Rosé's popularity on the rise with men

Gender-neutral? Rosé wine is enjoying some time in the sun.
Gender-neutral? Rosé wine is enjoying some time in the sun. Photo: Jennifer Soo

Adjust your cringe levels to 11 – "brosé" is now a thing.

In recent months there have been articles from The Times, The London Telegraph and Eater.com all decreeing real men are now drinking rosé instead of beer, or, if you will, brosé. One company in the US has even started putting rosé in a bro-friendly can.
Coined by New York's Details magazine, brosé is the term being used to explain the apparently shocking phenomenon of men choosing to drink pink wine (even over beer!) or, as the Details writer puts it, "inaugurating a freer, more egalitarian world of gender-fluid beverage consumption".

Even a cursory glance into a current-day bottleshop fridge will alert you to the fact that rosé is having a moment. The one-time oft-maligned afterthought  now comes in a much wider variety – local, imported and every colour of pink from loud lolly to a pale consumptive blush – and sommeliers and distributors have seen a spike in sales. 

But is it really such a shocking thing for men to drink pink that it needs to deepen its voice to brosé and have an accompanying Instagram hashtag showing images of men drinking rosé straight from the bottle? Is this the crisis of masculinity encapsulated in a wine glass? Maybe not so much in Australia.

Drink pink: The quality of Australian rosé has surged, as has the wine's popularity.
Drink pink: The quality of Australian rosé has surged, as has the wine's popularity. Photo: Marina Oliphant

Owner of South Melbourne wine bar Smalls Jess Ho says that "people are open to it – masculinity doesn't come into it."

"I had a crew of older guys come into the bar and one of them suggested they order a carafe of the rosé and everyone immediately went with it. I think people are just more educated about what they're drinking and are thinking about something that'll go with what they're eating rather than trying to conform to some heteronormative role."

So how is it that rosé has shaken off its decades-long pariah status as sickly sweet, entry-level, ersatz alcopop drunk mainly by young women? 

Sangiovese grapes are used to make Foster e Rocco Rosé.
Sangiovese grapes are used to make Foster e Rocco Rosé. Photo: Lynton Crabb

Sebastian Crowther, sommelier at Sydney's Rockpool, believes that the "notable upsurge" in people ordering rosé is because people are better travelled and have noticed the oceans of rosé consumed in Europe every summer but also because, particularly locally, winemakers are showing it greater respect.

"Rosé in Australia often used to be an afterthought, a way to use leftover grapes and to make extra sales at the cellar door," he says. "They weren't the sorts of wines that winemakers were particularly proud of or would show to judges. Now, people are growing grapes specifically for rosé and the quality and variety has surged."

Dan Sims, director of wine events company Bottle Shop Concepts, agrees that the surge in the quality of local stuff is significant but believes rosé also taps into the desire to make wine drinking less ponderous.

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"Rosé is about drinking and not thinking," he says. "Of course it should be well put together so it's lovely, bright and fresh but it's the kind of wine you want to drink on a summer afternoon and not necessarily in moderation. Trying to be serious while drinking rosé is like trying to be serious while drinking an Aperol spritz."

At Automata in Chippendale, sommelier Tim Watkins says that rosé has just become part of the conversation, especially when there's food involved.

"There used to be a binary position when it came to wine – red or white – and people would get puzzled when you suggested a rosé," he says. "But now people realise how well a light chilled wine suits the climate and how food friendly it is. Over the last 10 years I'd say that there's been about an 80 per cent increase in the amount of rosé I sell."

McLaren Vale's Hedonist Grenache Rosé.
McLaren Vale's Hedonist Grenache Rosé. Photo: Andrew Scott Beveridge

With any luck, the term brosé will sink back into the murky lifestyle swamp whence it came and rosé can stand proud and tall on its own. 

The fact that it's a style that tends to invoke fun times in a champagne-like manner promotes a relaxed frame of mind and, as Sebastian Crowther says, "stimulates the idea of unwinding". It might just be the perfect drop for right here, right now.

Five rosés to consider this summer

Dan Sims, Director, Bottle Shop Concepts

Foster e Rocco Rosé, Heathcote Victoria

A great everyday rosé that's equally at home with or without food. Made from sangiovese it has savoury hints but still with lots of acid and freshness.

Gabriel Webster, Sommelier, Love, Tilly Devine

The Hedonist Grenache Rosé, McLaren Vale, South Australia

A very easy-drinking rosé with a bright pink colour that's surprisingly dry but still contains a little residual sugar. 

Tim Watkins, Sommelier, Automata

Ochota Barrels Surfer Rosa Garnacha Rose, Adelaide Hills, South Australia

This is more a Tavel-style rosé (from the Southern Rhone in France) with more extraction of fruit leading to it being rich on the palate. Good for hardcore red wine drinkers looking to make the transition.

Jess Ho, Owner, Smalls Wine Bar

2013 Domaine Rolet Arbois, Jura, France

This has classic Jura characteristics and is made from poulsard grapes. It looks pink in the bottle and drinks dry and savoury.

Sebastian Crowther, Sommelier, Rockpool Est. 1989

Chateau Riotor Cotes de Provence Rosé, Provence, France

Sometimes the rosé from Provence can be so dry it borders on bland but the good ones like Riotor have good texture with lots of crunchy red fruit plus crisp acidity, which keeps them interesting and refreshing.