Diversifying the rosé world

There’s so much more to rosé beyond Provence styles – consumers just need to be made aware of other options.

A category that makes up around 9% of global still wine consumption, according to IWSR Drinks Market Analysis, rosé is seeing a demand for diversification. Within the category, Provençal pale is the dominant player and tends to lead the market, mostly driven by high consumer awareness and bigger marketing budgets to help drive growth. While Provençal rosé is a classic for a reason, the industry is shifting to celebrate other styles that offer different flavour profiles and characteristics. As John Graves, wine development director at Enotria & Coe, noted at the London Wine Fair Premium Rosé Beyond Provence masterclass: “The world of rosé is beyond Provence.”

French regional alternatives

Within France, the different wine regions “all create unique effects and tastes due to their differing climates and terroir,” according to Edward Vellacott, commercial manager at Bijou Wine. “For example, Languedoc’s multitude of microclimates and cool, gentle slopes with an abundance of sunshine make for grapes with perfectly balanced sweetness and acidity.”

Vellacott adds that the Coteaux de Béziers region is subject to strong winds that have a cooling influence on the vines, which is “so important in making rosé as it helps to preserve that all-important acidity”. Bijou is noticing the need for diversification as it tries to push the barriers of the rosé market. With its Èminence De Bijou, the brand has partially oaked the grenache to “provide a new layer of complexity on the finish, and our hope is to provide a truly special gastronomic experience”, continues Vellacott.

The IWSR also found: “Consumption of rosé still wine fell 2% in 2021 versus 2020, in line with the decline of the total global still wine category. However, volume consumption of rosé still wine is expected to have improved in 2022 vs 2021.”

This improvement in the market comes largely from the return to venues after coronavirus lockdowns. According to Vellacott, there was a “huge trend in the lockdowns of consumers learning about and experimenting with wines through subscription services and online clubs and classes, so they have never been more informed”. As life returned to normal it allowed these consumers to “flex their newfound knowledge and explore the different offerings without committing to purchasing an entire bottle. That’s why offerings must be diversified across the board”.

Once a heavily seasonal drink, rosé is experiencing a shift to being a more sophisticated offering, to be paired with fine food. Vellacott attributes this to “the huge expansion in the market, which is producing some truly incredible results”.

The IWSR found that in 2021 versus 2020, all the top markets for rosé declined, except for Italy. Vito Palumbo, chief executive of Tormaresca, says this is because Italy is relatively new in rosé. “There is a lot of curiosity around Italian rosé as it has personality," says Palumbo.

"Maybe due to the volumes they are producing in Provence, in comparison in Italy you have an incredibly different interpretation of rosé. Puglian rosé is a little bit like the Provence of Italy and closer to the idea of a Provence rosé.”

With Provence comes larger budgets as it leads the market for rosé. Palumbo notes: “Most of the Provence rosé is now owned by luxury corporations, so they have budgets for marketing that no other wine company can afford. So of course we really have to build this kind of renaissance of Italian rosé from scratch and without the same weapons that Provence has.”

Puglia in particular is of importance historically for Italian rosé, with the first bottlings for the country taking place there in the early 1940s. Today, the region is a popular tourist destination, with rosé playing a role in its summer and lifestyle image. Palumbo adds: “Rosé is going to be, and is already, one of the drivers of the Puglia renaissance in terms of wines. Even for us, the success of our Calafuria rosé gave us the opportunity to invest a little more, to buy new vineyards, to replant old vineyards, and to raise the bar for our technology and knowledge.”

As with the progression of red and white wine, with different regions and appellations emerging over the years, Palumbo adds a similar thing will happen with rosé and that it’s “going to be kind of natural to broaden the offers of rosé and not just stick to Provence.

He says: “I think it’s just a matter of time and a matter of letting people try the wine. Even though, aesthetically, a pale rosé works just fine, in terms of the tasting profile and flavours I think a rosé that is slightly more intense in colour gives something more to the wine lover.”

Particularly in the on-trade, Palumbo believes it will be an important part of creating awareness for other regions and diversity in the category as it’s sommeliers who will suggest wines and they can act as “ambassadors for other interpretations of rosé”.

However, while Provence is a competitor for many other regions, Palumbo says: “We admire their success. We are also looking at them and the way they marketed the rosé. If you think of how the Provence rosé fashion started, it started in the 1950s with Côte d'Azur, so we are trying to recreate that with our own expertise, our own knowledge and our own history.”

The Navarra DO

Over into Spain, the Navarra Designation of Origin (DO) is the national market leader for rosé with a 30% share, according to David Palacios, president of the Navarra DO.

On the need for diversification, Palacios says: “Consumers need to open their minds. As with whites and reds, each region has its own personality and therefore there is a great diversity of styles to discover.”

Rosé typically comes with the lifestyle image of sun and good times, with Palacios noting that it is “in fashion in Spain and the rest of the world. Especially in coastal areas we are seeing an increasing interest in this type of wine.

“We enjoy a privileged geographical location as our vineyards are the northernmost in the country and our northern Atlantic Garnacha is much fresher than Garnacha from other regions, less alcoholic and with a singular acidity,” adds Palacios.

The IWSR adds: “Rosé is one of the few areas within the wine world to which the ‘lifestyle’ label can be attached.”

However, the category is slowly moving away from this to begin delivering a more serious take on the rosé offering, focusing on different varieties and diversification as other regions come to the fore.