The Mysterious History of Rosé

Rosé is everywhere. There are rosé flavoured lollies, rosé themed merchandise, and even frozen slushy rosé. This pink drink has steadily grown in popularity thanks to beautifully photographed bottles filling the Instagram feeds of countless millennials. 

The common impression is that rosé is a new style of wine. However, experts believe rosé may be one of the oldest wines in history. In fact, Victoria James, author of Drink Pink: A Celebration of Rosé, suggests modern rosé is far closer to the wines drunk 8,000 years ago than any other modern wine. 

The people of ancient Greece were known to be drinking “field blends of both white and red grapes”. In the 6th century BCE, after the Phocaeans brought grape vines to the south of France, the French began to produce blends of white and red grapes which appeared naturally light pink in colour. After their conquest of Provence, the Romans spread these “pleasant pink wines” throughout their extensive Mediterranean trade network and its popularity exploded.  

Rosé remained popular for centuries, from the violet-colored rosé of the middle-ages to Rosé’s symbolism of glamour in 19th Century Europe. After World War II, sweeter variations from Portugal dominated both the European and American wine markets, but quality issues eventually lead to a decline in its reputation. At there its reputation remained for decades - a low-quality wine made from unstable grapes. A style unsuited to “serious” wine drinkers.  

And then … America became fascinated with French wine, and once again rosé’s popularity began to rise.  

By the 2010’s, celebrities like Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, and Drew Barrymore had their own rosé labels. At the same time winemakers were searching for unpretentious but delicious styles and began to produce rosé from higher quality grapes than ever before. Some of the biggest names in wine (like Jeremy Seysses of Domaine Dujac and Aubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti) are producing rosé which are served at some of the world’s most prestigious restaurants.  

But will recent history repeat itself?  

While some wineries are focused on producing exceptional, elegant rosé (like the exceptional 2019 Prosperitas Shiraz Rose), others are trying to capitalise on its popularity by pumping out “cheap pink” hoping they will be overchilled to the point their flaws are not tasted. The sophistication of modern wine drinkers suggests quality will win out. Take the advice of Victoria James and, “Let that pink bathwater stay in the tub! Seek out high-quality producers and celebrate how amazing rosé can be.”