
5. Faugères Les Amandiers Rosé, Château de la Liquière, $10.99
“An organic wine, the grapes are hand-harvested and allowed to macerate on the skins to attain its vibrant color. Vivid and bright with flavors of pink grapefruit, watermelon, strawberry, kiwi and spice notes.”
Where to shop:
5757 Greenville Ave.