The Fascinating History of Rosé

There is a reason why rosé wine represents the relaxing good life, but it wasn’t born on vacation. To understand the relevance of pink, we look at the history of Provence’s powerful and their entourage. How to tell who was who? Look at what they drank. 

Study the Past

The Centre du Rosé is indeed situated in Provence, but this is not a spot that draws pink-seeking influencers. This is the world’s only rosé research center, staffed with experts that study the impact of vineyard and cellar decisions that influence rosé, differentiating it from red and white wines, and ensuring quality and meeting expectations of global consumers.

If this leaves you wondering why such a place is relevant, a history lesson is in order. While rosé wines are produced around the world, the cultural heart of the category is Provence, in Southeastern France. This heart has been beating since the sixth century BC when the Phocaeans transported grapes from Greece to modern day Marseille. The production of pale field blends of red and white grapes resulted in wines with a pink hue from an immediate crush after harvest. 

map of provence

Popes and Hangers On

The next major round of influence came with the season of the popes, when Avignon replaced Rome as the seat of the papacy in the 14th century. Talk about an entourage! Ranks of leaders relocated to France, as did legions of laborers that arrived to build the pope’s palace, shore up the food supply, serve as soldiers, and participate in infrastructure. As population increased, the city became one of the largest in Europe and took on a cosmopolitan shine. 

The Romans considered rosé, which remained popular around the Mediterranean, as a drink for rich people. Rosé is generally produced free-run and consumed fresh, and this drink-it-now style made it something that needed to be served and enjoyed in a timely manner. Red wine tended to sit in stash for workers and soldiers, with the aging process less about maturing for quality than its ability to store and distribute as needed.

rose wine

There’s a funny twist to this story. By the 19th century—well past the age of the popes and hangers on—many people had begun to consider wine as a measure of social standing. Culturally, having a collection of wine was thought to be an aspect of prosperity. In many ways, this is still true today, so it’s not a stretch to imagine the significance of a “show off” cellar. But the uber-wealthy still regarded rosé through the Roman-colored-glasses. Like the popes, they had nothing to prove. It’s said that rosé, enjoyed without the benefit of long cellar times, symbolized cash flow. 

Some Things Don’t Change

In a way, this essence is still apparent, though less obvious. Leisure sipping is still a dominant aspect of the rosé lifestyle. It’s less fussy, with lower stakes. While there are age-worthy rosés, this isn’t the crowd-facing tone of the category. People still generally drink their rosé fresh by consuming the current vintage until it’s gone, not saving up for a rainy, regular-person day. Rosé could be the symbolic wine of enjoyment and the good life, and there's an excuse to participate. After all, it’s written in the history books.

rose wine

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