Until very recently, Americans had been turned off by their misconceptions of rosé wines. Rosés were equated with fruity, overly sweet blush wines. The average American shopping for wine seemed unaware that rosés have always been available in dry styles from some of the finest winemakers in the top winegrowing regions in the world. But now, perception seems to be changing. According to AC Nielsen, sales of rosés above the $6.50 retail price point grew a startling 23.9% in 2006 as compared to 2005; rosé sparkling wine sales grew by 42.9%. There’s every reason to expect that growth to continue.
These are serious wines, seriously good and versatile to match with food: Most any of the dry wines will match with meat, vegetables or seafood. In this issue, we present ratings for some 300 rosés, and in the feature story on page 26, we point out the best of the best from around the world.
We are proud to say that one of the pioneers in bringing rosés to the American table is a member of the Wine Enthusiast family: Jeff Morgan is a contributing editor to the magazine and writes columns on a rotating basis, as well as occasional special features. He was once a senior editor and reviewed California wines for us, and therein lies a tale.
I think it’s fair to say that Jeff is an iconoclast, an innovative renegade who constantly, though charmingly, goes against the grain. In 2000, he decided there were not enough quality Kosher wines available; he made Kosher wines under the Covenant label. I doubt he expected to get rich doing so; he knows the wine industry too well. Having been bitten by the winemaking bug, he turned his attention to dry rosés. Not content to just make and market a rosé, he founded an organization (Rosé Avengers and Producers) to promote the entire category. The full story is to be found in his sidebar to our rosé story. Suffice it to say, he goes his own way. I admire anyone who will create something in the face of apparent public indifference, contrary to what the market is telling him, but only because his own muse says so.
But just because he likes to break a rule or two, defy an expectation or two, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t know where the important lines are drawn: When he realized that Covenant and SoloRosa would become ongoing enterprises, Jeff recused himself voluntarily from reviewing wines for us; he correctly said that reviewing other people’s wines while himself making wine and competing with them in some small way could be perceived as a conflict of interest. We are pleased to continue running columns and occasional other contributions from Jeff, and we wish him luck in promoting dry rosés to the American wine-loving public.
I recently saw evidence of his efforts. In May we brought our Toast of the Town event to Chicago. We’ve held these events in New York for six years and in San Francisco for the first time in April this year. The Chicago event was held at the stately, gorgeous Field Museum. Over a thousand people attended, sampling wines poured from over 70 wineries and dishes prepared by 30 of the city’s truly outstanding restaurants, with exhilarating live jazz playing accompaniment. As I surveyed the crowds, mingled and talked with individuals, I realized that Chicagoans were truly thirsty for such an event: a large, nonjudgmental, social and cultural wine experience matched with top-quality food.
There are a good number of wine clubs in Chicago, no shortage of great wine retail stores and collectors with deep cellars. Initially more of a beer and spirits city, Chicago has grown into wine appreciation with gusto. Accessible, no-pressure, communal events like Toast of the Town will help nurture this wine culture. It’s education and exposure to wine that is most important, but it’s also partially a matter of fashion. Wine is chic. People who once drank beer are now turning to wine; many recent statistics point this out. They like what a glass of wine in hand says about them.
And in Chicago I saw millennials enjoying glasses of rosé as well as Riesling, another wine that is widely misunderstood and undervalued by Americans. (In our September issue, we’ll be presenting an article that unravels the mysteries of Riesling, and offers hundreds of suggestions of great Rieslings to enjoy now or cellar.)
The millennials who are discovering rosés and Rieslings today will be the drinkers of Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon tomorrow, promising a great future for the wine culture in America.
Have a comment on this month’s Enthusiast’s Corner? Email Adam Strum