Posted on | April 30, 2012
Written by | W.R. Tish
For wine retailers, holidays help make the calendar go ’round. And for good reason: people—especially adults—are creatures of habit. Holidays, over the years, become exclamation points that enliven the comma-punctuated routines of our lives. Whether it’s the romantic promise of Valentine’s Day, the Kosher curve of Passover, or the gift-giving/party-throwing hoopla that stretches from Thanksgiving through New Year’s, holidays give cause for wine shops and wine shoppers to co-celebrate.
This spring, as the days get longer and the mercury rises, it occurs to me that perhaps it’s time to start treating rosé as a holiday of its own. After all, rosé is one of the few wines that exudes genuine seasonality—it’s built for warm weather—plus the decorative power of pink is darn near automatic. So why not give rosé the holiday treatment? Dress up the front window. Rearrange wine displays. Put up some some evocative signage and a call-out on your website home page. Just like with on-the-calendar holidays, a celebration of rosé represents an opportunity to freshen up the retail-wine experience you offer.
Maybe you want to make May “Rosé Month,” or feature a different rosé at discount each week, or toss a recipe for salade niçoise into your newsletter. The point is: now is the time to put holiday-like power behind a category of wine. Why? First of all, drawing attention to these delicious dry pink wines is arguably a more natural promotion than other holiday promotions you put into motion through the year. With their light body and crisp acidity, rosés are built for picnics picnics, backyard BBQs and practically any casual setting where food and wine are on the agenda.
Want an even better reason to put rosés in the spotlight? It will make you look smarter than the average wine bear. Seriously. As trends go, America’s taste for rosé has passed the tipping point. Most consumers have moved on from the assumption that pink wine is necessarily sweet, and they know that dry rosés are emblems of summer. And for those who haven’t gone whole-hog for dry pink, the learning curve for rosé is one very easily scaled slope (see box).
Pink Beyond Provence
Pink is red-hot. Consider these stats, based on the rosés of Provence, arguably arguably the bellwether of all dry pinks in the world market. Exports of rosé wine from the Provence region of France to the U.S. grew 62% in volume during 2011 as compared to 2010, according to the French customs agency Ubifrance. On value, rosé exports for the 2010-’11 period increased at a rate of 49%, reaching a record high of 9.9 million euros. These numbers confirm an upward trend that began in 2003 and has seen double-digit growth rates in each year since. Last year’s jump of 62% was the largest single increase in Provence rosé export volumes in that eight-year period. In short, Provence rosés are hot, and getting hotter.
While the promoters of Provence can go pink in the face declaring that their region is THE source for quality dry rosé, we all know better. This is not meant to put-down Provence; there is a time and place to debate whether Provence is the gold standard for rosé quality (and I’d argue it is), but that debate does not belong on the retail floor in May.
Dry pink wine is made—and made well—from the North Fork to South Africa, from Iberia to California, and all over France, for that matter. And fine rosé can come from all types of grapes, vinified solo or as blends. These are simple wines by virtue of how they are made; they emerge light and fruity—rarely serious or intense. Their stylistic (and price) spectrum is naturally narrow compared to many other types of wine.
Rosé is a practically universal and fundamentally unifying wine—all the more reason to give it the holiday treatment, making it more about where it’s going—backyard? backpacking? picnic? pool party?—than where it came from.
Simply put, treat it as fun wine. Stock a few different kinds, at a few different price points—and don’t be afraid to pick one or two because they have nice labels. The fundamental character of these wines is solidly pleasing: Sell a dry pink wine to a red-blooded American wine lover in the thrall of summer and your mutual chance of success is pretty darn good.
An Insider’s View
So as not to see the rosé trend strictly through my own rose-tinted glasses, I turned to an industry colleague to get some more perspective. Cathleen Burke Visscher is a marketing veteran who recently formed Wine Works & Co., specialists in fine wines and spirits. She works closely with Bobby Kacher, an importer whose mainly French portfolio has always been strong in authentic regional wines at impressively reasonable prices (of the 16 rosé table wines he carries, 15 have SRP of $15 or under). Some of Visscher’s thoughts on the state of rosé in America:
Keep it Simple
I have the good fortune of leading a lot of consumer tastings in the NYC metro area. I’ll be pouring a Kacher Selection at an event next weekend—Château Grande Cassagne 2010, a 60%/40% blend of Syrah and Grenache from Costières de Nîmes. I will not be dwelling on the ancient riverbed clay/limestone soil, or 6-16 hours of skin contact, or the fact that this 200-acre estate has been in one family for five generations, or even the fact that they harvest at night to preserve freshness. However, I will review how it got pink, how it got dry, and then we’ll discuss why, starting now, wines like this should be on their radar right through August. Rosé season is officially under way.