BTN explores the decade-long rise of rosé sales and interviews Pierrick Bouquet, Co-Founder & President of ABLE and La Nuit en Rosé Festival. Retailers looking to take advantage of the trend shouldn’t hesitate to adjust to these changing tides.
Historically, summer months are riddled with wine columns praising rosé wines for their ability to end sultry afternoons with a refreshing kick. Within the last several years however, this once-humble pink product has extended its reach and led to record sales across the American market. Its quantum leap into the spotlight has grown to include a variety of wine styles and year-round consumption – contributing to the sunny disposition of many US retailers.
It’s a trend that caught world-wide attention in the early 2000s, but what’s happening in the market today indicates that rosé might be more resilient than ever expected. Pierrick Bouquet, Co-founder and President of ABLE and La Nuit en Rosé Festival, shares his industry insights and hints at what we can expect from this trend in the months to come.
Trend Overview: The Rosé Wine Highlight Reel
As it turns out, a rose by any other name can sell just as well on the supermarket shelves and unlike its counterparts, rosé wine goes by a handful of pseudonyms. It’s also known as blush wine, pink wine, brosé, and even ‘Hampton’s Gatorade,’ among certain social circles. But whatever you call it, the success of its sales is unmistakable.
Here are the highlights:
- Rosé consumption in the US has been on the rise for the past decade.
- US rosé wine sales are better and more diverse than ever including emerging brands and bottles that get beyond the obvious fruity style.
- The United States is currently ranked as the world’s third largest producer of rosé wine and is gaining ground as the trend shows its longevity year after year.
- The only segment of the US wine market that is growing faster than the ‘premium dry rosé’ category is the ‘(sweet) red blend,’ according to Recent data out of California.
- US rosé imports are on the rise as consumer tastes shift from sweet blush wines to drier rosés.
- Together, France and the US consume nearly half of the annual 594.4 million gallons of rosé produced globally.
- Exports of rosé from Provence, France outpace other regions.
- Google search volume for ‘rosé wine’ has been on the rise for nearly a decade, an increase in market reach and consumer interest.
Rosé is remarkably versatile, dressing in the traditional winemaking styles of nearly every region around the world. In Argentina it may take the form of a fruit-forward Malbec blush wine, but north of the border winemakers replace the grapes with California’s favorite Pinot Noir. Across the pond you might try a Sangiovese-based Italian rosato or sip on a dark, luscious rosado from the Spain.
Unfortunately, a chorus of rosé wine (un)enthusiasts have spread the notion that rosé’s popularity is due to its value as a refreshment – not its virtue of refinement. Pierrick Bouquet has found that while a consumer might initially choose rosé to quench his thirst, eventually “that same customer’s palate will evolve and will understand the nuances of rosé.” But it’s up to beverage managers to give the category a fighting chance by offering a wide product selection that supports consumers in taking the rosé category seriously.
In the New York Metropolitan area alone there are over 1,600 rosé wines available to consumers, produced by countries ranging from Australia to South Africa, according to the trade database Sevenfifty.com
Trending: From Sweet Pink to Provence
A decade ago, the tides of consumer tastes began to change. The sales of cheap sweet pink wines began to decline while premium dry rosé wines ($12) rose markedly, particularly wines from the Provence region of France. According to Vins de Provence, the average bottle price of premium rosé in the US was $16.83 in 2014. And in 2014 exports of dry, pink wines from France to the United States increased 29 percent by volume and 38 percent by value, according to French officials.
According to Bouquet, “The rosé craze came from the East Coast, more specifically from the Hamptons where rosé has been enjoyed every summer for the past 5-6 years by a population that travels to Southern France and brings the ‘rosé lifestyle’ back with them – from Provence back to New York. Five years ago, we started to see much more Domaine Ott, Minuty, Whispering Angel and Triennes on the menus, those wines are representative of a Southern France lifestyle that people love to dream about.”
As the founder of La Nuit en Rosé, the world’s first wine festival dedicated exclusively to rosé, Pierrick has observed – and promoted – the connection between rosé wine and what he describes as “an opulent lifestyle.”
