Rosé Renaissance: The Growing Popularity of Rhone Style Pink Wines

The Rhone Report: About Rhone and Rhone-Style Wines and Winemakers is part of an ongoing series.

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Dry rosé wine has long been appreciated in Europe, especially the south of France. Rosés from the Rhone Valley and elsewhere in Provence have been highly regarded for generations. These rosés are popular with the local cuisine (think garlic, tomato, fish, shellfish, poultry, game, dry sausages, olives, fresh vegetables, basil, etc.), especially during the summer months when a chilled glass is particularly refreshing.

But in the United States, pink colored wines have had a checkered reputation. In the fifties and sixties, soda-pop sweet pink wines from Portugal, Mateus and Lancers, were popular and were even considered sophisticated. Suzanne remembers being given a bottle of Mateus by a young television newscaster in Washington, D.C. and being wowed by the gesture. But these pinks gave real rosé a bad name.

First offered in the late seventies and a huge commercial success by the eighties, white zinfandel further cemented the perception of Americans that pink wine was mediocre stuff for those that didn’t know better. While zinfandel can produce wonderful rosé when properly made from quality grapes, the product called white zinfandel is typically made from over-cropped, inferior fruit and vinified with too much residual sugar. Suzanne refused to pour white zinfandel at her popular wine bar in Washington. When tourist and conference attendee customers asked for that insipid stuff, they were politely told that Suzanne’s only poured real (red) zinfandel, thank you very much.

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