Rosé by any other name
Beers, wines, meads arrive with the wine's refreshing profile
The ongoing craze for rosé suggests it's more than just a millennial-borne trend that will crest, fall and fade as something new takes its place on the store shelf. You might call it a sea change: Rosé is no longer the sweet blush wine that your grandma drinks.
People seem to have reached a whole new level of thirst for it — because wineries aren't alone these days in creating their own takes on the refreshing, pink-hued style of wine. Other alcoholic beverage producers have tapped into the trend — in a big way.
Now, you can taste its fresh, crisp flavor profile replicated in other types of booze. Rosé-like ciders were among the first to release because, as fruits, apples and grapes are easy complements. But brewers and even mead makers have been seeing the rosé-colored light of late and have produced their own takes, all in the hope they'll be your new summer go-to.
These include many local offerings, such as Austin Eastciders' Rosé Dry Cider and Meridian Hive Meadery's Ruby Red Rosé, in addition to national finds, including Firestone Walker's Rosalie Beer Rosé.
But how these are supposed to taste is a bit of a fluid concept. The only real requirement for a rosé-inspired beverage is that it has to come in some shade of pink, says Cayce Rivers, CEO at Meridian Hive. (The wine comes in a range of hues from deep ruby to dusky orange that you can bet is emulated in the other beverages.) Otherwise, some of these pink drinks feature wine grapes, while still others merely mimic their flavors with other ingredients like hibiscus and grapefruit.
That's what Meridian Hive discovered when it began researching examples of rosé wine and rosé cider to formulate the rosé mead recipe.
“We found the flavor profiles were all over the map,” Rivers said. “Old World rosé is typically bone-dry with hints of strawberry, cherry and citrus, where New World ones are more off-dry to semi-sweet. We discovered most rosé ciders lean toward the sweet side. The one (mostly) common denominator is the color needs to be pink.”
Here's a look at the mostly local, incredibly wide-ranging rosé-esque beers, ciders and meads you can find in the market. (One national brand, Firestone Walker, has been included because Rosalie is, frankly, exceptional.)
Texas Keeper Cider's Grafter Rosé
Local cidery Texas Keeper Cider has devoted perhaps more time than most to figuring out that ineffable quality of rosé that makes it so damn good — Grafter Rosé, a cider and wine blend, was first released in 2015 and is a few years older than all the others featured here. It has become the most beloved of all Texas Keeper offerings, according to Lindsey Peebles, the South Austin cidery's co-owner.
Texas Keeper's cider maker, Nick Doughty, comes from a winemaking background and has "always been guided by the more traditional flavor profiles of rosé wines when making Grafter, rather than aiming just to fall on that pink color spectrum," she says. This year's vintage has northern spy and golden russet apples that lend nice tropical fruit notes, as well as tempranillo grapes grown in the Texas High Plains. It has more of a fruity finish than past Grafters, making it an ideal twist on rosé.
Despite Grafter Rosé's popularity, the South Austin cidery only releases it for the summer months, an intentional decision that has everything to do with our perception of rosé as summer in a glass.
"With rosé, you typically get lighter fruit notes — strawberry, raspberry, stone fruits like apricot and green plum — which, in a poetically beautiful way, are summer fruits themselves," Peebles says. "So it's seasonally appropriate to drink rosés all summer long, and perhaps that is one of its big draws, given our efforts to eat and drink more with the seasons."
Austin Eastciders' Rosé Dry Cider
Love Provençal rosé? Austin's biggest cidery does, too. One of the latest additions to Eastciders’ quickly growing lineup features ingredients beyond apples that will bring to mind that classic style of wine without its defining fruit. You won’t have any doubt that it’s a cider, of course, as the core ingredient is a blend of bittersweet and dessert apples. Additionally, the cider was made with hibiscus and rose oil.
Moontower Cider's Pomme Blush Cider
Rosé's dry profile? Check. Its mild effervescence? Check. The requisite grapes? Check. Moontower is an under-the-radar cidery — with a tasting room coming soon to East Austin — that makes canned and kegged ciders that ought to be on our radars. The nicely tart Pomme Blush is a prime example, as a blend of culinary apples from the Pacific Northwest and orange muscat and ruby cabernet grapes from the Texas High Plains.
Firestone Walker's Rosalie Beer Rosé
Rosalie's base beer was co-fermented with wine grapes from a Paso Robles winery near the California brewery, so you really can go ahead and think of it as rosé-turned-beer. It combines some of these drinks' best qualities: beer's low alcohol by volume and rosé's "luscious acidity" and gentle effervescence, according to Firestone Walker.
“The result is what we are calling the rosé lover’s beer,” Firestone Walker brewmaster Matt Brynildson said in an announcement about Rosalie early this year.
Meridian Hive's Ruby Red Rosé
Honey is a natural sweetener, but Austin's only meadery found a way to pull off a dry, zesty finish in this mead featuring ruby red grapefruit, orange blossom honey, dark sweet cherry and hibiscus.
“We knew we wanted to showcase Texas in our rosé, so we opted for a ruby red grapefruit version,” Rivers said. “The main taste goal was to avoid a smack-you-in-the-face grapefruit punch but rather use the naturally tart citrus as the base. To start bringing out the fruity profile, we opted for a mild sweet cherry addition.”
Still, it needed something. The flavor combination was just right; the color was lacking. So like Eastciders and Firestone Walker, Meridian Hive threw in some hibiscus flowers. These turned out to be the solution in more ways than one: “Not only did the color really pop, but the additional lemony-tart and berry richness were an added bonus,” Rivers said.
C.L. Butaud's 2018 Frenchy Rosé
If you want to keep it a little more traditional — grapes and only grapes — a new Texas rosé that you'll want to accompany you at outdoor gatherings recently hit the market. (A picnic in the park, anyone?) Part of the boutique winery's Pa Pa Frenchy label, the 2018 Frenchy Rosé is a blend of four Texas-grown grape varietals popular in southern France. It's fresh, fruity and friendly to a variety of palates — like rosé as a whole.
Winemaker Randy Hester says rosé has become a sure bet for wineries, and he's not surprised its success has caused other beverage producers to dive into these rosy-red waters.
"If it looks good and it's priced right, it will sell, and as long it tastes like summer, people will buy it again and again," Hester says. "Compared to other traditional styles of wine, it is a welcome departure from the usual pomp and circumstance associated with the (wine) industry. ... Pink is a natural extension for those other industries to pick up on."