“The success of rosé is due to many factors,” says Pierrick,” including price, versatility, not being a pretentious wine, offering a new wine category for millennials to absorb etc., but the principal factor of its success is the image it perpetuates.” This image is the marketing “umph” behind the trend that took the US market by surprise. It’s the connection between a bottle of rosé and a summertime drive along the French Riviera, the way American consumers can feel transported to a café on a beach in Southern France every time they uncork a bottle. “Drinking rosé is living THE life, it means you are in the “in,” says Pierrick, you will be transported into the “‘laisser-aller’ lifestyle that the French are known for.”
Though rosé wine now enjoys a seat at the top of the sales pyramid, its reputation has gone through a steady rehabilitation over the years: changing consumer’s conception of the pink liquid while still flying off shelves. .
Too Sweet for Me
While some people refer to White Zinfandel as the “gateway wine” for many Americans, it is also accused of damaging rosé’s reputation in the minds of the masses. For a period of time, White Zin was synonymous with sugar-bomb sweetness, the kind that makes your mouth hurt after just half a glass. The result of a happy accident in the Sutter Home Winery in 1975, White Zinfandel emerged on the marketplace as a boozy, extremely sweet, fruity wine at a fair price. Sutter Home soon became the champion of the sweet rosé movement and produced the cheap beverage in massive quantities.
“I think that White Zinfandel has damaged the image of rosé in the US and it takes time and promotional efforts from rosé wine producers to change that,” says Bouquet.
While White Zin was a relative revolution, dry rosé wines have been on the market for centuries, particularly in Europe. The past several years, the sugar addiction seems to have worn off in America and wine drinkers are embracing a more diverse range of rosé. In fact, the marketing group Vins de Provence reported earlier this year that the US wine industry no longer groups dry rosé wines together with sweet blush wines, a distinction made necessary as dry rosé wines grow in popularity. In 2014, sales figures indicated that sales of sweet blush wines had fallen over the previous year; White Zinfandel was down 10.5% while dry rosé wines increased volume share by 5.1% during the same period. Still the trend has a long way to go, as crisp and slightly sweet White Zinfandel wines still account for the majority of blush wine consumption in the United States.
Several wine market observers have reported that rosé wine is growing increasingly more popular with men, which has earned it the playful ‘brosé’ nickname among select groups. One brand in particular is trying to fill the gender gap: every case of Charles and Charles comes with a sticker that reads, “Yes, you can drink rosé and still be a badass.”
Again in 2015, Uproot Wines, a Napa winemaking company, ran a widely seen ad on the web that caused quite a stir in social media with the slogan ‘Finally, Rosé for a Man.’ Some industry insiders point out that drinking trends by gender are largely manipulated by the media, but recently brands are pushing back. With the rise of a foodie culture and an interest in culinary risk-taking, more and more males are opting for the light pink beverage once thought to be “a girlie drink.”
Sipping in the Summer
Rose is typically renegaded to summertime menus and poolside parties, however US retailers are reporting that rose sales are blooming year-round and incorporating more diverse styles. As consumers embrace different winemaking styles, food and wine pairing opportunities broaden and cross boards from summertime picnics to fireside dinners in the depths of winter.
What’s next for Rosé?
The popularity of rosé has literally gone viral, earning headlines on the society pages and surfing the wave of social media across nearly every popular platform. Instagram account and tote-bag-turned-wine business, Yes Way Rosé, created by Erica Blumenthal and Nikki Huganir, has cashed in on the digital conversation, marked by tags like #roséallday and #Yeswayrosé. Everything from Bloomberg to Business Insider to The New York Post’s Page Six reported on the summertime rosé shortage that affected summertime Hamptons vacationers and the wine industry as a whole.
Beyond the social buzz, Pierrick Bouquet predicts that consumers will continue to embrace new styles and producers of the popular pink drink. “Consumers are starting to understand the diversity of rosé available on the market. For the consumers that start enjoying rosé, they like to try new wines, and look further than France/Europe. I have seen Mulderbosch Rosé from South Africa doing extremely well in the past few years, I also see more and more local (NY and CA) rosé wines on the wine lists and wine shops and people are loving them. I see a huge potential for NY based and CA based rosé in the future.”
Along with open minds Bouquet also foresees open wallets, sharing his prediction that consumers “are now ready to spend more for rosé (over $15), that they understand that it is a wine that deserve recognition as much as white and red wines.”
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