Interest in Rosé wine is on the rise. The most recent Nielsen numbers (as reported in Wine Business Monthly) show that sales of Rosé wine in the U.S. market is growing by more than 40% per year — the fastest growth rate of any category.
Producers want to better understand the Rosé phenomenon, which explains why both the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium and the Washington Winegrowers convention featured specialized Rosé seminars this year.
This column aims to add to the discussion by bringing together what Sue and I have learned at the Unified and during recent visits to France, Spain, and Italy, some insights from Elizabeth Gabay‘s recent book, Rosé: understanding the pink revolution, and a 2015 report on the global Rosé market produced by the OIV and the Provence Wine Council (CIVP). Here is a pdf of the OIV/CIVP report.
Who Makes the Most Rosé Wine?
Rosé is made pretty much wherever wine is made and sometimes accounts for a remarkable share of a region’s production (think about how important Mateus and Lancer’s Rosé were for Portugal during their peak years).
France is the largest producer by far today followed by Spain, the United States, and Italy. Production has increased dramatically in Australia, Chile, and South Africa, according to the OIV/CIVP report.
Who Buys It?
Let me answer this question three ways using three different figures from the OIV/CIVP report. The data are from 2014, so current data will differ, but the patterns are still relevant.
Rosé wine sales are significant just about everywhere wine is consumed, but France is the market leader. Rosé accounted for 30% of all wine sold in France in 2014 according to the study, consistent with other reports that Rosé outsells white wine in French supermarkets, which feature large sections devoted solely to the pink stuff.
Although France is the largest Rosé producer in the world, it actually imports Rosé from Spain, which is the largest Rosé exporter. I think there is a pattern of inexpensive Spanish imports, which fill supermarket shelves with box wine, although that is only part of the story.
Is Rosé a wine for women? I have heard this said many times and never really believed it. The OIV/CIVP study casts doubt on this stereotype. Although women drink significantly more Rosé than men in some markets such as Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK, there doesn’t seem to be a strong gender bias in other markets. especially in France but also in the U.S., Russia, and Canada. Men drink more Rosé than women in Brazil, according to the study.
Finally, consider the distribution of sales by age group. Winemakers today are very interested in breaking into the millennial market. So it is significant that the OIV/CIVP study finds a strong youth bias in Rosé consumption. Young people in every country surveyed here have a higher Rosé consumption than older people. France is noteworthy because all age groups consume Rosé in substantial quantities, even if the younger ones drink a bit more.
Bottom line: the market for Rosé seems to be both broad and deep. No wonder everyone is so interested.
How Much Does Color Matter? Is Rosé Just a Summer Wine?
Wait — that’s two questions. I wrote about color in an earlier column, so I will make that answer short. The conventional wisdom is that pale Rosé sells better than darker Rosé wines. But the fact is that Rosé from around the world comes in many different hues (as Sue’s photo above from a tasting in the Loire Valley shows).
I agree with Elizabeth Gabay that the color issue is exaggerated, but I don’t expect to convince anyone. If someone makes a darker Rosé and it doesn’t sell, I am sure that the color (not other factors) will be blamed. They used to say that nobody ever got fired for buying IBM equipment and no one’s going to get a pink slip for making too pale a Rosé wine.
The summer wine question is quite interesting and can be answered in two ways. Yes, Rosé is a summer wine in the sense that there is a strong seasonal component in sales. Consumers drink more Rosé in warmer months. But Rosé is not just a summer wine as sales are now significant throughout the year.
Is There Easy Money in Rosé?
The answer to this question is related to the seasonality question above. It is easy to imagine that Rosé is a Chateau Cash Flow kind of wine. You pick the grapes, make the wine, ship the wine, cash the check — all in just a few months. The money pours in on a timeline only a little longer than Beaujolais Nouveau, which is the ultimate cash flow wine.
But there’s a hitch in the easy money Rosé game — you have to sell out to make it work. The residual seasonality of Rosé sales means that moving your product in February is more difficult than in July or August. And although I have had some Rosé that has benefited from a few years of bottle age, the conventional wisdom is that last year’s Rosé is over the hill — Rosé passé!
The consumer preference for fresher Rosé (which is also true for some other wines, such as Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc) creates a problem for producers. If you don’t sell out, then last year’s slow-selling wine is likely to clog up the supply chain, discouraging orders for this year’s wine. Reliable supply is important to developing customer loyalty, so you want to have enough, but excess supply is hard to get rid of. Rosé producers must navigate complicated currents!
That’s all there is space for this week. Please leave comments with more Rosé questions and answers.
Great post with lots of food for thought. At least here in Spain where a bottle of rosé will be significantly cheaper than the same winery and vintage of red (and I’m talking about as much as half the price), I wonder if this isn’t one of the main reasons that it’s more popular with the younger crowds?
Good point! Price is always an issue.
Mike, I missed the earlier column on color, but I see plenty of terrific rosés that are quite pale. More important in terms of quality is whether the rosé is made simply by adding red wine to white, or by the saignée process, or (best by far) produced from vines specifically planted, trained, pruned and harvested for rosé.
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