The rise and rise of rosé
Other French rosés are different in style. The Loire makes large quantities, but these have traditional markets in northern Europe and have not hit the headlines. Bordeaux is making big efforts to develop its pale rosé sales, at the expense of its traditional, darker ‘clairet’. The major market for French producers is domestic; France is the world’s largest rosé consumer. Other countries are exporting rosé. Shelves of UK supermarkets feature entry-level rosés from Italy, Spain, South Africa and Australia, as well as IGP d’Oc. Spain is the biggest exporter of rosé, shipping mainly in bulk to France, the largest importer. While Bobal is talked about as a potential rival to Grenache for rosé, production in the grape’s main area, Utiel-Requena in Spain, is small, at 2.5m bottles, and not currently a threat. As Philippe Brel, CEO of large Provence co-operative Estandon Vignerons, says: “Provence rosés are being squeezed out of the entry-level – where they had a presence 20 years ago – because of their cost.” With such fierce competition, moving upmarket is a key objective for Provence producers. Aside from working on improving the quality of the wine itself, they are also working on the image.
Packaging has become a key element of marketing, alongside communication to suit each brand. An especially wide variety of bottle shapes is now used, sometimes one for each range. This costs more but helps build brand identity. A perfect example is The Wonderful Company’s JNSQ – standing for Je ne sais quoi, which launched this Valentine’s Day. Targeted at women, its packaging was inspired by luxury perfume bottles, flaunting the beautiful pink wine inside. A carefully crafted marketing campaign backed the launch. Château de Berne’s distinctive square bottle is instantly identifiable; so much so, the house has copyrighted the design. The Syndicat de Côtes de Provence has just embraced a strategy of “premiumisation”, aiming “to be the best in all aspects of the product, such as quality, image and environment”. Jean-Jacques Bréban, president of the Provence Wine Council, and head of négociant Les Vins Bréban, sees an opportunity “to develop the idea of ‘premium’ rosés towards ‘gastronomic’ ones that suit food and which last for two or three years.”
In top restaurants, rosés hardly feature on wine lists. The more upmarket the restaurant, the less the presence of rosé. Several producers have responded to this by developing gastronomic wines with greater complexity and aging potential. Examples from Provence are Garrus and Les Clans from Château d’Esclans, and Elevae from Château Gassier; and from the Languedoc – La Villa from Château la Sauvageonne. All retail at over £45.