Arts & Entertainment

Dowd On Drinks: The Rising of the Pinks

Anyone who thinks the increased shelf space given to roses by smart wine shop owners in many markets is a local aberration isn’t keeping up with the wine press.

That’s those who write about wine, not the device used to squeeze the grapes.

What they’re doing is reflecting a nationwide uptick in sales of the pink wines.

The Nielsen Co. reports that total table wine sales in the 52-week period ending February 9 grew nearly 8 times faster by value and 17 times faster by volume than total table wine sales.

Sales of rose wines priced $8 and above grew 53.2 percent by value and 49.1 percent by volume during that same period increased 6.3 percent by value and 2.9 percent by volume.

Domestic rose sales priced at $8 and higher showed stronger growth than those for imported roses. Domestic rose sales increased 62.6 percent by value and 51 percent by volume, while imported rosé sales grew by 50.5 percent by value and 48.5 percent by volume.
“Though still a small slice of the overall U.S. wine market, these numbers are very impressive,” said Danny Brager, Nielsen’s VP group client director, beverage alcohol.

In what Nielsen terms key markets, rose sales really soared: Miami with 89.4 percent growth, Seattle 86.6 percent, New York 75.2 percent and San Francisco 39.4 percent. Imports continue to dominate the category, owning a 76.7 percent share based on dollars.

Defining a rose beyond it being identified as such on the label can be a bit tricky, depending upon whom you choose to believe.

White Zinfandel, for example, often is billed as a rose but actually is a “blush” wine. A mixture of red and white that tends toward a pale color also can be found masquerading as a rose. But, that is not a rose, either.
Roses, like reds, get their color from the amount of time the grapeskins stay in the liquid. Rose winemakers tend to allow this to happen for only a few hours, enough time to tint the grape must, before removing the skins.

The finished product can range from pale pink to orangey, depending on the type of grapes used. Blush wines usually go through the process of “bleeding,” or “saignee,” in which some of the fluid is removed to give red zinfandel more color and flavor.

Personally, I find the right rose — meaning one with some distinguishable tannins and a decent floral, fruity nose — is an excellent summertime change of pace, particularly when you want something to go with the array of salads, cheese platters, and light seafood and chicken dishes we tend to grill up during the hot months. Plenty of time for the bold whites and beefy reds when the leaves begin to fall and we feel that very mammalian instinct to store up nutrients for the winter.

Here are just a few examples of rose commentaries I’ve come across in the past few weeks:

–“I have already made the leap — I love drinking good rose and am willing to say so even amongst the most snobbish of wine lovers. … The recent boom in demand for rose has been a blessing for the (Provence) region. Where many areas in France suffer from excessive production and unsold wine, Provence producers simply don’t have enough juice to go around. Depending on which appellation you are in, rose accounts for 70 to 90 percent of all the wine produced. Even Bandol, the most prestigious of red-wine producing appellations in the region, produced a record amount of rose last year.

Bill Zacharkiw, wine critic/columnist, Montreal Gazette

— “I was living in England. … I was introduced to rose, served cold, sometimes even on ice, and drunk to waste away the spring afternoons. I have loved them ever since. … The other point to stress is that roses look great on you. They really do. No matter what you are wearing, you will look dashing, fascinating, and certainly comfortable in your sensuality, with a glass of rose on your hand. The color goes with everything, and suggests a certain lightness of spirit.”

James MacNaughton, wine columnist, Life(at)Home magazine, Albany, N.Y.

–“Let’s face it, it’s not hard to conceive of rose as a sort of mid-point between red and white wine, because that’s pretty much what it is. What rose has is a sort of centrist mass appeal. First, its alcohol levels tend to fall somewhere between reds and whites, so they are rarely too big for delicate dishes, but rarely too light for more unctuous foods, either. … Though one rarely gets the full whack of what reds do best AND what whites do best in all rose wines, one almost ALWAYS gets a fair amount of both, making rose a sort of oenological lingua franca in its ability to communicate with all kinds of foods. It makes me think of a certain Rolling Stones song that goes ‘You can’t always get what you want, but if you try, sometimes you find that you get what you need.”‘

Tom Ciocco, blogger,

(William M. Dowd covers the adult beverage industry online at

c.2008 Albany Times Union