Heard about the brosés?
If not, don’t be surprised when they start showing up at your tables or bars: small groups of men getting together to enjoy some male bonding over glasses of pink wine.
Some male rosé fans, having read the piece in Details magazine last June that examined the burst of interest in pink wine among men, are proudly proclaiming their brosé credentials.
“I’ve noticed the trend, and it’s certainly real,” says Mackenzie Campbell, wine director for the Caswell Restaurant Group in Newburyport, MA. “In the last couple years, we’ve seen a lot more men drinking rosé.”
No Way, Brosé
Campbell had heard about the notion that men were getting together and calling themselves brosés. “I thought, that can’t be a real thing, and almost as the thoughts occurred to me, four guys came in to the bar and said ‘Hey, we’re brosés!’”
Whether many male customers are self-identifying as brosés or not, it’s only one sign of the recent pink bloom. Rosé wine exports from Provence—the key exporter of pink to the U.S.—grew 58% by volume and 74% by value in 2015, according to the French customs agency and the CIVP/Vins de Provence trade group.
The rise marks the largest increase in Provence rosé wine exports to the U.S. since 2001, as well as the 12th consecutive year of double-digit growth for the segment.
According to Nielsen data, imported rosé priced at $12 or more per bottle nearly grew as much, up more than 56% by volume and 60% by value last year. Provence rosé currently accounts for more than 40% of French rosé sold in the U.S., and about 30% of imported rosé.
Many bars and restaurants have taken note of the shift to pink and are increasing the number of wines carried and bumping up their order volume.They’re also looking outside the classic rosé realm to other regions such as Greece and Portugal, and strategizing how to make their suddenly limited allocations last through to the end of summer and beyond.
A welcome sign of the warm weather, rosés are in fashion for pairing well with lighter and Mediterranean cuisine. They’re generally all-around popular with sommeliers and wine directors for their food friendliness.
“For some reason, rosé has such a thirst-quenching quality more than many white wines,” says Charles Ford, general manager/beverage director of The Bristol New American restaurant in Chicago. “Maybe because it’s usually served just cold enough so the alcohol doesn’t make as much of an impact, and one can drink more, but there is something about it that no other bottle of wine will do that well.”
Rosé of the Day
The weather, of course, is the most significant stimulant for rosé sales. The Bristol features seven or more sparkling rosés and eight still varieties from France, Corsica, Italy, Sicily, Spain and Lebanon. “When springtime comes around, it’s all about rosé. And not just the usual French rosés, but beautiful pinot noir rosés as well,” Ford says.
“I love to buy the vintage that’s a year old vs. the freshest option,” he adds. “The flavors and components have had a little time to meld together and become more harmonious.”
Campbell, who oversees Ceia Kitchen + Bar (where she encountered the pack of brosés), as well as Brine in Newburyport and the soon-to-open Oak + Rowan in Boston, sells about 100 cases of rosé in the summer selling season.
She rotates through various types of rosés: French, Spanish, Italian, domestic and some lesser-known selections from Greece and Portugal, among other regions.
Each restaurant offers a glass pour “Rosé of the Day” that changes throughout the course of the summer, as well as rosé cocktails.
“The nice thing about having a variety of rosés is they vary so much on the spectrum,” Campbell says. “You can have them bone dry with lots of minerality, which might appeal to the pinot grigio drinker, or you’ll get bright red fruits and strawberry flavors at the other end for those looking for something richer and chardonnay-like.”
Catalyst restaurant in Cambridge, MA, currently offers at least five rosés on the menu, with the list expanding throughout the summer. Once the weather warms, Catalyst, too, initiates a “Rosé of the Day” with a different wine by the glass.
The program began in April this year and will expand to include other wines as they arrive.
The outdoor dining season gives Catalyst’s rosé sales a boost. “We find especially when our patio opens in April, we sell a lot of rosé out there, and the early bar crowd buys an awful lot as well,” says chef/owner William Kovel. “Even at lunchtime as the weather warms, we find Thursdays and Fridays tend to be a bit more leisurely, and we see our rosé sales go up.”
