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Opinion Wine Rant

Can We Please Move On From Frosé?

It’s time to stop pretending the slushy wine cocktail was ever good

Janice Williams By April 13, 2022
person making frozen rose drinks with a blender
Illustration by Irina Perju

I couldn’t hide the look of surprise from spreading across my face. After demolishing an incredible breakfast of flaky, buttery biscuits and all the fixings at the famous New Orleans restaurant Willa Jean, one of my closest friends decided to get a drink to-go. His choice: frosé.

I was disappointed — grossed out, even. 

Frozen rosé? In 2022? I thought the pandemic had cleansed us of such gimmicky atrocities. But alas, at that Louisiana bar counter, the frosé trend was still alive and kicking. 

Many weeks have passed since we both returned to New York City. But I find myself worrying that cheap and cutesy frosé drinks may soon reappear this summer at bars around town, along with the hordes of tourists who don’t understand sidewalk etiquette in Times Square. 

I try not to judge what people drink — every palate is individual and unique, and taste is subjective. However, some things simply grind my gears, like when people tamper with good wine.

Why rosé not frosé

As a millennial wine lover, I subscribe to the rosé all day lifestyle. I like it pale, pink, and from Provence during summer heatwaves. Pour me up deep, dark Italian Rosato in the fall, please. I chill rosé on the fire escape covered with snow in the winter, and I’ll take whatever rosé I can get my hands on in the spring. In my eyes, rosé defies the laws of seasonality, extending beyond the limits of a porch-pounder. Let’s wash down that baked chicken and potatoes with a few glasses of Château Gassier’s Le Pas Du Moine. Thanks. 

So what’s my beef with frosé? Well, frozen wine simply doesn’t taste good. Pop a bottle in the freezer and accidentally forget about it. I’d bet my tiny bank account you wouldn’t dare attempt to drink it frozen or thawed. Why? Because frozen wine doesn’t taste pleasant.

Extreme temperatures damage wine. Freezing causes organic chemical compounds in wine to crystalize and separate, which directly impacts the wine’s quality. It ruins the flavors, aromas, and everything else. 

Worse, once the wine is exposed, it starts to oxidize. When it reaches freezing temperatures to create that slushy, icy texture, those fruity flavors turn bitter. This is why most frosé recipes call for additional ingredients including lemon juice, strawberries and other fruits, vodka, and sugar or simple syrup, which is basically a solution of sugar and water. 

Some recipes suggest dumping a half-cup of sugar in homemade frozen rosé drinks — so imagine how much sugar is added to the concoctions that churn in frozen drink machines.

Rosé can offer a range of aromas and flavors from simple red fruit, flowers, and citrus to complex nuances of cherry, strawberry, watermelon, orange zest, and lemon. Rosés can be chalk dry or mouthwateringly juicy, with different levels of sweetness. Diluting those characteristics is a disservice to winemakers. And it cheapens the overall quality and value of a wine category that’s already had to overcome a troubled past.

Fall and rise again

Rosé’s history dates back to ancient Greece when people made alcoholic beverages with a combination of red and white field grapes stomped and diluted with water. Back then, drinking pure wine was believed to be a barbaric sin. 

In the sixth century B.C., grapevines from Greece arrived in what’s now the modern-day port city of Marseille in southern France. Blends of white and red grapes became a popular drink. By the 19th century, rosé was a darling wine associated with the glamour of summertime in the Côte d’Azur.

In the 1940s, Mateus and Lancers, two Portuguese brands of off-dry, pink wines, appeared. They were immediate, international sensations, including with rock stars and celebrities; Elton John even mentioned Mateus in a song

But drinkers’ tastes started to change in the 1970s and 1980s. Not only did wine drinkers turn to the big, oaky styles of California Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, but the success of simple pink white Zinfandel doomed the style, as people began to associate rosé with cheap and sweet.

It wouldn’t be until the early 2000s that rosé would finally redeem itself. The light and dry Provence style Whispering Angel by Chateau d’Esclans owner Sacha Lichine, one of the most popular rosés around the world today, is largely responsible for its rebound. Whispering Angel caught the attention of Hampton socialites — many of whom, an article in Vanity Fair suggested, had become used to drinking rosé in Provence. 

Rosé was hip again and the boom began.

Back to glory

Nowadays, nearly every winemaking region produces rosé, and it’s made with a range of grapes, from classic varieties to the most obscure. Between 2015 and 2020, sales volumes of rosé increased by 118% in the U.S., according to an IWSR report. Clearly, the people love it again.

But if rosé is abused to make drinks like frosé, the category is sure to suffer once again. That’s besides the main fact that frosé is a cheap, crappy drink full of sugar. You can have all the enjoyment and a flavorful experience in a glass of still or sparkling rosé straight up on its own. 

So when rooftop season is back in full swing, let’s stick to pouring bottles of delicious rosé instead of slushing it up with more alcohol and sugar. There are plenty of delectable drinks to keep you refreshed during the spring and summer. As I told my friend as we left Willa Jean that day, if you want a quality frozen drink, order a margarita. It’ll taste better.