Let’s face it, many American’s have a dysfunctional relationship with pink wine. Generally, the pink wine we find in stores is either sweet, bubbly or French. If you are a self proclaimed manly man raised on red meat, Monday night football, and monster trucks you avoid these things unless they refer to candy bars, beer, or fries. However, it’s not just the Ron Swanson’s of the world who frown at the thought of pink libations, the same feeling applies to serious wine enthusiasts who are accustomed to the liters of sweet white zinfandel their polyester clad, wig wielding relatives knock back at every holiday dinner. To be frank, pink wine needs a makeover.
The same attitudes about pink wine aren’t shared by our European friends. A great many French and Spanish wineries make rosé for casual consumption which is sipped enthusiastically and with great regularity by both men and women. In France, vin rosé outsells white wine! Summers along Mediterranean coastline are filled with cafe tables upon which rest bottles of deliciously crisp rosé enticing patrons to pop the cork. Beach going tourists suck down bottle after bottle the same way frat brothers sling back buckets of Bud Lite on spring break. That’s not all, rosé is presented as the ultimate food wine, the perfect thing to wash down everything from oysters to aioli. To drink rosé with your meal means to eat well.
Many fortunate Americans travelling abroad get to see, smell and taste for themselves a bottle of Bandol rosé and bouillabaisse, or a Spanish rosado with fried potatoes. These globe-trotting imbibers of pink liquid have perhaps been partly responsible for the rise of traditional, dry Rose consumption in the United States. In recent years, rosé sales above $12 per 750 bottle (we can assume this is not the sweet pink stuff) have experienced double digit growth. But, let’s face it, only 10% of all wine consumption in America is rosé and most of that IS the sweet pink stuff. Rosé has a long way to go before gaining mass appeal.
Unfortunately there are a few big issues with rosé in the minds of many Americans. The first one is that the color pink can be a problem for some people, especially guys. My 5 year old son’s favorite colors used to be blue as and pink. That was a year ago. Now if you ask him he’ll tell you that pink is a girl color. Once children figure out the difference between girls and boys they become subject to the constant bombardment of cultural images associating certain types of color with gender. When a guy reaches the age where he can drink legally the thought of choosing a glass of rosé as his beverage of choice labels him forever in the eyes of his pals as the pink wine guy . Jack Daniels is probably a safer choice.
The second barrier is that Americans are used to rosé as sweet wine. Until recently (Moscato anyone?) sweet wine has been a wine pariah. Despite an immense tolerance and propensity to enjoy all things sweet, this hasn’t applied to table wine. I’ve heard some people complain that a wine is too sweet while simultaneously slurping a super sized Big Gulp of Mountain Dew. This is the case even when the wine is completely dry! For some reason just the thought of pink wine gives people the impression of sweetness, and therefore makes it unfashionable.
The third challenge is that rosé is often packaged in a way that looks really French. For some inexplicable reason many Americans (mostly guys again) possess the stereotype of Frenchman as frail little men who skip through vineyards and run at the first sight of conflict. On the flipside American are perhaps thought of as barbaric Neanderthals who are barely potty trained and cannot finish a sentence. Both portrayals are ridiculous of course. Nevertheless, some people in this country find it hard to look “American” while sipping on a glass of rosé.
But, rosé doesn’t have to be girly, un-cool and un-American. It just needs a makeover.
For one, the color pink hasn’t always been considered “girly”. Way back in 1918, the trade publication Earnshaw’s Infant’s Department stated, “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.”
Perceptions of color are not fixed. Culture can change. With the right touch, the color pink can be transformed into something that’s bold, confident, and adventurous. These are qualities that both men and women can equally embrace.
Additionally, consumption of sweet and cheap white zinfandels are in decline. Wine sippers with a sweet tooth have focused their gaze on Moscato. This gives producers of the dry style the opportunity to seize the spotlight and redefine rosé. Maybe all rosé needs is a new celebrity image to generate mass appeal. Someone should probably call Justin Timberlake.
Lastly, marketers of dry rosé should think again about trying to promote the image of enjoying rosé the way that Europeans do. We love french wine but not necessarily the idea of becoming French. Americanizing rosé is the key. Therefore, those of us in the business must promote pink wine as the perfect match for barbecue notbouillabaisse and fried chicken not ratatouille. Americans need to be shown ways that rosé fits into their current lifestyle and melds with the things they already adore, from tailgates to cheesesteaks.
Those of us who are smitten by rosé and want to share it are heartbroken when someone refuses to take a sip because it’s pink. For us rosé is like a little pink diamond in the rough, possessing everything that Americans love about wine but lacking the image that inspires them to embrace it. This spring and summer we plan to proudly pour our Lot 33 Rosé from France’s Languedoc every chance we get in an attempt to convert all of you to drinking pink. We hope you join us in spreading the word. Especially you, Timberlake.
Smithsoniah Magazine: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/When-Did-Girls-Start-Wearing-Pink.html#ixzz2MqzdJ3Xm
Vins de Provence, The US Wine Market: Facts & Figures, January 2012