The Return of Rosé

By Alejandro Ortiz

With few exceptions, no other type of wine is more misunderstood than rosé, and yet, no other wine asks less of its audience. Rosés purpose is its no-hassle, anti-boogey sensibility, and delicious drinkability. Let’s get some alternative facts out of the way first: rosé wines are sweet; rosé wines are not ‘real wines’; and, you can’t drink them with food.

There is no better time than the present to discover the magic of dry rosés. Too often our concept of pink wines are colored by a past fraught with the likes of Sutter Home White Zinfandel, Mateus Rosé, and Lancer’s. These were quaffable, often sweet and totally innocuous wines made for porches and pounding (and ensuing headaches) devoid of personality and nuance.

The French, naturally, long-figured out what we are just beginning to understand; rosés, the kind of crisp, fresh, dry rosé that is drank in beaches and café’s all over France during the summer months, can be one of life’s great simple pleasures. Look for archetypical styles from the south and notably Provence.

Alternative Fact: Rose’s are sweet. Some rosés are, yes, but most are not. Keep in mind: if it comes in a large bottle, it is low alcohol (8%-9%) and/or is the color of bubblegum, it is likely sweet. However, this is an exception and an American phenomenon. The French would rather burn the Eiffel Tower down with them tied to it than drink a sweet rosé. Most of the rosés lining today’s store shelves are dry, crisp, and fresh with notes of strawberries, citrus zest, rose petals and rhubarb. A welcome and rejuvenating elixir in the warmest months of the year.

Alternative Fact: rosé wines are not ‘real wines’. Wrong. Rosés charms don’t discriminate, in fact, that is part of its very appeal. Ask the experts and they’ll tell you: Rosé is where it’s at. Oh, and if real men eat quiche, real men drink pink. The “wine industry” (the salesmen, reps, brand managers, distributors etc), for example, drink copious amounts of rosé year-round— an industry, it should be pointed out, that is largely male.

Alternative Fact: Rosé wines are cocktail wines; they don’t belong on the table. Rosé plays well with most foods including hard-to-handle cuisines and are right at home with Dim Sum, street tacos, and kebabs. Likewise, it’s the quintessential picnic wine and a perfect foil for delicious sandwiches, deviled eggs, or good conversation and friends.

Some “rule-of thumb” basics: Rosés come in all shades, from very light with a hint of pink to deep crimson; the darker the rosé the more dominant its red-fruit flavors. As a general principle I don’t spend more than $20 on a bottle of rosé (with a few and notable exceptions); look for great values coming from Spain, Italy, and of course, Rosés motherland: France. However, good rosés hail from every corner of the world: Napa to South Africa.

Most importantly, enjoying rosé is about simplicity, it is not about contemplation, nor does it require a ‘perfect time’. It is a wine of all seasons, for all occasions, and for nearly all palates. If you’re thinking about it too much you’re not doing it right… in fact, I think it’s rosé time right about now.

Alejandro’s picks (currently at J’s):

The CLASSIC: Commanderie de la Bargemone, Aix-en-Provence, FR. ($15.99)
The UPSTART: Banshee Rosé, California, US ($18.99)
The DAILY: Guilhem Rosé by Moulin du Gassac, Languedoc, FR ($8.99)


Alejandro wants to live in a world where coffee shops sell only Champagne, pipe-smoking is still a thing, and where clever but seldom-delicious molecular gastronomy has vanished from the planet. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Alejandro has been a creature of the wine and hospitality industry for the last 15 years as a pastry chef, chef, sommelier, consultant, teacher, restaurateur, and most recently brand manager for various wineries nationwide. As the wine manager and “wine guy” at J’s Bottle Shop, Alejandro is raising the bar for Athens’ burgeoning wine scene, working with small family wineries, seeking out biodynamic producers, and ensuring that whatever the price point, his customers are getting the best possible wine. He lives in Athens and is actively figuring out how to get his dogs to walk themselves.