The year was 2017, and the United States was awash in rosé. The blush-colored wine had not only shed its bad reputation (which was due in large part to Sutter Home White Zinfandel) and bounced back from decades of sluggish sales, but it also eclipsed itself: Sales grew by more than 50% in a year. Social media was plastered with rosé hashtags, while stories like the Hamptons’ rosé shortage only added to its clout.
Five years later, its growth has leveled off a bit, but as summer beverages go, rosé is still on top. “It’s kind of like a feeling,,” says Di Bruno Bros. wine manager Sande Friedman. “Rosé means it’s summer, it’s barbecue, I’m sitting outside, drinking something light and not overly complicated. ... It just wouldn’t be warm weather without it.”
Friedman recently partnered up with Lehigh Valley’s Galen Glen Winery to make a limited-edition Di Bruno Bros. rosé (made in tandem with a Jasper Hill cheese washed in the pink juice). It’s the fourth such collaboration the wine-and-cheese retailer has released, a pleasantly dry and zesty offering with notes of kiwi and wild strawberry. The Inquirer spoke with Friedman about this particular rosé, the evolution of local wine, and other wine trends.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Can you tell me about this collaboration wine?
I was looking at some other projects that we’ve done at Di Bruno’s, like our cheese spreads, our crostinis. Anything with our name on it is something where we’ve always had a relationship; the guy who makes our crostini is an old friend of [VP] Emilio [Mignucci]. I felt like we needed a wine — we’re gonna work with the producer during harvest, and that will be our private-label. It’s treated as something special, fun, appropriate for right now. We’re hands-on in the process; we don’t just buy juice. For the first one [with La Clarine Farm in California], I went out, I picked the grapes myself, got to work over two days of harvest, doing the crush — my feet were in it, which is a pride point. When COVID hit, we pivoted to PA wineries. We worked with Wayvine last year, and this year. we worked with Sarah Troxell at Galen Glen Winery, which I think is doing some of the best wines in Pennsylvania. Sarah is like a wine wizard who worked in all of these amazing countries. She’s got a lot of French and Germanic influences, and [creates] these very dry, austere, and precise wines. And she’s working with this robust Pennsylvania fruit, but she’s doing it with such a linear precision. There can be a perception that some Pennsylvania wines are going to be a little sweeter, richer, and you get the opposite from her.
I wanted to get your take on the stigma on local wine and how it’s changed in recent years.
I think it sometimes depends on what market the wine is going to be served. Our clientele ask for bone-dry wines. Some of what Galen Glen makes is not necessarily dry, but that’s expected where a lot of these wineries are centered; the clientele out there ask for richer, sweeter wines because that’s what they like. Whereas the city consumer tends to drink more imported wine, they’re willing to spend more, and they want drier and more austere wines. On the winemaker side, it comes down to what can they make to the best of their abilities and where can they sell it. When I went to Sarah and I said I want bone-dry wine, she said, “Awesome.” And they nailed it.
I feel like there’s been a crop-up of Pennsylvania wineries that are actually purchasing the juice from elsewhere — from Oregon or California — and then they’re still charging a premium price. I’d rather just buy from an Oregon or California winery. If you’re doing PA wine, I want PA wine. That’s why I love Wayvine and Galen Glen. It’s all their fruit, they’re growing it, they’re picking it, and it feels more of a labor of love for winemaking than it does winemaking as a business.
On other wine trends, has natural wine or orange wine given rosé a run for its money, or are they still too inside baseball?
You can easily find well-priced rosé all the time because rosé is often tiered at a really accessible price point. Orange wine is getting there, but it’s more complicated to make and it’s oftentimes more expensive. I think just because of the pricing situation, it’s never going to overthrow rosé, but there is more interest and demand in those markets.
What about nonalcoholic wine?
There are lots of really cool nonalcoholic wines, but a lot is quickly produced to chase the trend. Some are made with more care, which we like to seek out. There’s a riesling-centric winery called Leitz that happens to make nonalcoholic wine and it’s delicious. There’s also a Canada-based company called Acid League, a vinegar company, using vinegar as a base element, adding in traditional herbs and spices and different things to mimic [the flavor of] wine grapes. The viscosity is different than wine but the profiles are very cool and very similar.
What about canned wine — it’s still relatively new to people.
Everybody just needs to accept cans are good. They can feel like a tough sell sometimes when you’re like, “Hey, why is this can 10 bucks? Oh, it’s almost two glasses of wine.” When you see a can the size of beer can, 375 milliliters, that’s half a bottle of wine. It’s more wine than you realize. It’s in a great, safe environment. It’s still not getting oxygen, still not getting light contact. A bottle of wine will never go out of style. It will be classy and beautiful forever. I can buy a four-pack of cans, it’s probably gonna cost about the same as a bottle. But my wine stays fresh. I’m always gonna have a good bubble, I don’t have to worry about stoppers. It helps with portion control. As long as it’s from a good producer, it’s going to be good in any type of packaging.