Rosé Spreads Its Wings

While France still dominates the category, other locales are becoming competitive.

The rosé wine boom in the U.S. has shown no signs of slowing down. While French rosé offerings—particularly from Provence—lead the way, brands from California, Italy, New Zealand, and elsewhere are gaining market share.
The rosé wine boom in the U.S. has shown no signs of slowing down. While French rosé offerings—particularly from Provence—lead the way, brands from California, Italy, New Zealand, and elsewhere are gaining market share.

At Olive & Ivy in Scottsdale, Arizona, the summertime wine list adds four rosés to the Mediterranean restaurant’s standard offering of two. Capitalizing on huge demand for rosé wines, particularly in the warmer months, Mat Snapp delivers a diverse selection designed to appeal to a broad array of tastes. “It’s ‘which way do you rosé?’,” says Snapp, who is the beverage director at Fox Restaurant Concepts, the parent company of Olive & Ivy that operates more than 50 restaurants nationwide under several different names. “Now that there are so many different expressions of this one category, you can’t say that rosé is done in a singular way anymore. It used to be all Grenache from southern France, and would be mineral, light, and acidic. But now, rosé as a category has many layers and styles.”

Olive & Ivy’s year-round rosés are two Provençal labels: My Essential ($10 a glass; $40 a 750-ml.), and Domaines Ott ($15; $60). The summer additions include Provençal offering Château Miraval ($15; $60), along with three California rosés—Quail Creek Azor rosé ($15; $60), Lucy Santa Lucia Highlands rosé($11; $44), and Rosehaven rosé ($11; $44). “We used to just put rosé on the menu for spring and summer, but now we offer it year-round,” Snapp says. “We really broaden the bandwidth during the summertime too. You can get a nice glass of rosé, plus a little fun and education. Maybe you try a splash of each them in a flight. You learn a lot, and probably go out and buy some more for drinking at home.”

At Cured, a gourmet grocery store and café in Boulder, Colorado, co-founder and co-owner Will Frischkorn also lists a variety of rosé expressions. “It’s been amazing to watch this category grow from niche into a significant part of what we sell every year,” Frischkorn says. “We try to balance staples from Provence—still the benchmark in the world of rosé—with fun, harder-to-find offerings from around the world, so we keep our selection rotating every week. On the everyday side of things, winemaker Bruno Lafon’s Languedoc project, Domaine Magellan, makes Le Fruit Défendu; for $13, it delivers everything you want in a crisp, cool, patio pounder. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Scar of the Sea has crafted one of the most exciting rosés we’ve tasted in years.” The small-production, Pinot-Noir-based rosé from California’s Santa Maria Valley AVA sells for $30 a 750-ml. at Cured.

All of this enthusiasm for rosé is reflected in the numbers. Leading brands—both domestic and imported—continue to rack up double-digit increases. For example, ten leading domestic brands combined for a 72.2% increase in 2018, according to Impact Databank, led by Bota Box from Delicato Family Vineyards at 255,000 cases, which increased by 56.6%.

French rosés still have dynamic growth. Whispering Angel from Château d’Esclans, marketed by Shaw-Ross International, is the leader at 414,000 cases; the brand jumped by 33.5% in 2018. Gérard Bertrand’s rosé from the Languedoc-Roussillon region had even more dynamic growth, rising 42% to 223,000 cases. Overall, the top 12 French rosés grew 29.2% to 1.58 million cases in 2018.

At Chicago restaurant Maple & Ash (above left), customers often specifically ask for rosés from Provence, the category’s leading region by far.
At Chicago restaurant Maple & Ash (above left), customers often specifically ask for rosés from Provence, the category’s leading region by far.

French Connection

When Whispering Angel first hit the U.S. market a dozen years ago, there was barely a rosé sector to build upon, recalls Paul Chevalier, vice president and national fine wine director for Shaw-Ross. “When we first started in the summer of 2007, I would say there were maybe ten rosé brands in the U.S.,” he says. “We started on the East Coast, because that’s the only place where people were really drinking rosé, mainly in the Hamptons and Nantucket.” The business has since expanded, but remains highly centered on consumption in New York and neighboring states. Chevalier says there is still significant growth to be had as higher-end rosés infiltrate the broader U.S. market.

Provençal wine producer Charles Bieler is also spreading the word about rosé from the region. Imported by Trinchero Family Estates, Bieler Père et Fils grew 17.7% to 73,000 cases last year. In April, Bieler embarked on a 20th anniversary Rosé Road Trip across the U.S. to commemorate the start of his rosé business in 1999, traveling to 40 cities in 60 days, and ending at the Aspen Food & Wine festival this month. “The primary goal of the tour was to remind consumers of the brand’s long history and vineyard-driven approach that has set it apart for the last two decades,” says Dave Derby, senior vice president of marketing at Trinchero Family Estates.

