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Sacha Lichine Aiming To Make Provence The ‘Champagne’ Of Rosé

June 28, 2013

In 2006, French wine industry veteran Sacha Lichine acquired Chateau d’Esclans in Provence and set about building a global rosé wine brand of the same name. Seven years later, Lichine’s strategy of focusing exclusively on prestige on-premise accounts is paying dividends for d’Esclans, which now accounts for about 20% of the Côtes de Provence rosé category in the U.S. (According to the Provence Wine Council, the region’s rosé exports to the U.S. leapt 41% to 280,000 cases in the 12 months through last November.)

The Chateau d’Esclans line is led by its Whispering Angel rosé, which sells for $13-$17 by the glass and received a score of 90 points from Wine Spectator for its 2011 vintage. Up the pricing ladder, the range also includes an eponymous rosé, as well as ultra-premium label Les Clans and prestige cuvée Garrus.

“We take a Champagne marketing approach,” says Lichine, speaking to SND at last week’s Vinexpo in Bordeaux. “We want Whispering Angel to be the by-the-glass rosé in the best on-premise accounts in the world, with the higher-priced wines residing on the bottle list. Dom Perignon does better when Moët & Chandon Brut is on the by-the-glass list.”

While d’Esclans has branched out into key global markets like Asia, Germany, the U.K., the Middle East and the Caribbean, the U.S., where it first launched, remains its primary market, accounting for 45% of sales. Handled by Shaw-Ross, d’Esclans shipped 50,000 cases to the U.S. this year—42,000 of which were Whispering Angel—before running out of stock, up from 33,000 cases last year.

New York City’s Soho House is d’Esclans’ largest account worldwide, serving up 500 cases on their terrace annually. The goal, says Lichine, is to reach 100,000 cases in the U.S. by 2017. Globally, he’d like to see d’Esclans’ current production of 1.3 million bottles roughly double to 2.5 million looking ahead.

In addition to his core Provence rosé business, Lichine tells SND he’s also planning to launch a small-production New Zealand rosé in the near future, made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. (d’Esclans Provence rosés are made primarily from Grenache and Rolle (Vermentino), staying away from Syrah, which tends to “candy” the blend, according to Lichine.)

“The rosé category is booming, and I don’t see that stopping anytime soon. More men are beginning to understand the category, and it’s getting more respect than it has in the past,” he says. “Within that, Provence is to rosé what Champagne is to sparkling wine.”

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