Saturday, October 13, 2012

Rosé In L.A.

Why the Summer Pink Has Made Such a Splash in the Southland 
-- A retailer perspective --

In my previous life of musician where I also worked at an independent record company, one of my many duties was to handle international sales. And the best perk of that particular job function was to attend Midem, a once-a-year convention in Cannes. This is where you met all of your potential and current distributors to discuss promotion, new releases and getting paid on time. It was a valuable and often times much-needed journey to meet face-to-face. It is in the south of France, in the early 90’s, at this event, that I developed my taste for “the pink stuff.”

In the south of France (and most of France for that matter) the joys of drinking rosé wine come as no big surprise. The French appreciate wines of all types. But especially in the summer months, one can always find rosé on the table. In Cannes, and all over the coastal areas of France, they are famous for their raw seafood platters. What a perfect way to wash down the fresh oysters, lobster and scampi--with a cold crisp rosé!

I soon discovered that this rosé wine went perfectly with many other dishes. I watched as locals ordered steak tartar, roast chicken and various egg dishes, and then a bottle of pale orange-ish rosé showed up. How versatile. I started ordering like a local and found that they were right. The fresh quality and intensity of the dry, crisp fruit went with just about everything. And more than that, I found that the “ease-of-use” is what the locals enjoyed. You can really count on the lively quality of the rosé to complement seamlessly most warm weather food. In fact, very little effort is needed to find a perfect match. Order your dish + pick a rosé = have a great meal.

We move now to southern California, where you would think rosé would be an ideal match for our warm climate and fresh seasonal cuisine. However, six years ago when I opened Rosso Wine Shop, I found considerable apprehension among consumers. What I heard consistently was “no, we are not interested in rosé,” or “is it sweet?” referring most always to the white Zinfandel that was made popular decades ago. The easy and likable quality of the rosé that so dominates the old world was being met with skepticism here. Mais pourquoi?

Priority number one then became to introduce people to the joys of dry rosé. So that meant talking about the wine throughout the hot months every chance I could get. But what really made the difference was pouring the wines at our wine bar as often as possible. In addition to that I decided to source the best quality I could find but keep the focus on value. Often times value can push through apprehension. So I looked at the Bobby Kacher book, as an example, and I found I could price most all of his rosé selections under $15. This sort of three-pronged strategy, coupled with a general growing fascination with rosé wine, has slowly but surely opened the floodgates.

I am now happy to report from the retail trenches that from our modest start of selling a decent amount of rosé wine in 2006 (because of our fondness for it), we have now literally increased our rosé sales’ ten-fold. In fact, for the first time in our 6 years in business, I have elected to carry some type of rosé all the way through until the end of the year! The previous rosé strategy for most retail was to “sell out of everything by Labor Day,” as if the wine you were stuck with would turn into a “pumpkin” after September. But now the very fact that I am confident we will have demand for the next few months means that southern California has finally embraced “the pink.”

Find a local wine shop, buy some rosé and enjoy what the Europeans have for decades: a fresh, vibrant dinner companion.

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