F&W's executive wine editor Ray Isle dives deep into the beloved pink wine.

By Bridget Hallinan
August 12, 2019

Rosé and summer are pretty synonymous—the pink-ish wine is a favorite at outdoor bars and cafés, best served chilled and sipped luxuriously under the sun. (Hence, why it's somtimes nicknamed "summer water.) It’s ever-popular in The Hamptons; there’s even an entire pop-up experience dedicated to it in New York City, known as the Rosé Mansion. However, beyond the pink-tinged Instagrams and rosé-craze, Food & Wine Executive Wine Editor Ray Isle points out that rosé is actually a classic style of wine with hundreds of years of history. It’s true that it’s experienced a recent surge of popularity, but if you head to Provence, you’ll find that the rosé roots run deep. Surprised? In his latest Bottle Service video, Isle explains the history of this famous pink wine, alongside nine other facts you might not know—check out what he had to say below.

There are four ways to make rosé

1. Maceration: Isle says you take grapes (usually red grapes), and leave them on their skins in the wine-making process for a little while—but not so much that you end up with red wine. Then, you get rid of the skins, resulting in a beautiful pale pink wine.

2. Red wine byproduct: When you make red wine and wait for it to turn darker, there’s runoff coming from the tank. The process is meant to intensify the color of red wine, but at the same time, it also produces a lighter pink wine.

3. Ramato: This obscure category of rosé is made by taking grapes that are kind of rose-colored (such as Pinot Grigio grapes), and using the skins in the process. Ultimately, you end up with a vaguely orange-y pale pink wine, according to Isle.

4. Blending: The cheaper method, Isle says, simply blends red and white wine.

Darker doesn’t equal sweeter

Some rosés are dark, others are an incredibly pale pink. And while many believe darker rosés err on the sweeter side, Isle debunks this theory. The flavor and level of sweetness all depend on how much extraction you’re getting from the grape skins, he says.

Don’t mix it up with white zinfandel

White Zinfandel, which is sweeter than rosé, was invented in the late '70s—Isle refers to it as “soda pop-y.” It may also be pink, but don’t confuse it with a dry Provençal-style rosé. Otherwise, you’ll be disappointed. 

#Roséallyear

Isle says he likes to have rosé in the winter, too—so you don’t have to wait until summer to sip it.

It all started in the Hamptons

The influx of rosé on your Instagram is because of The Hamptons, according to Isle. In 2006, he says fashionable people and celebrities began drinking dry rosé in the summer, and it really took off. Eventually, it spread to Miami, Los Angeles, and other major cities, before becoming the ubiquitous wine it is today. 

France drinks a lot of rosé

Isle says France is effectively the homeland for rosé, and as a result, it’s pretty popular—in fact, they drink more rosé than white wine. In 2015 alone, the French drank 176,000,000 gallons of the wine, and, four years later, that stat has definitely risen. Basically, about one out of every three bottles of wine sold in France is rosé. 

Provence is the real RoséLand…

Move over, Rosé Mansion—Provence is the real land of rosé, according to Isle. The Greeks brought vines to Provence about 2,600 years ago, and it happened to be the right climate. The region has been making rosé for hundreds of years now, and it makes up a huge part of the local wine production. The pale pink color of Provençal rosé has also become the dominant idea of what people think rosé should be. 

…and sometimes they like it over ice

If you ask for a "rosé à la piscine" in Provence when you’re by the pool (piscine means pool), you’ll receive a giant glass of rosé over ice. 

Whispering Angel got its name in a chapel

Whispering Angel is the most recognizable brand in rosé right now, according to Isle, and its name traces back to the Chateau d’Esclans property, owned by Whispering Angel founder Sacha Lichine. While he was trying to figure out what to call his new wine, he took his friend on a tour through the chapel—said friend saw a pair of cherubs and said, “that’s funny, it looks like they’re whispering.” Voila, Whispering Angel was born, and it’s been selling incredibly well ever since. 

Not all rosé is accessible

While you might think of rosé as cheap and cheerful, or a wine to drink on the beach, Isle points out that there’s a growing market for all sorts of high-end rosé. Case in point: Chateau d’Esclans has a bottle that runs $100.

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