WineInk: The heat is on |

WineInk: The heat is on

Summer is the time for rosé

Kelly J. Hayes
The 2021 release of the Bieler Pere et Fils Sabine Rose Aix-en-Provence is an Aspen favorite found in many of your favorite local shops.
Kelly J. Hayes

It’s getting hot out there.

As June melts into the sunnier skies of July, we transition into the dog days of summer. This past week, even in the high passes above Aspen, temperatures rose into the  80s. For those who love wines, that means it is the season for rosé.

Walk into any of the valley’s wine shops and liquor stores, as I did this week, and you’ll be greeted by racks of rosé on display from all around the world. And many of these wines are on sale. If you love the pink stuff, this is your time of year.

“We’re selling a lot of rosé these days,” said Curtis Fiore, general manager of the Four Dogs Fine Wines and Spirits mega store in El Jebel, adjacent to Whole Foods. “Tequila is king in terms of overall sales, but this time of year we carry a lot of rosé because it just sells so well.”

Indeed, there is an entire section of pink and pale wines racked just in front of the main counter at Four Dogs so that customers don’t have to walk too far to make their summer selections.

Over the last decade, one of the great stories in American wine has been the rise in the popularity and consumption of rosé. Once considered a light, regional wine style best enjoyed on a hot afternoon on the coast of France — or perhaps before dining in a Sicilian seaside village — rosé is now a summer staple for wine lovers everywhere, especially in the U.S. According to beverage market analyst firm bw166, sales of wines with rosé on the label showed an increase of over 1,400% from 2010 to 2020. That’s a tsunami of pink wine.

Pretty as a picture: The rack of rosé wines at Four Dogs Fine Wines & Spirits features a prodigious selection of great pink wines from around the world.
Kelly J. Hayes

There are a number of reasons for the growth of the category. Start with the premise that it was overdue. In a world where people are craving lighter styles of dry wines that are generally a bit lower in alcohol, fresh, young rosé wines are a perfect fit. And, when you combine that refreshing style with the beauty of the range of pink-hued wines that reflect summer alpenglow, you have magic in a glass.

Then there was the Whispering Angel effect. In 2007, a noted French winemaker named Sasha Lachine decided that the American market was ripe for a pink revolution. He began to import his Château d’Esclans rosé wines from Côtes de Provence in the South of France to America. That first year he sold just under a thousand cases. Taking advantage of social media and significant wine events including the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, Whispering Angel answered the prayers of millennials who were looking for something hip, exciting and aspirational to pour into their glasses. The brand exploded, and in 2019 Lachine sold a majority stake in Château d’Esclans to Moët Hennessy, the wine and spirits division of luxury French conglomerate LVMH. It now sells over a million cases in the U.S. alone, and it is credited with spawning a new category in the beverage industry.   

For winemakers, the beauty of the wines has to do with economics. Rosé can be, and is, made from just about any red grape. If you are in the South of France, grenache, mourvedre and cinsault are the traditional grapes. But today global winemakers make rosé from what they grow already. In Argentina, Susana Balbo might make use of malbec for a rosé; in Oregon Jim Prosser of J.K. Carriere turns pinot noir into pale pink wine; and in South Africa Mulderbosch creates a stunning rosé from the very dark cabernet sauvignon grapes they grow specifically for the purpose of producing rosé.

And because rosé is released young, shortly after harvest, and rarely sees extended aging, winemakers can reap the profits quickly from one season to the next. It creates quick cash flow. For producers who are used to releasing red wines years after they are harvested, made, and aged, there is a benefit to making a wine that they can sell quickly, freeing up space and resources in their wineries for the next vintage. This also allows the wines to be sold inexpensively to consumers. While there are premium rosé wines, perfectly quaffable examples of the wine style — both imported and domestic — can be purchased in the $10 to $15 range, which is a steal.

In addition to the higher end offerings of Whispering Angel and OTT wines in the racks at Four Dogs, there are a number of affordable and interesting bottles of great juice.

“We may sell more Bieler rosé than anything else,” Fiore said, referring to the great rosé wines made and sold by one-time Aspenite Charles Bieler.

The Bieler Pére & Fils Sabine Rosé 2021 is a great example of a classic Provencal Rosé that can be bought for the price of a six pack of craft beer. In an interview with Charles in 2019, he described what he is looking for when making a rosé.

“A great rosé should be all about balance,” he said. “There should be some savory and some sweet with acid in the middle as a fulcrum. There should be tension in the red fruit.”

The Sabine Rosé, though made in a challenging vintage beset by frost in 2021 (yes, even in the South of France the weather is changing), achieves that goal.  

Just across the way, I checked in with Doz, a longtime Aspen legend and now mid-valley wine guy at El Jebeverage next to City Market in El Jebel, to see what he would suggest for the season. He recommended a pair of rosé bottlings in the front of the store.

“Crisp and dry with good body” is how he described the Yes Way Rosé that sells for less than $15. The female-founded brand is grenache-based and hails from the South of France, the motherland for pink wines. Doz also suggested a Moulin De Gassac Pays d’Herault Guilhem Rosé 2021, a blend of 50% cinsault, 30% Carignan and 20% grenache, which was on sale for $10.99 a bottle. Either works as a picnic wine or something to share at a barbecue.

The Big Boys: The impressive lineup of large format wines at Aspen’s of Grape and Grain, including rosés from Whispering Angel, Domaines Ott and Domaine Tempier along with sweet treats from Château d’Yquem.
Kelly J. Hayes

And if you want a real treat, head to of Grape and Grain in Aspen. The tiny and oh-so-packed shop has a collection of large format bottles of rosé on the front counter as you enter the store. And the big bottles of Domaines Ott, Whispering Angel and the 2018 Domaine Tempier wines from the Bandol appellation imported by Kermit Lynch are impressive indeed. But take a look around, and you’ll find a treasure trove of delightful rosé wines ranging from a magnum of Chateau Peyrassol, which has been making wines since 1204, when it was founded by the Knights Templar, to a modest but delicious jug of Cotes Mas Rosé that sells for just $9.99.

Yes, the rosé revolution has become mainstream in America, but every year as the temperatures rise, there are more reasons to participate. Time to drink pink.


ACUMEN 2021 Mountainside Rosé Wine – Napa Valley

I told you they make it out of different grapes, and this blend of merlot and tempranillo from the renowned Attelas and Stagecoach Vineyards crafted by Acumen winemaker Phillip Titus is exhibit A.

“When we discovered that Stagecoach (one of the most well-known vineyards in Napa) had a great block off Tempranillo available, I was thrilled,” Titus said.

That thrill has been bottled in this Atlas Peak sourced wine. Bright, but bold, floral and lush, this is a great, well-balanced rosé that works wonders for a summer cookout.

Acumen bottle.
Kelly J. Hayes