Quick: What’s the fastest growing wine category in the U.S.?

You probably answered rosé, because of the title of this article, and believe it or not, it’s true. According to a Nielson research study, rosé wine sales growth is 10 times faster than the growth overall of table wine sales.

When I wrote about the growing popularity of rosé wines in an article five years ago, I knew the trend would continue — but this kind of growth surprised me. Working in the wine distribution and retail industries during that time, I have witnessed, firsthand, the ever increasing number of rosé wines available in the market and the ever increasing number of consumers interested in them. And it’s not only women choosing to drink pink wine; real men do drink rosé, too.

In 2015, our store offered about 40 different rosé wines from all over the world. This year, we will be increasing our offerings by 50%, up to about 60. That sounds like a lot of rosé, but that is just a fraction of what our distributors have to offer. We aren’t talking about the multitude of White Zinfandel and other sweet and fruity blush wines on the market today; these are serious, dry rosé wines from the world’s major wine producing regions.

What’s Going On?

There are many reasons for the increasing popularity of rosés in this country and, until recently, it’s been a slow and painful process. Many U.S. wine drinkers think that rosés are the latest thing and just came out of nowhere. According to the wine trade association Vins de Provence, the French drink more rosé than white wine and have been producing rosé wines for centuries.

White Zinfandel and sweet blush wines have been widely popular in the U.S. for a long time, but dry rosé wines have been slow to catch on. White Zin drinkers are not going to be the ones making the switch. There is still a perception that all pink wine is sweet. That perception is changing due to increased availability, changing tastes in wine, and of course, marketing.

An illustration of the impact of marketing on the rise of rosé is the popularity of Provence rosé brands Whispering Angel and Miraval. The Whispering Angel was launched in 2006 and targeted high-end resort areas, like the Hamptons. This created an image of affluence for the brand specifically, and rosé in general; today it is among the top 10 French wine brands sold in the United States. Miraval Rosé comes from Chateau Miraval, owned and operated by actors Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. They launched the brand on Valentine’s Day 2013 and sold out their initial 6,000 cases by March.

Image alone does not explain the rise in rosé sales. Improved quality of rosé winemaking has led to increased availability in world markets. In addition, rosé is a refreshing drink on a hot day, delicious and versatile when paired with all kinds of foods and, best of all, a large selection of rosé is priced in the $13 to $20 range.

Another factor to consider is the perception that rosé is a summer wine. There is no doubt that a chilled glass of rosé pairs perfectly with sitting on the deck on a hot summer night. Many wine drinkers are choosing to serve rosé all year round. Don’t be afraid to serve one with the turkey next Thanksgiving.

Of course, France isn’t the only producer of quality rosé. You can find rosé from every corner of the winemaking world. Rosés made with Malbec from Argentina, Cabernet Sauvignon from South Africa, Cabernet Franc from New York’s Finger Lakes and Pinot Noir from California are just a few of the offerings on the market today. And don’t overlook the many outstanding ones from Italy, Spain and Portugal made with many of their indigenous grape varieties.

About Production

To make rosé, production starts like a red wine and is finished like a white wine. Red grapes are crushed and the juice is allowed to sit on the skins anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days. The intensity of the color is determined by the variety of grape used and the discretion of the wine-

maker. The skins are then extracted and the pink juice is fermented, usually in stainless steel tanks. The results are wines with lighter aroma and flavor profiles found in red wines, along with the refreshing acidity found in white wines.

Some rosés are made using the saignée (say-NAY) method, during which red grapes are crushed and left to stand on the skins in a tank for several hours; some of the juice is then bled from the tank and used to make rosé. The remaining juice is left on the skins to make red wine.

Try ’Em

There are delicious rosés from producers all over the world, but I am partial to the ones from France, so this time my recommendations are all French. Don’t ignore offerings from other regions, and try as many as possible. Get to know what you are partial to.

2015 Domaine du Salvard Cheverny Rosé: This wine from France’s Loire Valley is made from 65% Pinot Noir and 35% Gamay grapes. It shows the perfect balance of fruit and acidity. Delicate aromas and flavors of raspberry, with notes of kiwi and lemon. Pairs well with goat cheese, shellfish, light fish dishes and roasted poultry with fresh herbs. They’re priced at about $18.

2015 Domaine de Fontsainte Gris de Gris Corbières Rosé: This is a blend of Grenache Blanc, Grenache Noir, Carignan, Cinsault and Mourvèdre from France’s Languedoc-Roussillon region using the saignée method. It offers expressive notes of cherry, raspberry and fresh strawberry, with a hint of tropical fruit on the nose, leading to the clean, fresh finish. Enjoy with grilled fish, stir-fried vegetables and roasted chicken with rosemary. Priced at about $17.

2015 Saint Roch les Vignes Côtes de Provence Rosé: Made with equal amounts of Grenache and Cinsault from France’s Provence region, this wine features complex aromas and flavors of red fruit, peach and citrus, with a hint of spice. The palate is round and lush with bright acidity. Pair with shellfish, white fish dishes, summer salads and even sushi. Priced in the mid-teens.

The rosé story is far from over, and there is still a lot of market growth to be realized. As the warm weather moves in, make sure that a few rosés are on your list of summer sippers. Cheers.

Sam Audia is a former advertising and marketing professional with more than 20 years of experience in the wine and spirits industry. He is a wine specialist at Bay Ridge Wine & Spirits, in Annapolis, holds a Certification Diploma from the Sommelier Society of America, and Intermediate and Advanced Certificates from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust. He can be reached at sippingwithsam@verizon.net.