Rosé is a way of life, or so they say. You can get it as a frozen slushie, in a 40-ounce bottle, and in gummy bear form. You probably have at least one friend who insists on wearing an embarrassing "Rosé is Bae" T-shirt to spin class.
Pink wine is everywhere, and its recent ubiquity in our lives is blurring a key statistic: Young women are abusing alcohol more than ever. Worse yet, manufacturers and distributors are exploiting this fact by peddling a beverage that targets a certain demographic of young women with horrifyingly precise accuracy.
There are many things about rosé that explain its swift rise to omnipresence. Millennials are poor; rosé is, generally speaking, cheap. As we know it today, rosé can be produced more quickly, inexpensively, and efficiently than other types of wine. Rosé requires far shorter maceration and fermentation periods than reds or whites, and while Provence varieties are highly favored by both professional and amateur sommeliers, it does it need to come from one specific region and/or grape in order to be considered "authentic."
Other wines have snobbish histories and nuances; rosé is the 'new money' of the beverage world, less embedded in the esoteric world of wine knowledge. And somewhere along the line, rosé went from being a serious wine snob's worst nightmare to a certifiable branding explosion.
Perhaps unfortunately, rosé has crossed the line from a beverage into the definitive representative of a consummate lifestyle. To see this attitude in action, one needs to look no further than Yes Way Rosé, the company behind the popular rosé brand Summer Water, which boasts a rather heavy-handed mission statement on its website: "Here at Yes Way Rosé, rosé is a symbol for so much more than wine. To us it represents love, the best vibes, togetherness, and positivité. We believe the spirit of rosé exists in everything and our number one goal is to spread the beauty and happiness that it inspires."
"Yes Way Rosé's branding strategy is to articulate a very specific aesthetic," Jason Schlossberg, Managing Director at global creative agency Huge Inc tells MUNCHIES. "By tapping into the rosé trend, and in their own way helping to perpetuate it, they can reach a very targeted demographic quickly and efficiently." Schlossberg's assessment of the "Yes Way Rosé Girl" sounds both specific and frighteningly familiar: "I'm only guessing here, but I would say that the brand appeals primarily to female Millennials who frequent boutique fitness classes, brunch on the weekends, read theSkimm and Goop, and of course over-index on Instagram."
READ MORE: Rosé Is the Drake of All Wine
The company also hosts a blog called "The Yes Way Report," which features updates about products in addition to rosé-based recipes, "pairing suggestions" (i.e., watching The Bachelorette while you imbibe your canned rosé), interviews, and photos of pale-pink couture gowns.
Schlossberg agrees that this distinct hue might be a factor in the drink's popularity. "The color of rosé is also having its moment," he says. The soft blush-nude known as "Millennial Pink" has achieved a supersaturated status in the marketing world, and a coating of the hue instantly transforms even the most blasé of products into a cool girl's must-have consumer item (or does that peachy-pink trash can really say something about you as an individual?).
Through both advertising and activism, pink has come to be associated with a third-wave feminist ideology and reclaimed hyper-feminine ethos. "Pink has been closely associated with the resistance movement," Schlossberg notes, referring to the bright pink "Pussy Hats" that dominated this past January's Women's March, as well as pop-feminism's growing inclination to reclaim hyper-femininity as a form of protest. Conveniently, rosé doesn't have to try and fit in with these evolving notions—it was simply born that way.
And let's not forget that rosé isn't just a commodity, but an alcoholic beverage. Last month, Marie Claire tweeted a recipe for rosé-Champagne floats. Their caption for the video? "Tag a rosé addict!" While it's unlikely that Marie Claire was literally encouraging any of its 2.29 million followers to share the drink with any one of the 15.1 million individuals with alcoholism in the United States, the cavalier language of this tweet is indicative of rosé's unspoken exemption from our stereotypes about alcohol abuse.
It's a simple fact that women are drinking more than ever. While in the 1950s, heavy drinking was thought of as a masculine activity—the "three-martini lunch" was rarely a place for ladies—you can now turn on your television in the middle of the day and watch Amy Schumer drinking from a baby pool-sized glass of white wine (if you're into that sort of thing). While the language around men's drinking is one of relaxation and innocent fun, i.e. "cracking open a cold one with the boys," female alcohol consumption is more often portrayed as empowering.
READ MORE: Rosé Has a Very, Very Shady History
Look at the recent studies documenting trends in women's drinking, which reveal a skewed sense of what it means to be a woman who consumes alcohol. "Millennial Women Have Closed the Drinking Gap," The Atlantic reported in 2016. The article (and many others with similar titles from this time period) refers to a study published in the medical research journal BMJ Open , the results of which indicated that men and women born in the 1990s and later were almost equally as likely to consume and abuse alcohol. While the study itself did not utilize the phrase "drinking gap," those reporting on the study quickly latched onto the buzzy phrase. "In our ongoing war against modern glass ceilings, one thing came first," stated The Frisky. "Millennial women drink as much as men, closing gender gaps one beer at a time."
The language of this article implies that consuming alcohol in a statistically similar fashion to men is a landmark to be achieved—on par with, say, electing the first female president. Dr. Joseph Lee, Youth Continuum Medical Director at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, argues that the fact that women of all ages are consistently drinking more is directly tied to economic liberation. "It's an unfortunate byproduct of gender equality," he tells MUNCHIES. We live in a time where women's lives and careers are more similar in shape to men's than ever before, and alcohol consumption is merely another factor in this parallel. Thus, "there's clear incentive for manufacturers to market to women," says Dr. Lee.
Rosé, lacking any of the traditionally masculine connotations of drinks like whiskey or gin, has presented itself as the perfect blank canvas, ready to be stuffed with marketers' conceptions of what it means to be a 21st-century woman. A Yes Way Rosé representative assures MUNCHIES that the brand is "very conscious about the message we put out. We don't use the word 'drunk' [or] show wasted people. The message is you can be smart, passionate, busy, bossy, sophisticated, stylish, and also enjoy beautifully crafted rosé wine."
While those adjectives are objectively positive things to which many individuals aspire, they completely neglect the fact that rosé, like any other form of alcohol, can be harmful in many different ways.
"A lot of our most popular Instagram posts haven't had anything to do with actual rosé, and that's pretty cool," says the company, whose website boasts nary a "please drink responsibly" disclaimer. Schlossberg is also optimistic, saying, "I think the case can be made that positioning rosé in such a positive light could help to foster more responsible attitudes towards wine consumption in general."
READ MORE: Why We All Need to Chill Out About Rosé
But not everyone is capable of drinking responsibly. "We need to dispel the myth that chemical consumption affects everyone the same way," says Dr. Lee. Essentially, a 40 oz. of rosé is not a one size-fits-all beverage, and alcohol remains a deeply addictive substance with the potential to ruin families, relationships, and lives. There's a cognitive dissonance at play that has us viewing rosé more like La Croix than Jim Beam, and it's only adding to the more than 400,000 women already in treatment for alcoholism.
Yes, alcohol can help you relax after a long week at work, or give you the courage necessary to send a long-put off text (for better or for worse). It can even make you a better dancer—or at least let you think that. But wine—pink as it may be—cannot take the place of political liberation.
Rosé is undoubtedly delicious, fun, and popular for many reasons. But it's also been branded to make you feel that way.
This article originally appeared on MUNCHIES in July 2017.