As consumers become more sophisticated about wine, restaurant operators are seeing a growing respect for and interest in rosés, primarily the dry varieties. These refreshing wines—which tend to get a boost when temperatures get warmer—offer a range of flavors and flexibility in food pairing that’s making them a new favorite at many establishments.
It helps that the overall quality of rosés has risen, says Chris Tang, wine director at San Francisco-based restaurant Baker & Banker. He says that customers with an open mind and an adventurous side tend to seek out rosés. Baker & Banker carries three rosés, priced at $12 a glass and $35 to $75 a bottle.
Rosés tend to be more popular with people who have a particular appreciation of and education in wine and food, says Bretton Lammi, sommelier at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas. The 2,995-room resort carries a diverse section of 18 different rosés property-wide.
The Cosmopolitan’s featured restaurants—Comme Ça, Jaleo and Estiatorio Milos—all feature rosés by the glass, priced from $8 to $12; bottles of rosé sell for $30 to $50. Each of the Cosmopolitan’s signature restaurants offer rosés from the home country of their cuisine, so some of the highlighted wines are from France, Spain and Greece.
SHEDDING ITS TOO-SWEET REP
More restaurants and bars are starting to carry better rosés now flowing in from various countries and regions, with France and California often leading the list in the U.S. Customers are learning to appreciate them, with many guests “spreading the word and the knowledge about the serious winemaking behind [rosés],” Lammi says.
This has been key to the wine’s increasing visibility and popularity, because rosé had a bad rap among U.S. consumers. The wine came to fame here in the 1970s, partially through off-dry, iconic brands like the Portuguese Mateus, packaged in a unique, curvy bottle. That was followed by the 1980s rise of white zinfandel, known for its blush color, sweet taste profile and value price.
White zin was—and still is—quite popular. But it’s never been considered a wine lover’s wine, and its sugary, unsophisticated image not only made it difficult for operators to sell the classic red zinfandel, it also obscured some of the subtle flavors and pairing synergies that drier versions of rosé offer.
That’s why many guests today still think that any pinkish-hued wine will be sweet, and as a result, they steer clear of it.
Not that sweet is all bad: Some of the best-selling rosés on-premise still feature a slightly sweet taste profile. Lammi says that The Cosmopolitan’s guests often like rosés with a hint of sweetness, as they can be more refreshing. But overall, when it comes to rosé wines on-premise, more people realize that “pink is not a color but a flavor,” he notes.
The style of rosés can vary enormously from producer to producer and region to region. The versatility of these wines also plays a role in their growing popularity.
“You can have [rosé] with or without food, serve it before, during or after a meal, and it’s great to enjoy on the beach or anywhere outdoors during the warmer months,” Lammi says.
Operators appreciate the fact that rosés can be paired with a wide range of foods and flavors. At Poggio Trattoria in Sausalito, CA, wine director Noel Diaz thinks seafood is a great match for many rosés. For instance, he pairs a dish of seared scallops with sunchoke puree, toasted almonds and pancetta ($14) with a variety of rosés.
What’s more, Diaz says, the frequently low-alcohol levels of many rosés make them easy to pair with several dishes that extend beyond the traditional seafood matches. Poggio Trattoria serves five rosés, priced at $9 a glass or $25 to $45 a bottle.
At Towne Stove and Spirits, a modern American restaurant in Boston, general manager Johna Willis agrees that rosés are ideal with seafood, particularly light fish and shellfish. He carries five rosés from Italy and California, priced at $8 to $12 a glass and $32 to $45 a bottle.
“The sky seems to be the limit with food pairings,” says Anthony Serignese, general manager of New York’s shared-plates restaurant and lounge Stanton Social. He loves to enjoy rosés with oysters: “Some nice mineral French rosé for some East Coast, briny oysters, and some fatter American rosé for some sweeter, West Coast oysters,” he recommends.
Stanton Social carries one rosé by the glass for $14 and a few by the bottle, priced from $52 to $120. Serignese hopes that rosé’s current success will be measured not as a fleeting trend, but more “like a strong and steady friend, waiting for you reliably every spring.”
Beyond seafood and grilled foods, rosés also work well with salads, according to Adam Jed, cofounder of Bluestem Brasserie, a local food-focused restaurant in San Francisco. He notes that salads with berries and tomatoes can bring out the best flavor in some rosés.
Rosés are also a go-to wine for many typical American foods, such as barbequed meats, Jed says. Bluestem Brasserie carries one still and one sparkling rosé, priced from $9 to $16 a glass and $75 a bottle.
The range of grape varieties used to produce rosés is vast and generally plays to known grapes that have a strong reputation in their country of origin. “Some grapes lend themselves to being more aromatic, while others bring a great, fresh berry component to the palate, while others drink like they are made from a rainbow of citrus,” says Diaz.
Classic grapes used for rosés in Southern France include syrah and grenache, whereas in Italy rosés can be made of intense red grapes like nebbiolo—typical of the Northwestern region of Piedmont. Wine makers in the U.S. tend to focus on what grows well locally; they use everything from pinot noir to syrah for rosé.
In fact, many rosé producers in California have turned to pinot noir as a stylistic benchmark. The rosés made from pinot noir are often more popular given their lightness of style, says The Cosmopolitan’s Lammi. It’s also probable that they are more easily recognizable, given the grape’s fame in many regions of California and Oregon, as well as France.
In a sign of the category’s growing appeal, many operators are trying to expand their offerings and better promote their rosés. Instead of listing a handful of rosés in the by-the-glass wine offerings or simply hand-selling them, several establishments have dedicated a special section of their wine lists to rosés.
For instance, rosés occupy their own section on the wine list at The Cosmopolitan. And at Poggio, rosés have their own heading on the wine list and are then subdivided by producer, varietal and region, according to Diaz.
Wine directors nationwide need to take up the banner for rosés: “There are so many incredible rosés out there right now, and it’s part of our job to educate people” about them, Lammi says. It will be well worth the effort, he notes. “I really think it will become one of the best new things this year.” ·
Rosé is getting a hefty boost of star power this year, thanks to actors Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. The Hollywood power couple on March 7 unveiled Miraval Rosé 2012 from their French vineyard; the first 6,000 bottles sold out in five hours. The Provence wine was only made available for sale in France, and via the Château Miraval website.
The rosé was the first release from Chateau Miraval, a 1,000-acre estate in Correns, France, that Pitt and Jolie began leasing in 2008 and now own. The estate previously made a rosé known as Pink Floyd, named after the iconic rock band that had recorded their smash hit The Wall in a recording studio on the property.
Chateau Miraval is a joint venture between the movie-star couple and the Perrin winemaking family, which owns Chateau Beaucastel in the Rhone Valley. Château de Beaucastel owner Marc Perrin describes Chateau Miraval’s 2012 rosé vintage as an “aromatic wine with a round mouthfeel that is full of freshness.” The estate is expected to release a white in August and a red next March. —MD