Depending on your perspective (and your relationship to the lips involved), a lipstick stain on the rim of a wine glass is either irresistibly sexy or straight-up gross. So what about a wine menu that’s sealed with a kiss, or three?
That’s the inspiration behind the rosé list at Loa in New Orleans, the cozy, intimate craft cocktail bar located in the International House hotel. Twenty-five Pantone-inspired hues ranging from salmon and pink to muted red correspond to the Long Days of Rosé options curated by the beverage team. The trio available on any given day is signified with a lipstick kiss.
“Everyone has had to go to a paint store and get swatches,” says creative director Alan Walter, who helped develop the playful concept and points out that the menu also seems to have the appeal of a great children’s book. “Everyone thinks it’s the coolest thing.”
Pale-tinged wines like Clos Cibonne Tentations from France’s Provence region (an area considered by many to be the benchmark for rosé) and Matthiasson Wines from California are joined by more intensely hued ones from producers likeZorzal Wines in Argentina’s Uco Valley, which crafts a rosé using the region’s ubiquitous malbec, and Eric Kent Wine Cellars from Sonoma, Calif., whose rosé is made with a blend of pinot noir, grenache and syrah.
But just as the lipstick out of the tube can take on a completely different shade once applied, these rosés shouldn’t be judged solely on their appearance. “The chart is a visceral representation of the wine,” says Walter.
But looks can be deceiving. “Darker colors don’t always yield a richer, bigger wine,” he says. (The same way, he says, that a steeped tea that comes across as dark can actually taste very lightly tannic and delicate.) But that only makes the experience more fun, especially for guests who return to see what lip-smacking selections are being poured on repeat visits.
You can order a glass for $10, a flight with three generous samples for $12 or go all in for a bottle, which costs $42 no matter the wine. Loa doesn’t alter the prices, as Walter believes that would take away the focus of the program.
The flight is presented in vintage glassware on a narrow piece of slate, with each wine set atop a miniature version on the Pantone menu and served with an oyster shell filled with wasabi peas. Bottles are also adorned with paint store color swatches that mirror the juice inside. Each day, the staff tries to vary the regions and styles, which run the gamut from Loire Valley and Rioja to Piemonte and the Canary Islands. And Walter doesn’t see any as particular standouts or signatures. “There is enough love to go around,” he says.
(image: Kelsie Bryson)
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the flirty promotion (the menu’s double entendre description muses about rosé as a wine that “starts with a kiss, a rendezvous of skin and juice” and “tasting the secrets a blushing complexion hides within) takes place in a city where decadence and dalliances are de rigueur.
“It’s fun when so much of the audience is divested from their everyday cares and concerns,” says Walter. “This hits the spot, because everybody is always trying to make their menus tell a story.” At Loa, that story screams rosé and is all about juicy, fleshy romance.