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The Rosé Boom Shifts Into High Gear

July 10, 2015

Pink wine is in: Dry rosé has become one of the hottest trends in wine. The above-$8 rosé category was up 34% to $63 million in the 52 weeks ended May 23, according to Nielsen, with volume rising 29% to nearly half a million cases, about double the category’s 2012 total.

Retailer Sherry-Lehmann in New York City is doing a brisk business in rosé year-round. “We’ve had years of double-digit growth from an already very strong base,” says CEO Chris Adams. He adds that rosé tends to appeal to younger consumers. Sherry-Lehmann does best with Provence rosé and other lighter styles, led by Domaines Ott ($46.95 a 750-ml.), Whispering Angel ($22), Château Miraval ($24.95), Château Margüi ($21.95) and Wölffer Estate ($18).

In Provence, where 88% of production is dry rosé, exports of rosé have risen by double-digits for 11 consecutive years. The appellation’s upscale image has paid dividends, thanks to estates like Château Miraval—owned by actors Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt—and Château d’Esclans, which produces Whispering Angel. Imported by Shaw-Ross International, Whispering Angel is projected to deplete 100,000 cases this year, making it one of the top 10 French wine labels in the U.S. market.

Whispering Angel now has a new sibling, Rock Angel, which is currently being rolled out in the U.S. market. “Rock Angel retails at about $35—a level up from Whispering Angel’s $22, but still pocket-book friendly,” notes Shaw-Ross managing director Bruce Hunter. Further up the line from Chateau d’Esclans are its Les Clans ($70) and Garrus ($100) rosé labels.

Whispering Angel’s on- to off-premise ratio has been 70-30, but Hunter says “that’s starting to even up—and it’s now tough to find a reputable package store that doesn’t carry Whispering Angel.” On-premise, Hunter notes the growing prominence of large-format rosé bottles. “You’re seeing more of the 3-liter and 1.5-liter sizes,” he says. “Restaurateurs like them because they’re beautiful and make a great statement.”

While females have accounted for 75% of Whispering Angel’s sales, Hunter notes that “men are drinking it too, because it’s easy to enjoy,” thereby shifting the traditional balance. And like Adams of Sherry-Lehmann, Hunter is seeing a more year-round sales spread.

Long Island’s Wölffer Estate is also rising fast at the super-premium level. Its namesake rosé has seen growth of 30% to 40% annually and is expected to sell 20,000 cases this year, largely in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

“The splashiness of rosé in the Hamptons and other areas has really lifted the category,” says Charles Bieler, cofounder of the rosé-led Washington state wine brand Charles & Charles ($12). Bieler sees millennials and white wine drinkers driving the category. “A lot of people think they’ll move White Zinfandel drinkers to dry rosé, but they won’t,” he says. “We’re expanding Sauvignon Blanc drinkers into rosé.”

South Africa’s Mulderbosch markets a rosé made from Cabernet Sauvignon ($10), which depleted 30,000 cases in 2014 and is projected to hit to 50,000 cases this year. Mulderbosch launched a rosé magnum as an on-premise exclusive this spring, while off-premise accounts like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s have been key discovery venues, says Steve Doyle, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Mulderbosch’s importer, Terroir Selections.

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