We sit down with sommelier and winemaker Patrick Cappiello to unpack the rise of his instantly cultish wine.
Three weeks ago, when Yes Way Rosé posted a photo of Patrick Cappiello’s just-released rosé to Instagram, the New York sommelier didn’t suspect that by the next month, the 1,200 or so cases he and winemaker Julien Braud had made would be gone. Or that his website for his wine label, Forty Ounce Wines, would begin to rake in 1,998 more pageviews than the usual two a day. And certainly not that local NYC wine shops would be telling him they’re getting up to 40 calls a day asking for his rosé, while consumers all around the country are emailing him for a case.
“Delish.com reached out to fact-check a blog post, not even for an interview, and that got syndicated and went everywhere. Before I knew it, I was on Good Morning, America and the news,” says the sommelier behind Rebelle in New York City. “The response has been crazy.”
We tried the wine last month—an unusual grab-bag of grapes (pineau d’aunis, gamay, côt, and merlot) turned into a refreshing, slightly mineral rosé—and we get the allure. It’s rosé! It looks like malt liquor! But in the midst of the Forty Ounce frenzy, we wondered: What does this say about wine drinkers today? And more importantly, have we reached peak rosé?
The Olde English-inspired packaging isn’t new. Last summer, Cappiello collaborated with Braud for their first wine, a Muscadet made with grapes from Braud’s biodynamic vineyards. (His family is the venerable Fief Aux Dames in France’s Loire Valley.) And to be fair, their small run of 500 bottles sold out in weeks when it made it to New York’s market, and later on 100 cases in California sold out in 24 hours. However, this is entirely different, according to Cappiello.
“Muscadet is an obscure thing. It’s kind of a wine geek’s region,” he says. “Sommeliers and wine buyers were the fuel behind the excitement, not consumers.”
The Muscadet became sort of a not-so-secret handshake among those in the wine industry, but it never trickled down to consumers. Fast-forward to now, the cusp of rosé season at a moment when rosé is gaining steam in the marketplace, and Forty Ounce Rosé is a mainstream hit.
“For a long time in our country, rosé was looked at as a sweet wine,” says Cappiello. “I’m Gen-X and I’m the child of parents who drank white Zinfandel and rosé, but now here comes a generation with parents who drank Pinot Grigio and don’t have any of the preconceived notion of rosé.”
Millenials are now discovering rosé for the first time, Cappiello explains, and they see the pink wine as a welcomed guest at barbecues and picnics, not just Mom and Dad’s juice. “We were in the right place at the right time,” he says. “But it’s put stress on what we’re doing.”
Despite the playful packaging, Cappiello and Braud are making serious wine for wine lovers to drink, not just to attract likes and upvotes. They’re doing things the old-school way—in small batches, with no conglomerate money. They feel like they're flying by the seats of their pants.
“I don’t want to be a trend. That wasn’t what we’re after,” Cappiello says. “We want to produce a wine that’s exciting to drink.”
So the two continue to chugging along, making more rosé and dreaming of new Forty Ounce Wines for the fall.