Kovel—also a Level II sommelier—loves rosés for several reasons. “It’s food-versatile and perfectly great to drink at any occasion,” he says.
Rosés can have “beautiful acidity and body and they match up to food so well, from lobster—which to me goes better with rosé than chardonnay—to cheese, ham and melon and all the classics,” Kovel adds.
Claudette in New York offers a minimum of a dozen or so rosés by the bottle and a few by the glass year round. That’s ramped up in the summer, with up to 25 available, as well as a draft rosé that sells extremely well, says Claudette’s beverage director Nick Porpiglia.
While the cuisine at Claudette fits best with Provence style of rosé, other operators are casting a wider net by looking around for wines from other regions.
The all-Greek wine menu at Molyvos in New York creates numerous pink opportunities. The midtown restaurant carries 12 rosés, most available by the glass, made from Greek varietals including moschofilero, agiorgitko, xinomavro and mandilaria, says wine director Kamal Kouiri.
Most of the rosés are indigenous grape varieties, though some are blends with international varietals to show what Greek winemakers are doing. “With more familiar grapes, customers are more willing to try, and that gives them an entry point to both Greek winemaking and rosés,” Kouiri says.
“Greek cuisine is helped by rosé and vice versa. I do well with them all year long; in winter, those that are a little dryer and bigger can handle moussaka or lamb better,” says Kouiri.
Campbell says less-familiar rosés from Portugal or Greece might require a different sort of selling approach for unfamiliar customers. But training and tasting staff on the wines is important in overcoming any hesitation.
At Catalyst, Kovel relies on staff interaction to keep the less-common pink wines flowing. “The staff really love the opportunity to try a different wine every day; when we offer the ‘rosé of the day,’ we open one and talk about it first,” he says. “Having them know about it is a great marketing tool.”
When customers are reluctant to think pink, a offering them taste can help. Many guets don’t know much about Greek rosés, Kouiri says. “Now we give them an ounce to try, and they often say they never experienced that. And that’s how we move them from white to rosé.”
So popular have rosés of all sorts become that the ordering process has become significantly competitive. It doesn’t help that many producers offer limited releases, and much of it is brought to market when there is still ice on the street.
Kovel says a number of his most-popular roses that sell through the winter are now allocated, and there’s a limited amount he can actually get in stock.
“For a couple, we hold some back and spread it out throughout the course of the season, so we are able to serve some in September,” he notes.
Indeed, preordering is essential as demand for rosé continues to grow, Campbell says. “Basically, you order for the year, because you want the current vintage year, and they seem to have a difficult time keeping up with demand so we need to order early,” she explains.
“When I started doing this, it was something you ordered when it came in, but now it’s more of a presale basis,” Porpiglia says. “Before you can even taste it, you’re having to commit to some things.”
Pink for All Seasons
Rosé sales may accelerate in warmer weather, but many sommeliers, especially in seafood and Mediterranean cuisine restaurants, are extending the season.
At Claudette, “We try to keep it going year round because our cuisine is southern French-Moroccan, and they match perfectly” with rosé, says Porpiglia.
“Some are harder to get ahold of, but we also carry some older, higher-end roses that can last a few years in a bottle and we sell them year round,” he notes.
While Porpiglia thinks a fine rosé might peak priced at about $55 per bottle, the occasional connoisseur may take the plunge and spend more once in a while.
The casual reputation of rosé makes it a good seller for light dining or bar drinking. “Younger people are drinking more rosé, especially at the bar and in our cafe area,” Porpiglia says. “It’s more easygoing there, and rosé goes well with small bites and mezze.”
Cuisine aside, rosé has found some wintertime success—even in the frigid Midwest. “We went through almost ten cases of rosé last winter. For a small restaurant, that’s incredible, considering it’s usually freezing cold out here then,” says Ford.
Porpiglia agrees. “People are warming up to the idea that it doesn’t need just to be a warm-weather wine, that it does things that white wines don’t in many cases. All kinds of rosé styles can fit all times of year.”
Jack Robertiello is a spirits writer based in Brooklyn, NY.