Since Whispering Angel rosé from Château d’Esclans (château above) debuted in the U.S. in 2007, the brand has skyrocketed in popularity—especially in the Northeast, where sales remain focused.
Since Whispering Angel rosé from Château d’Esclans (château above) debuted in the U.S. in 2007, the brand has skyrocketed in popularity—especially in the Northeast, where sales remain focused.

Bieler Père et Fils maintains a suggested retail price of under $14, far lower than many other rosés from the region. Whispering Angel, for example, carries super-premium pricing of about $25 a 750-ml. Last year, Château d’Esclans launched a sister product, The Palm by Whispering Angel, which is made from grapes from the Côteaux d’Aix-en-Provence sub-appellation and has a suggested retail price of $17. “It’s a different style, created for Generation Z,” says Chevalier. “It’s a little more approachable and the price point is a little lower, but it’s authentically from Provence, which means dry, pale, and no sugar.”

Château Miraval also introduced a lower-priced line extension to its popular Miraval wine, which retails for $28. Studio by Miraval rosé, also a Provençal wine, launched in March with a price tag of $19 a 750-ml. “People are buying for different occasions,” notes Gregory Doody, president and CEO of Vineyards Brands, which imports Miraval. “If they’re looking for a wine to splurge on, they’ll go for Miraval.”

Given the success of Provençal wines, prices could increase due to limited supplies of grapes. “We’re getting into the sort of situation where it’ll be difficult for Whispering Angel to continue to grow at the rate it has, just because there’s a finite amount of grapes in Provence,” Chevalier says.

French rosé offerings like Yes Way Rosé (founders Erica Blumenthal and Nikki Huganir above right) have cemented their place in the market.
French rosé offerings like Yes Way Rosé (founders Erica Blumenthal and Nikki Huganir above right) have cemented their place in the market.

Tom Steffanci, president of Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits, has also voiced concern about supply in Provence. “It’s the most prestigious rosé-producing region in France, and is up by 40% versus a year ago,” he says. “Given that the demand is growing much faster than the supply, we believe Provence rosés will become increasingly more expensive. Six of the top nine rosés priced at $15 and above come from Provence.” Deutsch imports Fleurs de Prairie rosé, which reached 70,000 cases in 2018, its second full year on the market. The brand carries a suggested retail price of $20 a 750-ml.

Provence’s reputation for rosé is becoming increasingly well-known among U.S. consumers as they grow more discerning. Amy Mundwiler, wine director at Chicago steak house Maple & Ash, has noticed a shift. “A couple of summers ago, people weren’t as savvy—they were just ordering rosé,” she says. “Now, more people are asking if we have rosé from Provence. It’s a combination of people recognizing that they prefer that style and understanding that it’s a leading region for rosé.”

Josh Hammond, president and co-owner of Buster’s Liquors & Wines in Memphis, also sees the French style resonating. “Imports are outpacing domestics three to one on sales, with a strong focus on French offerings as consumer palates lean toward lighter and cleaner styles,” he says. Whispering Angel ($22 a 750-ml.), Gérard Bertrand Cotes des Roses ($14), and Esprit Gassier ($14) are leading rosé sales at his store.

French rosés from areas other than Provence are also making headway nationwide, most notably the Gérard Bertrand label from Languedoc-Roussillon. The winery’s extensive rosé stable also includes Gérard Bertrand Gris Blanc and Cotes des Roses, among other offerings. Languedoc-Roussillon variants also make up the lion’s share of the volume for the 90+ Cellars rosé portfolio from Latitude Beverage Co., but the brand also has a Provençal offering. “Consumers and store buyers are really looking for French-style rosé, which is pale pink in color, dry, and focused not so much on red fruit flavors but moreso on citrus, peach, floral, and mineral notes,” says Brett Vankoski, vice president and wine director for Latitude Beverage Co. and co-founder of 90+ Cellars. “On top of that, the wines often come in great packaging—really colorful and in various bottle shapes.” Across all expressions, the 90+ Cellars brand grew 60.6% to 57,000 cases in 2018.

Yes Way Rosé (cans pictured) has expanded the line with Yes Way Rosé Bubbles and Yes Way Rosé in 250-ml. cans.
Yes Way Rosé (cans pictured) has expanded the line with Yes Way Rosé Bubbles and Yes Way Rosé in 250-ml. cans.

A few more whimsical wines from France are also seeing growth. One of those is Yes Way Rosé, founded by Erica Blumenthal and Nikki Huganir and imported by Prestige Beverage Group. Blumenthal and Huganir started posting about rosé on Instagram in 2013, five years before launching their brand, which debuted at Target and then expanded to other retail and on-premise venues. The brand depleted 50,000 cases in its first year on the market, according to Impact Databank. Yes Way Rosé retails at $13 a 750-ml. and relies heavily on social media interactions with customers. “We have the benefit of our social media accounts,” notes Blumenthal. “We see how customers react when they’re posting about the product, and they can generate excitement on social media.” The pair has expanded the line with Yes Way Rosé Bubbles and Yes Way Rosé in 250-ml. cans. “What we’re doing is unique, and we’ve found a spot in the market that’s resonating with people,” Huganir says. “We’re going to keep innovating—it’s an exciting time for rosé.”

