Finally, A New Way To Enjoy Rosé Wine. For Starters, Say Rosa Instead Of Rosé

Finally, A New Way To Enjoy Rosé Wine. For Starters, Say Rosa Instead Of Rosé

Earlier this week we started a series of articles about summer wine that suggests a fun, breezy way to engage with the wines that cross our paths and are poured into our glasses. The approach adopts the narrative principles, that is, it asks the five fundamental storytelling questions and applies them to one wine at a time: who made it, what grapes it’s made of, where was it made, when was it made, and why was it made.

No such series, especially at the start of summer, would be complete without rosé. That goes without saying.

But, as I prepared to write in detail about a few selected bottles of rosé, I wondered what more can be possibly be said about this category of wine, when readers may already feel some kind of “rosé fatigue.” It seems to be everywhere, after all, especially in the hot summer months when a cool glass or two of this refreshing wine at the end of the day tastes and feels exactly right.

So I wondered as I began this series, is there anything left to say, that’s new about rosé?

Happily yes, there are new things to say about rosé, and it starts, ironically, with not saying “rosé.”

Let’s try “rosa” instead.

That’s where I’d like to spend a little time in this series, with a deeper exploration of examples from the Italian rosa category. Two organizations — the Istituto del Vino Rosa Autoctono Italiano [”autoctono” refers to indigenous or native grapes] and the Consorzio di Tutela Prosecco DOC — have recently undertaken educational outreach and programming, and I’d like to start with a few “new things to say about rosa” that I learned from them.

Rosa Has Been Around for Centuries

Contemporary wine enthusiasts have seen what they’ve perceived as the meteoric rise in popularity of the pink-hued wine category, and some have also wondered about this category’s staying power and whether it may have already reached its peak. Yet rosa/rosé wines are hardly a new thing, not in this decade or even the decade or century before.

“It’s been around for centuries, if not millennia,” said Katherine Cole, author of Rosé All Day: The Essential Guide to Your New Favorite Wine, earlier this week in a webinar and tasting dedicated to rosa wines from Italy. She suggested that rosa may actually be the oldest style of wine, partly because native grapes have mottled or patchy-colored skins that lend themselves to a paler or medium-hued wine as an end result.

That proposition is underscored by Raffaele Librandi, a winegrower in Calabria and president of the Cirò and Melissa Wines Consortium. “We have been drinking rosa here for centuries,” he said. “We don’t have a tradition of [red wines] made with long macerations. Rosa for us is our everyday wine, all year long.”

Italian Rosa, North to South, and Unusually So

The composition of the Istituto del Vino Rosa Autoctono Italiano reflects both the long history of Italian rosa wine and the novelty of its presentation on the global scene.

On one hand, the “top to bottom” or “north to south” representation of organizations that comprise the Istituto mirror the long tradition of rosa wine throughout Italy: from the Veneto (Chiaretto di Bardolino) and Lombardy (Valtènesi Chiaretto) in the north, to Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo in the center of the country, to Castel del Monte Bombino Nero and Salice Salentino Rosata (both in Puglia), to Cirò Rosato in Calabria in the south.

On the other hand, the banding together in 2019 of such organizations under the Istituto as an umbrella organization is an unusual and even anomalous development when considered historically. There is, however, no denying the commercial opportunity of rosa wine either within Italy or on a global scale. Chiaretto di Bardolino, for example, produces ten million bottles annually. Their sales have been supported traditionally by tourism to the Lake Garda area (Bardolino’s “home base”) and, although that tourism has been hampered most recently by COVID-era travel restrictions especially from other European countries, international markets have opened to compensate for the loss in sales domestically.

It’s a compelling case study, and one I explore in-depth in today’s companion post whose focus is the narrative behind the 2020 Le Morette, a Chiaretto from Azienda Agricola Valerio Zenato on Lake Garda’s southern coast.

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