We’ll Take Rosé Seriously When They Make Serious Rosé

roseOliver Styles at Wine Searcher asks “Are rosé wines inherently inferior, or is it a case of outright discrimination?” As Styles points out, putting sparkling rosé aside, there are no 100-point rosés and very few that score between 95 and 100 at the Wine Advocate.

Since the process of making rosé is no different from the process of making white wine there is no reason why rosé can’t be great. So he concludes it must be discrimination.

What I actually think happens is that there is an automatic glass ceiling placed on the score of a rosé the moment a critic sees its colour. It’s 97 or 96 max – “grand max” if we’re adopting the French-isms wine writers love these days.
So the writers and critics now have to do one of two things: either admit they are snobs and attempt to make the claim that rosé can never make good wine; or acknowledge that there may be the semblance of discrimination against rosé that is, at the very least, unjustified, and move to judge rosé with less preconceptions.

Styles is right about discrimination but has identified the wrong culprit. Wine writers don’t take rosé seriously because winemakers don’t take it seriously, and for the very reasons Styles documents:

Furthermore, there is definitely a level of cynicism in rosé production globally. To ignore that would be unfair. Syrah not going to get ripe this year? Turn it into rosé. Merlot starting to show the effects of a damp season? Rosé. Change in sales forecast for Cabernet Sauvignon? Rosé. Pinot Noir cropped too high? Rosé. There are any number rescues for red grapes and they generally involve making a pink wine.

And it’s not just winemakers. The drinking public loves rosé but they don’t take it seriously either.

It’s one of – if not the – largest growing wine category in the US, and I suspect that is purely because wine lovers have not taken any notice of it. There are rare exceptions – Elizabeth Gabay MW has published a book on rosé, I’m told – but it’s a drink one doesn’t need to “get” wine in order to enjoy. No-one is going to sneer at you – much less revere you – for drinking rosé at a party. No-one who knows wine, or even knows a little bit about wine, is going to give you grief.

Right. It’s an easy drinking wine you don’t have to think much about, because there is not much there to think about. That is not a prescription for a great wine. Great wines are great precisely because they repay study. I seldom review rosés and I drink them only occasionally because most are just boring. Refreshing? Sure. Great with food? Absolutely? Fun a a party? You bet.  Worth studying? Please.

When was the last time you visited a winery that offered 4 single vineyard cuvees of rosé like Riesling producers do; or several bottlings using different aging vessels like Chardonnay producers. Or multiple blends like Cabernet producers. It doesn’t happen because it’s too easy to make and sell ordinary rosé. It’ a cash cow, not a serious wine.

I don’t doubt there are some fine rosés out there, but you have to hunt for them and drink a lot of ordinary wine to find them.

I’ll start taking them seriously when producers make serious wines.

3 comments

  1. I think you may miss one of the most important elements of Rose, Dwight. Should it be serious? Or should it be deliciously fun and exuberant? I think much of the resistance to taking Ross seriously comes from the fact that good Rose should be fun–it should capture the delights of fruit, sun, and joy. It is perfect in its own way.

    I often draw a parallel between Rose and comedy–because both bring such joy, they are easy for everyone to understand. The ability to give that kind of joy is a great skill–but they are so easy to enjoy that “true connoisseurs” look down on them. The same is true in music, where Rossini–a joyful composer if there ever was one–never gets the same respect as someone like Bruckner because Bruckner wrote “more serous” music. Oscar Wilde, or Ibsen?

    Rose should give joy. And if it makes you think of Rossini and Oscar Wilde, it deserves just as high a rating as a brooding red wine that makes you think about Ibsen and Bruckner.

    Frankly, I’d rather laugh than cry.

  2. By “serious” I don’t mean brooding. I mean interesting. Both Rossini and Wilde created works that repay study and attention. The problem isn’t that Rose is exuberant. l love exuberant wines. The problem is the rose I taste today is pretty much like the one I had yesterday. The range of variation tends to be limited.

    It’s fine that rose continues to be playful and simple. Certainly nothing wrong with that. But then don’t complain when critics ignore it as Styles did.

  3. Can you send me your address and phone number and we will send you the Balletto Vineyards Rose of Pinot Noir, which is grown in the Russian River Valley from a vineyard that is selected specifically for Rose production.

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