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Rosé Paves The Way For France’s “Hot Brand” Wines

April 29, 2020

Despite the 25% U.S. tariffs on French wines that took effect last fall, the French import category boasts multiple offerings on Impact’s most recent “Hot Brands” roster, driven in large part by rosé. Overall, French table wines’ bottled shipments to the U.S. increased 2.6% last year to 14.8 million cases, representing an expansion of more than 3.3 million cases over the past three years. La Vieille Ferme is the largest of the category’s Hot Brand award winners, up 11.7% to 569,000 cases last year, according to Impact Databank. Part of the Perrin family portfolio, La Vieille Ferme, which is imported in the U.S. by Vineyard Brands, has averaged annual growth of 65,000 cases over the past three years at the $10-$13 tier, driven largely by its rosé label.

From the Languedoc, Gérard Bertrand’s namesake brand has also been lifted by the rosé trend, reaching the half-million-case threshold last year on 11% growth. Offerings like Gris Blanc and Cotes des Roses have been among the growth drivers for the brand in the $12-$20 retail range. Bertrand’s partnership with Jon Bon Jovi and Jesse Bongiovi, Diving Into Hampton Water, is also making inroads in the U.S. market.

Provençal rosé Château d’Esclans returns to the Hot Brand list once again this year, powered by its Whispering Angel label. The d’Esclans portfolio grew by 16.7%, nearing 500,000 cases last year. In December, Moët Hennessy agreed to take a 55% stake in Château d’Esclans, making it likely that the brand will soon transition to the Moët Hennessy USA portfolio. For the past 15 years, Château d’Esclans has been with U.S. importer Shaw-Ross International.

“When Sacha Lichine first released the 2006 vintage of Whispering Angel, it’s safe to say that most U.S. consumers were very unfamiliar with the traditional dry and pale colored style of rosés from the Côtes de Provence region in France,” says Paul Chevalier, Shaw-Ross’s vice president, national fine wine director. “By investing in technology, the team at Château d’Esclans was able to create a new generation of fruit-forward rosés with a taste profile that has connected with many new consumers. Whispering Angel crosses all generations of consumers today, and continues to have a very loyal base.”

Among d’Esclans’ top-end wines are Les Clans (around $70) and Garrus ($100), which have been developing the prestige rosé segment. The core Whispering Angel label retails at around $23. “We sell out the top-end range as we do with Whispering Angel,” Lichine told SND, adding that d’Esclans’ recent deal to purchase a neighboring estate “will add 60 hectares (148 acres) of vines to our current holdings of nearly 74 hectares (183 acres). That will facilitate increasing production of the upper-end marques, and in turn enable us to supply more of those wines as the category premiumizes.”—Danny Sullivan

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