WINE SEARCHER The First Rosés of Summer

It’s April, and summer is on the way. Claire Adamson checks out which rosés are in vogue this year.

In this week’s episode of Billions on Showtime, Chuck and Wendy sit down for a glass of rosé over their dinner, marking a moment of peace between the estranged pair. Wendy makes sure it’s a Wölffer rosé, the in-pink of the Hamptons, before she accepts a glass.

It’s not surprising to see rosé pop up more and more in scenes like this – whether on screen or in the home. Rosé has become both fashionable and respected (often the two are mutually exclusive) over the past five years or so, with sweet, syrupy White Zinfandel wines happily a distant memory for many of us. And even though we’re drinking it year-round these days, the true rosé season is about to kick off in earnest.

The global palate has come to enjoy the crisp, dry style of rosé that has been perfected in the southern French region of Provence, where salty, macho types were swigging pink long before any American uttered the contemptible portmanteau “Brosé”.

The Whispering Angel rosé, made by Château d’Esclans under the Côtes de Provence AOC, is so ubiquitous in the United States these days that it is in the top 200 most searched-for wines on Wine-Searcher this month. This puts it ahead of such famous wines as Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, Marlborough’s iconic Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc and Bollinger’s standard non-vintage cuvée.

The wine has an average score of 89 on Wine-Searcher, but it isn’t critics who have sent it to the top of the table. Whispering Angel has become the tipple of choice on a popular podcast called the Bitch Sesh, which disseminates the events of the Real Housewives shows on Bravo each week. The hosts, comedians Casey Wilson and Danielle Schneider, did a tasting of the wine one week, and became accidental brand ambassadors for Château d’Esclans.

Whispering Angel peaked at number 46 on the most searched-for chart in July 2016; that spot is currently occupied by Paul Jaboulet’s La Chapelle wine – the only wine on Wine-Searcher to have an average critic score of 100 (for the 1961 vintage). This puts Whispering Angel in rather good company.

Whispering Angel isn’t the only rosé to feature heavily on people’s minds – the Château Miraval rosé, made at Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s estate in Provence, is in the top five most searched-for rosés, as is Frank Cornelissen’s Susucaru rosé from Italy – a favorite of Action Bronson, rapper and star of Viceland’s F*ck, That’s Delicious. Mateus Rosé, the original celebrity wine, rounds out the top five.

But higher than all of these in the rankings is the Wölffer Rosé, which peaked at number 32 in the charts in May 2016. This wine, made in Long Island, has become the pink of choice for well-to-do New Yorkers, and made headlines in 2014 when a rosé shortage threatened the summer inhabitants of the Hamptons.

“The Hamptons and rosé go together, as you can imagine,” Max Rohn, the general manager at Wölffer, told Wine-Searcher. “People come out to the Hamptons and they have a wonderful experience here in the summer with their families and friends, and the vineyard is part of that.”

Wölffer makes a range of rosés, all of which sell out by the end of June. Demand has risen from summer to summer for the last five or six years, and the winery has upped production as much as it can, today producing around 50,000 cases a year. Wölffer makes three different rosés – the estate rosé, a premium rosé and the distinctively packaged Summer in a Bottle wine.

“The general trend that we see is that rosé is becoming a more and more of a serious wine in the market.” said Rohn. “It’s a wine that doesn’t have the snobbery of other wines. People don’t feel that they have to be tasting the complexity, even though it could be there – they don’t feel that it’s intimidating in any way.”

Of course, there are a few intimidating rosés available on the market – and one doesn’t need to go much further than Wine-Searcher’s list of the most expensive rosés to find some of them. The Garrus Rosé, made by Château d’Esclans of Whispering Angel fame, is the most expensive rosé that is readily available on Wine-Searcher, with an average price of $93 a bottle. It is joined in the top echelons of pinkness by Napa’s Amuse Bouche Pret a Boire Rosé at $73, and Cayuse’s Edith Armada Vineyard Grenache Rosé, which is $63.

The most intimidating rosé of all, however, was a single bottle of the Queen of Hearts Rosé by Sine Qua Non, which sold for a record-breaking $42,780 at auction in 2014. Sine Qua Non’s proprietor Manfred Krankl told Wine-Searcher at the time: “I never imagined that a bottle of rosé, or any single bottle for that matter, would sell for $42,000.”

Of course, while the most expensive and most popular rosés are fun to look at, it’s the best value rosés that really get the blood pumping. The Château Saint Marguerite Symphonie Rosé is one such wine. It has an average score on Wine-Searcher of 91 and an average price of $20 a bottle, making it an excellent bottle to grab off the shelf on a sunny spring afternoon. If the weather’s a bit stormier, Australia has some top-rated rosés with a bit more bite to them, like the Turkey Flat Rosé or the Charles Melton Rosé of Virginia.

The Wölffer Rosé offers value as well – if you are fortunate enough to get your hands on a bottle. One person who certainly thinks so is motivational speaker Tim Ferriss, who mentioned it in a blog post last year as his “elixir for warm-weather sipping”, which caused a spike in searches for the wine – as well as helping clear wine stores of the stuff a bit faster this year.

“We only have access to so many grapes in our vineyard and from other growers that we work with,” Rohn said. “Ultimately, it sells out and that’s part of the mystique about it, I think.” No doubt Wölffer’s cameo on Billions should help this process along again this season, but the winery should be happy that it was portrayed in a positive light – the last time Paul Giamatti didn’t like a wine on screen, it completely changed the course of the American wine industry.