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The rosé revival: but is it really good for wine?

One of the remarkable stories in the drinks business over the last few years has been the change in fortunes of rosé. In a revival almost as remarkable and unexpected as the recent about-turn in fortunes for cider, rosé is now officially ‘hot’, and consumers can’t seem to get enough of it. The latest AC Nielsen statistics (which measure what people buy in their supermarket shopping trips) show that rosé now accounts for 9% of all still wines sold. ‘In a 93m case market, a contribution of under 9% may not seem much’, says Stewart Blunt of Nielsen, ‘but consider the impressive growth-rate: for a third year, rosé wines have achieved growth at a phenomenal rate when seen in context of what would otherwise be a very flat wine market.’

‘Three years ago, Rosé was a sedentary part of the market’, continues Blunt, ‘a subdued 5% of the market dominated by Portugal, and seemingly held in a time-warp, as the whites and reds set the pace. So almost 9 out of every 100 bottles now is quite something to write home about.’

Blunt points out that the evidence suggests that Californian rosés are largely responsible for this swing in consumption. ‘The three leading brands are USA and actually account for 3m cases out of the current 8.1m cases in pink. In total USA covers 53% of the sector.’ But there’s an interesting twist here. It seems that rosé is attracting new drinkers to wine.

Top 10 bestselling rose wines in the UK











‘The brash new USA rosés tend to be lower in alcohol and higher sugar, and so it rather suggests that a younger, “less mature” wine-drinker has been enlisted,’ suggests Blunt. ‘In fact Nielsen’s Household panel has identified that those households with a penchant for RTDs ( Smirnoff Ice, WKD, Bacardi Breezer, etc.) have added pink wine to their repertoire.’

However, it is not just these newcomers who are going for the pink. ‘The excitement generated has also engaged with the more mature palates too, it appears,’ says Blunt, ‘as more traditional rosés from Europe have picked up sales, and as with new world, there are quite a number of new entries and range extensions to widen the choice. The fact that the “traditional” rosés as well as the “young ones” are expanding does suggest that there is a meaningful interest in pink wine by the drinker – for whatever reasons – be it the aspiration of summer, be it just fancying a change.’

So new people are being recruited to the ranks of wine drinkers. This has to be a good thing, doesn’t it? Yes, but at the same time we have to think about whether these people are actually being converted to wine at all: look at the list of the top 10 rosés – this is not a list that will wildly excite established wine drinkers. It’s wine as alcopop; wine that resembles, to a degree, the RTDs that this group have migrated from.

The big question is whether slightly sweet, fruity rosés are going to act as a bridge, to attract new drinkers to wine, thus growing the category. If so, then it’s really good news for wine. If not, then perhaps we’ll see a migration in the wine industry from traditional dry styles of table wine towards sweeter, more confected wines that people find easier to drink on their own.

article published November 2007 

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