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Who to Thank for Rosé, the Sip of Summer


July 1, 2016 – Walk into any wine shop or grocery store with a wine section and you will almost certainly see a display of rosé wines.  At least that’s the story in California and we’re betting plenty of other places in the U.S. too, otherwise, sales would not be skyrocketing like they are.

We bless millennials every time we prowl the aisles or check out each of the pink bottles lined up on end caps.  Young women in that group, defined as 18-35, have discovered rosé and as recent research shows, they are not timid drinkers!  Born somewhere in the 1980s or 90s, they didn’t cut their wine-drinking chops on White Zinfandel, a clever, overlysweet creation in the 1970s by Sutter Home. In its defense, it was a gateway wine for many people and anyway, if someone prefers sweet wine, have at it.

However, rosé wine has elegant roots in Provence.  Like White Zin, Provençal rosé comes from red grapes and has the same delicate pink hue, but that’s where the similarity stops.  Rosé from Provence is very dry and easily paired with a wide variety of foods.  The grape might be cinsault, syrah, mourvèdre or grenache or a combination thereof.  All those varieties have rich red skins and are used to impart depth of color in many blends.  The rosé soft pink is a result of limited contact with the skins.

© Whispering Angel

© Whispering Angel

For the past 10 years or so, the Provençal rosé category has been growing rapidly partly due to the dedication of Sacha Lichine, the son of the fabled Alexis Lichine who died in 1989, who disposed of his father’s Bordeaux estate to buy Château d’Esclans in Provence.  He bet the farm, or in this case the Château on upscale rosé for an upscale clientele.  His creation “Whispering Angel” has become the summer sipper of the tony crowd in the Hamptons where New Yorkers escape for the summer.  The wine was so popular that there were news stories about a shortage as recently as a couple of years ago.  Whispering Angel has gone from 10,000 cases to 415,000 cases sold in 102 countries in just 10 years.

Whispering Angel sells for around $20 while another stunning rosé from Lichine, Garrus, retailing for $100 is the priciest rosé on the market and is in short supply.   Another wine that has added to the glamour of summer pinks is Brangelina’s (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie) Miraval also from Provence.  Like Garrus, it is impossible to find.

© Moët & Chandon

© Moët & Chandon

California wineries are scrambling to join the pink team, often with varietal specific still wines and sparklers.  Even the legendary house of Moët & Chandon is getting in on the act with a special Champagne made to be served with ice.  I-C-E!  Mon Dieu!  Champagne served over ice is sacrilege.  However, the company’s Moët & Chandon Ice Imperial Rosé is made specifically to mellow as the ice melts but drinkers are expected to finish off a glass before it melts completely.  We’ll do our best!  Three cubes in a wide glass is the recommended way to serve.  Production is very limited and it is being sold to select on-premise locations in Miami and Los Angeles only for sipping on roof tops or by the pool.  If the location has neither roof top bar nor pool, it had better be a very trendy watering hole to get on the list.