Rosé was once considered to be a second-rate wine style, but times are changing and the category is enjoying unprecedented success on both sides of the Atlantic.
France and the United States account for half of all rosé supped worldwide. France alone represents one-third of the global rosé market, although it has taken a long time for pink wines to be taken seriously there.
François Millo, director of the Provence Wine Council, moved to the region 20 years ago, when local producers were still embarrassed by their rosé.
“When I arrived, winemakers were not proud of their rosé," he explains. "Wine professsionals said it was a lesser product and even that it wasn’t a wine at all." The region now produces 40 percent of all French rosés.
In 1992, pink wines accounted for just 11 percent of wine sold in French supermarkets. That figure increased to 20 percent by 2006 and in 2012 hit 28 percent, exceeding sales of white wine (at 17 percent). The category still lags far behind red wines (55 percent), according to figures from France AgriMer, but continues to make inroads.
“Unlike red, the rosé shelves are constantly being extended,” said Catherine Fedrigo, head of wines and Champagne at nationwide supermarket Intermarché.
“It used to be a shelf that gathered dust during the winter, but now we sell it all year round,” added her colleague, Pascal Dages.
Sociologist Stephane Hugon believes one of the reasons why rosé is experiencing impressive growth is that it is less daunting than red wine. “There is a ritual, a sacredness around red wine. The way you drink red is highly codified,” he says. “It can be overwhelming” for consumers.
“Rosé is the opposite: it’s a cool wine,” adds Hugon. With no protocols surrounding it, drinkers are able to add mixers to their wine, including pink grapefruit juice.
The rosé category now spans a wide range of price points, from 2 to 70 euros, according to Millo, and consumers are willing to pay more and more for pink. In the U.S., sales of rosé wines costing more than $12 per bottle increased by over 20 percent in volume and value in the year to May 25, 2013 (Nielsen).
According to Danny Brager, senior vice president of beverage alcohol practice at Nielsen: “Premium rosé wines over $12 are growing at double digit levels and are being led by imports – in particular from France.”
Indeed, France is the world’s leading producer of rosé, producing one in four bottles and more traditional regions, including Bordeaux, want to take a share of the growing market.
“We are seeing many more rosés than we saw 10 years ago,” explains French wine critic Thierry Desseauve. One reason is that “production methods have improved.”
Desseauve adds: “There are still a lot of poor wines, but some are very interesting.” Corsica, for example, “is a very successful region for rosé.”