Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: You’re at a party. There’s a bottle of pink wine in an ice bucket. You pour some into a plastic cup, get distracted by a plate of food, and promptly forget about your glass. When you come back to it, 15, 20, 35 minutes later, what you thought would be a bracing, bright splash of sunshine in your mouth has become … flat. Warm. As refreshing as a formerly cold towel that’s been unrolled, swabbed over someone else’s face, and thrown on the floor.
That’s essentially what happened to me recently, after taking a swig from a glass of Whispering Angel that had lingered too long in the sun. I found myself wondering: are we drinking rosé all wrong?
Truly, rosé is everywhere: at Whole Foods, your local wine bar, and in the fishbowl-sized glasses on reality TV. Stateside sales are reportedly increasing at 30% to 50% per year, dwarfing what was once a quirky little category. In 2005, for example, a total of 27,000 cases of rosé were sold in the U.S., according to Eric Hemer, the director of wine education for the largest U.S. wine and spirits distributor, Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits. “Last year, rosé accounted for 2.5 million cases,” he tells Bustle. “That’s an almost 100-fold increase.”
The pink wine picks up in popularity during the warmer months, and last spring alone, Americans spent $216 million on rosé, according to a NielsenIQ report. “We sold more Whispering Angel in the month of April than we did last August, which is traditionally the biggest month for rosé,” Hemer says.
Rosé may seem like a recent phenomenon, but its history actually dates back to ancient Greeks and Romans. “They blended white and red wines together to make a rose-colored wine,” Hemer says. “They didn’t want a heavy red wine in the summer heat.” Today, the traditional method of making it relies on “skin contact,” in which red grapes are crushed and the juice, which is naturally clear, remains in contact with the grapes’ skins for a short period of time, from a few hours to several days, to extract color and tannin from the skins before they’re removed.
While much of the world’s most prized rosé is made in Provence, in the south of France, a closer-to-home hotspot is the Caribbean island Saint Barthélemy. St. Barts, as it’s commonly known, is technically part of France. The currency is the Euro, the language is French, and the wine is the color that streaks the sky at sunset. In search of the best way to drink rosé, I went to the Provence of the tropics.
“We have rosé with everything,” one sommelier, who works at the luxury hotel Le Barthélemy, told me. “Salad, fish, meat, cheese — there’s nothing that rosé does not go with.” One of Le Barthélemy's most ordered brands is Love by Léoube, a Côtes de Provence export with a logo that looks like it could've been written by hand. Bright and crisp, there’s no better pairing for a plate of poolside, cornflake-crusted shrimp, the sommelier said. (After ordering the combo four times in four days, I have to say he's right.)
At Nikki Beach Saint Barth, a day club whose patrons include Beyonce, Mariah Carey, and Gwen Stefani, rosé is so popular that they sell it in 3-liter bottles called Jeroboams. (One Jeroboam equals four regular bottles of wine. Hello, hangover.) “We work with brands to create the biggest ice bucket possible,” says Jerome Delamaire, the club’s general manager. “When I came here more than 20 years ago, the U.S. crowd was only drinking white. Now, rosé is number one.”
Below, the experts share five tips on how to drink rosé the right way this summer — or all year long, dealer’s choice.
1. Chill It
Hemer recommends drinking rosé at 45 degrees Fahrenheit. “Cold but not ice-cold,” he says. (For reference, experts recommend white wines between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and reds at a warmer temp of 60 to 70 degrees.) If the rosé’s colder than that, you won’t be able to taste some of its notes, like strawberries and fresh herbs, in the case of Whispering Angel, Hemer says.
2. Pop The Top … Then Put It In Something Else
Canned rosés have boomed in recent years. Think Nomadica, a sparkling rosé; Hogwash, which comes in a party-ready pack of 24; and Avaline, an organic rosé made by Cameron Diaz. But the win for sustainability and portability is a loss for your palate, as a pop-top doesn’t allow the wine to breathe and prevents your nose from getting involved in the tasting game. So whatever vessel your rosé comes in, open it up and decant it into a stemmed wine glass, ideally, “so your hand doesn’t warm the rosé as you’re holding it,” Hemer says.
In a pinch, a reusable plastic cup is better than a can or swigging straight from the bottle, since both of those inhibit your sense of smell. (And take it from someone who once chipped her front tooth while chugging a bottle of Champagne: It’s not worth it.)
3. Pair It With Everything Under The Sun
The old adage decrees white wine with fish, red wine with meat. Rosé abides by no rules. “If I had to have one all-purpose, go-to wine, I’d have a rosé versus a white or red,” Hemer says. “It crosses the gamut of traditional food styles, goes well with meats, poultry, fish. If you can't decide what you want to serve, serve rosé.”
And savory fiends, rejoice: Rosé is particularly refreshing with salty snacks, like nuts, olives, hummus, guac, and epic cheese boards.
4. If You Can, Reach Into The Double Digits
“There are a lot of rosès around the $10 retail price point,” Hemer says, “but the better quality is generally $20 and up.” What else should you look for? Where it’s from: If the label mentions Provence or any of its appellations, like Côtes de Provence or Bandol, the wine’s coming from a good place — at least, according to critics. If your taste buds favor elsewhere, follow them.
5. Frosé Is … Absolutely Fine
“It’s the modern version of sangria,” Hemer says, referring to the trendy slurry of rosé, ice, and sometimes vodka, which means it packs a stronger punch than the old jug of wine and fruit. “We serve it, but I’m not the biggest fan,” adds Delamaire with a shrug. “Ultimately, it’s about what you want to drink, what makes you happy, who’s around you, the atmosphere. That’s what makes a great experience.” Cheers to that.