Sunday, April 12, 2015

Making the Case for Darker Rosė Wines ~ Countering the "Brangelina" Effect

In no small way, we all need to thank the Perrin family (and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie) for resuscitating the rosė wine category. Before the phenomenon of Miraval, rosė wines were in the crapper. More often than not, aged rosė wines sat in warehouses and on store shelves dying a slow death. No matter how many articles that came out, in blogs, in magazines, and in newspapers, the numbers didn’t look good.I know, because I was tracking them. And it wasn't pretty.

Then Perrin (and Brangelina) said “Let there be light.” And it was a game changer. Now wineries all up and down France and across to Italy, in Spain, in California and all over the world are chasing the ethereal, elusive onion skin color for their wines. And for good reason. Miraval is kicking ass in the sales department.

But. Wait.

There are some of us who still like the deeply colored rosė (or light red) wines. And Italy has such a wonderful group of wines, from Alto-Adige to Sicily, that are fuller, richer and really shouldn’t be scuttled to the dust bin of history because the fashion is for paler colored rosė wines. And while this is definitely a contrarian view and one very much out of fashion, in the last month I have tasted some lovely and table worthy rosė wines, let’s say ones with a bit more of a tan than their Provençal cousins. It feels like I have written this post before. Let’s dive in.

Lagrein Rosė – from Alto-Adige, often thought to be the land of rich, minerally-driven white wines. But red wine is made is healthy doses. This producer, Lageder, makes scores of different wines. But one of my favorites from their stable is the Lagrein rosė. The wine is deeply colored, can take a little more bottle age, and will develop like a red wine. Not too long, but if you see a 2011 on a wine list, grab it. Currently the 2013 is in release, while the 2014 takes a little more time to come around. There is no rush to grab the summer of 2105 rosė market, that elusive selling period in America between Memorial day (end of May) and Labor Day ( beginning of September). Fruit, acid, even a little but tannic, with spice and body and character. I’ve had this wine in the dead of winter with a rich stew. For white wine lovers, this is a great bridge to red without going “all the way.”

Pelaverga – technically not a rosė wine, but the color qualifies it for the light red tone of this post. And it works in the same situation That is, a wine with depth, with layers of flavor. Again a light red for folks who favor white wine. This wine finishes longer than the lighter rosė wines currently in fashion. Different target audience, for sure. But there might be a day when the light rosė drinker seeks to expand their drinking spectrum. Burlotto's Pelaverga, though made is rather small quantities, would be a nice stop on that expanded path.

Tuscany has a good tradition of rosato wine. And Sangiovese is no shrinking violet when it comes to that category. While the lighter Provençal inspired style is sweeping the Tuscan coastline, there are still some darker rosės to consider. Valentina Bolla recently expanded the repertoire of her family winery, Poggio Verrano, to include this new experimental rosė, Vale in Rose. A very small amount of this has been made in 2014, mainly for friends and family. It’s a lovely wine, rich and full of flavor. Can it compete with Miraval? Did Sophia Loren ever need to worry about Bridgette Bardot? Can the world not allow for two different types of beauty?

Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo – Abruzzo has long had a tradition of deeper colored rosės. The spicy arrabbiata pasta I once had in the Marche Abruzzo border town of San Benedetto del Tronto infused in me a love for Cerasuolo d’ Abruzzo. Made from the Montepulciano grape, this is a good fix for folks who love fruit-driven red wines that are spicy but who want to power down from the big red when the weather is warm. Again, not so fashionable in the world of marketing. But one would never know that on the Adriatic coastal towns, where Cerasuolo flies off the tables.

Sicily makes anything and everything. And most of what they make they do it right, by my reckoning. One of my great pleasures is to drink Sicilian rosė in the summer, make that the relentless summer heat of Texas. We don’t stop eating Tex-Mex or our beloved Texas BBQ, and while tequila and beer are more prevalent with those kinds of foods, there are those of us slaves to the wine god who want wine. At the Tasca estate they make their Le Rose di Regaleali from Nerello Mascalese grapes in stainless steel tanks under the influence of partially macerated Nero ’d’Avola skins. The color is lighter or darker from year to year, but the 2014 has a deeper tan.

