“I like to say that real men drink pink,” says Thomas Pastuszak, wine director of the swanky NoMad Hotel in Manhattan.
“There used to be this perception that rosé was a girly drink, but that’s just not true.”
As Procrustean gender norms fall into the dustbin of history, more menfolk are succumbing to the charms of the Pink Mistress, blithely knocking back rosés ranging in colour from onionskin to rare steak.
Like his counterpart, the much-discussed female whiskey drinker, the rosé bro is inaugurating a freer, more egalitarian world of gender-fluid beverage consumption.
On the job, it’s not rare for Pastuszak to spot gentlemen in their twenties and thirties imbibing rosé with impunity. “It used to be that a guy would maybe order a glass of rosé on a date. The woman would order a glass, and then he might say, ‘I’ll have rosé too.’ But now I’m seeing groups of men ordering it.”
Over in Brooklyn, Rustun Nichols, bar director of the upmarket fauxhemian citadel the Wythe Hotel, has noticed similar phenomena: “You go to a table where people are sitting outside and they’re like, ‘I’ll take a magnum of Bedell,’ and maybe it’s seven dudes and you’re a little surprised. You thought you were going to be talking to them about scotch, but they want some Provence rosé, and that’s totally cool.”
Believed to be the oldest style of wine in the world, rosé is traditionally dry and crisp and hails originally from the Provence region of France. But in the United States, the pink wine hasn’t always garnered respect from oenophiles. “Historically,” Pastuszak says, “there was a perception in American culture that rosé was a sweet, low-alcohol wine associated with the White Zinfandel coming out of California.” By the seventies, rosé was seen by serious wine drinkers as cloying, mass-produced swill, an object of revulsion and gendered disdain. But as more complex rosés are coming out of the barrel, the conversation around rosé is changing. The once-dismissed and feminized pink drink is now getting guzzled by winos regardless of gender.
No longer burdened by the cheap albatross of White Zinfandel, the New Rosé is a finding a hospitable environment in the 21st-century, metroflexible landscape. “I think a lot of stigmas about drinking rosé are definitely gone — I think [that’s the case] about beverages across the board,” says Nichols, who describes the archetypal male rosé drinker as guy in his mid-thirties who, in his teens, “was probably in a hard-core band that I loved and is now in some electro-clash band . . . and [has] two kids and collects records.”
Of course, ageing hipsters aren’t the only ones pounding pink.
Vince Blais, 26, an e-commerce merch planner, didn’t much care for rosé when he spent the summer in France as a teenager. “I didn’t get back to it until a couple of years ago,” he explains, “when I moved to New York City and discovered that it had become huge here.” Now Blais keeps his fridge stocked with From the Tank, a blend of 80 per cent Grenache and 20 per cent Syrah he describes as “boxed, but excellent.”
“I would say that I’ve noticed an increase in the popularity of rosé over the past two years,” says James Gold, 25, who works in fine-art logistics and imbibes blush on the regular with his two male roommates. “Before that, people would drink it, but it was often the butt of jokes, and I wouldn’t really consider picking up a bottle at the store. I would definitely not feel self-conscious ordering it or drinking it now.”
When it comes to beverage choices, financial journalist Felix Salmon, 43, is unfazed by passé gender norms. “Have I ever felt self-conscious about ordering rosé? Hell, no!” he says. “I’ve always drunk wine, and I guess that once I started realising that the purpose of wine isn’t to be really big and heavy and red and tannic and that you could actually really enjoy light wines was when I discovered rosé. This whole idea of rosé being a woman thing literally never occurred to me.” The same goes for attorney and self-described “equal-opportunity rosé drinker” Jeffrey Whyte, 46, who never thought twice about partaking of the pink. “I’ve been drinking it as long as I have been drinking wine as an adult,” he says.
Stigma or no, more people are drinking rosé, and men are undoubtedly a part of the trend. According to a January 2015 Nielsen report, US retail sales of premium imported rosé wines (those priced at or above $US12 a bottle) grew by 41 per cent on volume and 53 per cent on value in 2014. This is compared to growth rates of 1.0 per cent on volume and 3.3 per cent on value for the total table-wine market.
“We’ve definitely seen an increase in conversations about rosé — it’s in a growth phase,” says Paul Mabray, rosé enthusiast and CEO of VinTank, the world’s largest software company for wineries. VinTank monitors and analyses about 2.5 million wine-related social-media conversations per day. Mabray cites the release of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s rosé, Chateau Miraval, in 2012 as the breakthrough moment of brosé culture.
“When certain wines enter the broader consciousness, there’s usually a catalyst for it. With Pinot Noir, for example, you have the Sideways effect,” he says, referring to the Dionysian bromantic comedy of 2004. There’s an “aspirational aspect,” he says, to the appeal of Pitt and Jolie’s award-winning salmon-coloured sauce: “The fact that a man is part of that probably doesn’t hurt in the gender transcendence as well.”
For the notoriously indecisive millennial generation, rosé offers something even more valuable than aspiration — the luxury of non-choice: “It’s the best of both worlds,” says actor Sam Daly, 31. “It combines the light, crisp, and refreshing nature of white wine with the bold, daring complexity of red wine.”
“Rosé is kind of like online dating,” Daly says. “What was once a faux pas has become the norm. It’s totally become universally accepted among men and women. It’s kind of like the beer of wine.” Daly even has a buddy who wants to open up a rosé bar, which, he thinks, “would be perfect in Venice or Brooklyn.” When Daly and his fiancé get married later this summer, the couple will be drinking Whispering Angel, their favourite rosé, at the wedding. “There’s something kind of decadent about drinking rosé,” he says. “Like, champagne is great, but it can give you a wicked hangover.”