They’re drinking it all year round but like putting pumpkins outside your home in April or singing Christmas carols in August, it’s unseemly
By Celia Walden
Are the French having some kind of identity crisis? I only ask because if there are two areas they’re expert in – world leaders, even – it’s surely sex and wine. Yet yesterday we heard two bombshell news reports. First, that our Gallic cousins were turning to crude and clumsy Brits (and our hit TV series, Sex Education) for help in teaching youngsters about everything from flirting and consent to foreplay and nude selfies – and second, that with red wine sales in France now plummeting, rosé had become the French tipple of choice. They’re even drinking it in winter.
Rosé. A few years ago, just the word would have given me a tingle of excitement, conjuring up, as it did, everything lovely: the promise of summer, of long lunches, of tipsy nights, pretty dresses, flirting, clinking ice cubes, laughter.
I’m not sure I would have got through the pandemic without Whispering Angel, which became such a social fixture in my friendship group that it eventually had its own emoji. But you can have too much of a good thing, as it turns out, and last year, as summer turned into autumn and then winter, I remember thinking: “Why are people still drinking rosé?”
Like decking out the front of your house with pumpkins in April or singing Christmas carols in August, it felt wrong on an intrinsic level. And maybe that would have been enough to kill it for me, even without the rise of the Rosé Movement. Because suddenly, this innocent, far-too-easy-to-drink wine had become the avocado of the booze world.
You couldn’t scroll through Instagram without seeing a dozen, giggly girls in cute, cropped ‘La Vie En Rosé’ T-shirts or ‘Rosé All Day’ straw hats (full disclosure, I once had one). A raft of female celebrities – Kylie, Drew Barrymore, Sarah Jessica Parker – got into the rosé wine game, endlessly touting their wares, only a lot of it wasn’t from the gorgeous, peachy side of the family, but Côte de Provence’s brash, saccharine cousin: blush.
Once upon a time you couldn’t even order rosé in France – where it was dismissed as a “swimming pool drink” – out of season. Trying to do so would get you the same ferocious response as ordering your steak “well done”. It was all part of a national battle, waged daily, against vulgarity. So what on earth has happened?
The youth. That’s what. According to independent winemaker, Thomas Montagne, people, “especially the young” have ditched their traditional reds for “something easier to drink, [that] contains fewer tannins and feels more festive.”
I like to think that me going off rosé is a good sign: part of my evolutionary process. That I’m naturally going to mature into the kind of person who only drinks red wine and espressos and prefers the BBC World Service to LBC. Because with tastes, as with everything, you have to be aspirational – and surely the French have always understood that?