Some folks might worry that this will affect the popularity of this wine vs. the more popular Provençal rosės. The reality is there is one leader, Miraval, which makes up so much of the sale of the lighter rosė wines, that no one will catch up. So let them go, let them introduce folks to the category. Like some of the White Zinfandel drinkers migrated to Pinot Noir, the hope is that we will catch the lighter rosė drinker when they, if they, choose to look deeper.

That is the key to this particular set of rosė wine. Is it a stop along the road, or is it a delving in to find other wines, perhaps ones more profound? Is profundity something a rosė drinker cares for? Well, there are more than a few of us who love the deeper color, the richer flavors, and who care to drink them all year round. After all, we drink white wine throughout the year. Why not rosė as well?

written by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy
wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W

9 comments: said...

Thanks for the great post! Agreed, rośe is great as a patio pounder in Texas summer. So good with summertime fare, especially salads! I will be on the lookout for some of your Italian suggestions - typically I'm a Tavel or Provence rośe drinker, maybe a rośe of Bordeaux, too.

Anonymous said...

Rose wines, particularly those from Provence have always been popular and generated high demand. Brad and Angelina were late to the party.

Alfonso Cevola said...

that may be true.
But...Miraval has blown away the competition. I'm just reporting the figures - they now account for about 80% ( in the world I track , which is huge) of that business. So, they have reset the category and now they are the leader, sales wise...and that's a fact

Maurizio Gily said...

Excellent job Alfonso. I totally agree with you. In Italy there is a dangerous trend to change our tradition to follow the Provence fashion. Even if this can provide some advantage on the market in the short period, it's a big mistake. Different grapes (you must kill Montepulciano to have a very light color), different climate, different story. Difference is what Italy can offer. Otherwise, we'll be ever candidate to be the second one, and never the winner.

Samantha Dugan said...

Our shop has sold Rose for 19 years, and we are talking hundreds upon hundreds of cases each year and we've never carried Miraval, not even once. We've seen the increase of interest in Rose climb and it was well before the celebrity effect. Have those famous names perked even more interest? Likely but I'm with commenter number two here, they are late to a party that has been thumping along for several years now.

Alfonso Cevola said...

They may be late, but they are making up for it with momentum.

Sam, you know I would buy any color rosė wine from you and happily enjoy it, from any country.

The point I am making, apart from the fine wine shops that have a focus (and are not followers, but leaders) is that the category got a giant bolt of lightning. I know this because I analyzed the numbers and it was an unprecedented and singular spike, so much that suppliers have been knocking on the door with lighter colored rosės that didn't exist until after Miraval. I'm not talking the Ott's and other ones who have been at the party for a long time, of course.

But the reality is this one item has grabbed a huge share of the market, just like Gallo's La Marca commands a huge, and I mean huge) share of the Prosecco market in America.

But tell me you do like darker colored rosė wines, and not just ones from France, eh Sam?

Samantha Dugan said...

Truth be told, I don't. I've bought them for the shop, from everywhere from Italy, Spain, Lodi and Bordeaux and every year they are the "leftovers". And that is even when I feature them in tastings. They feel flabby to me, and they lack that refreshment and mineral, crunch, that I crave in Rose. Never had one Rose of Cabernet that I would want a full glass of, from anywhere. If our years of research is any indicator, neither do our customers. That said, people I know that don't much care for Rose tend to like those darker wines but then....why would we buy Roses for people that don't really like Rose?

Alfonso Cevola said...

Well, I think it is a matter of personal preference then. Not that one is better than another. and that is the point of this post, that it is OK to like the darker

Some folks like the lighter ones.

Some like the darker ones.

Bob96 said...

Thanks--have to note the joys of Ciro rosato and the many rosato jewels from Puglia, like Rosa del Golfo. Seeing good rose from Malbec, too (Crios, for one).

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