Updated: Jul 31, 2020
Some of the first recorded wines were rosés. In ancient Greece, the first rosés were made by watering down blends of white and red grapes. Workers would crush the grapes with their feet (yes, just like I Love Lucy) , and then ferment the liquid in ceramic containers. The blended grapes created the pink color that rosé is famous for.
Eventually, the Greeks and Romans began separating the white and red grapes, giving us the reds and whites we know today. However, it's worth noting that rosé's light and less harsh flavor remained the beverage of choice for centuries.
In the 6th century BC, the south of France started producing rosé (which it is still famous for today). The Phocaeans brought vines to Massalia, and produced wines with both red and white grapes, which became incredibly popular. When the Romans arrived, they had already heard about the "pink wines", and activated their trade network to export the wines all over the Mediterranean.
In the 19th century, French tourists started to flock to the south of France, and it became common place to relax with a chilled glass of rosé, giving way to the "summer" reputation that rose embodies.
The glamorous and classy reputation began to diminish with the launch of two brands in the 1940s, Mateus and Lancers, which were both pink wines from Portugal. The quality of these products came into question as they expanded quite rapidly through Europe and exports to the U.S. They were sweeter than the rosé we think of today and made in bulk. They soon developed a tough reputation, and were referred to as “Lancers poisoning” or the “Mateus hangover", giving rosé a bad reputation.
Zinfandel was the introduction that most American's had to rosé. Zinfandel was first documented in 1869, but wasn't made popular until the 1970s, by Bob Trinchero of Sutter Home Winery. Sutter Home had a fermentation where the sugar didn't all ferment into alcohol, and the wine was slightly sweet. They decided to release it as a White Zinfandel, and it became an instant success (of course, it's not actually white).
In the early 2000s, rosé began to be recognized as a fine wine, and started popping up in fancy restaurants, bars and trendy summer destinations. The category also attracted some celebrity power, such as Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, and Drew Barrymore, who each are involved with their own brands of rosé.
From there, it's only increased in popularity. It's safe to say the obsession hasn't waned, and that rosé is here to stay.