Other Players

French rosés dominate in the U.S. market, but the rapid growth of the category has attracted entrants from several other countries, including the U.S. “Consumers are differentiating between imported and domestic rosés, which is why it’s important to have both,” notes Trinchero’s Derby. The Trinchero portfolio includes the Washington-based Charles & Charles, which was up 18.7% to 84,000 cases in 2018; California-sourced Ménage à Trois, up 9.1% to 40,000 cases; and more than a dozen other labels from Argentina, Australia, California, and Spain. “Provence rosés like Bieler Père et Fils are receiving most of the press attention, but a healthy and growing appetite remains for a diverse selection of rosés from around the world,” Derby says.

In some cases, the rosé variant of a popular wine label makes a splash, such as New Zealand brand Kim Crawford, which built on its Sauvignon Blanc-focused brand with a rosé label. “Kim Crawford Rosé has been a fantastic case study for consumers’ openness to New Zealand varietals beyond Sauvignon Blanc,” says Julie Rossman, vice president of marketing at Constellation Brands. Similarly, Meiomi, also from Constellation, built its reputation on Pinot Noir but has seen strong growth for its rosé label as well. “We are thrilled that our existing customers have embraced our dry rosé and that it has also caught the attention of wine and rosé enthusiasts who are new to the brand,” says Jaymie Schoenberg, vice president of brand marketing for the wine and spirits division of Constellation Brands.

Delicato Family Wines markets the No.-1 domestic rosé, Bota Box. The brand has been one of the growth leaders for the past two years, advancing 56.6% in 2018 after growth of 73% the year before. Bota Box had depletions of 255,000 cases in 2018. The boxed wine is available in a 3-liter size and a 500-ml. Tetra Pak. Kate McManus, vice president of marketing for Delicato, says the product and its packaging make it perfect for beach, pool, or backyard events.

Delicato also offers Noble Vines 515 rosé, a Provence-style offering from California that was inspired by “the perfect time of day (5:15 p.m.) to toast the end of the workday or the beginning of the evening,” according to McManus. In addition, the company imports Relax rosé from Spain and represents Toad Hollow rosé from Sonoma County and Oregon-based Wine by Joe rosé, which offers “Joe to Go” 375-ml. cans in addition to 750-ml. bottles.

Four of ten leading domestic rosés come from The Wine Group, and all of them registered strong growth last year despite having launched only in the past three years. Cupcake led the portfolio at 125,000 cases in 2018, up from 55,000 cases the prior year, according to Impact Databank. Franzia and Ava Grace both registered strong increases, and Chloe surged to 58,000 cases on 70.6% growth.

Beyond Provence, other French wine regions produce standout rosé. Gérard Bertrand (Château l’Hospitalet vineyard above) in Languedoc-Roussillon produces 20 different rosé wines.
Beyond Provence, other French wine regions produce standout rosé. Gérard Bertrand (Château l’Hospitalet vineyard above) in Languedoc-Roussillon produces 20 different rosé wines.

Market Clutter

The Wine Group isn’t the only company to launch rosé wines in recent years. With the rapid growth in consumption across the United States, the number of rosé offerings on the market has exploded. “With the uptick in consumer demand, more producers are giving their rosé wines more attention, crafting them as seriously as they do other wines, and the variety of styles we now have to choose from is unbelievably fun,” says Cured’s Frischkorn.

But while many new brands or rosé line extensions have had some level of success, others have stumbled out of the gate. “The number of brands enjoying the majority of benefits from the rosé category is limited,” Deutsch’s Steffanci says, adding that the leftover 2017 vintage offerings that didn’t sell are now clogging up distributor warehouses as well as retail shelves. “We’re seeing 2017 rosés that sold for $15 being offered as closeouts at $2 a bottle.” Vineyard Brands’ Doody also notes this problem. “A lot of people who shouldn’t have been making rosé just jumped in and did it,” he says. “Many of those were domestic, and they’re now being winnowed out.”

Some wine marketers say they expect rosé to maintain growth but the landscape to change. “While we expect rosé as a category will continue flourishing, the offerings will have to narrow—we predict less than ten brands will eventually have the lion’s share of the scale,” says Steffanci.

Latitude Beverage Co.’s Vankoski, meanwhile, anticipates still more brands, even as the current lineup is undergoing a shake-out. He points out that rosé hasn’t fully infiltrated all markets. “Americans consume a small portion of the global supply of rosé, and that consumption is happening mainly on the coasts,” he says. “It really hasn’t permeated the rest of the country, so there’s still room to grow.”