Why this red wine region in Spain is turning to rosé

There’s no escaping the rosé trend. Once looked down upon as a frivolous, almost as a by-product of red wine, over the last decade a rosé revolution has taken place.

Producers in Jumilla, Spain, are now producing rosé when they haven’t even tried before.

Rosé wine sales have been growing strongly, from 8% of total wine sales to 10% between 2002 to 2017, and even in lockdown, retailers have reported that pink wines from Provence are flying off the shelves. Celebrities have started launching their own brands, and now other regions, such as the Languedoc, are being heralded for their rosés.

Now, producers all around Europe are hoping to tap into the rise and rise of rosé, even in places where it is quite rare.

Located in southeastern Spain, the Jumilla DO was known as early as Roman times for its full-bodied reds, but producers have started to make more noise about the small quantity of Monastrell-based pink wines coming out of the continental, coastal-influenced region.

While rosé just makes up a small fraction of the wines made in Jumilla (92% of the region’s output is red), winemakers are looking at their Monastrell grapes differently and making more space for rosé production.

The results are already promising. Six wines entered into our Global Rosé Masters this year won medals.

“I think that it’s a bit of proof of how the variety can bring really offer crisp, very tasty and very round, balanced rosé wines,” Carolina Martinez, the general secretary of the Jumilla DO, said.

“Rosé is only around 4% of our overall production, but they are very sought after in the last years because of the upward trend of rosés overall.”

Producers in Jumilla exported 28 million bottles of wine last year, with the US the top export market and largely snapping up the region’s Monastell red wines (Mourvèdre, in France), which must include at least 80% of the named variety, but things are changing. The evolution of white wine in the past ten years has been “remarkable,” Martinez said, “sales have doubled”.

Now, in the past two years, Martinez said that rosé has become a tempting proposition.

“In the past two years, wineries are making more rosé wine, some who have never done it before, have included rosé wines in the portfolio as world demand for rosé is increasing.”

 

Raising awareness

After the US, China and the UK are the second largest export markets, but Martinez believes a lot more needs to be done to let consumers outside of Spain know they exist, adding that Jumilla, with its long, dry summers, Mediterranean coastal influence and lime-coated soils, has a fair few similarities with Provence.

“They’re not very familiar yet with these Mediterranean varieties. We’re very keen on letting consumers know about Monastrell – they have a lot of similarities with Provence, the UK is very keen on Provence wines and we think we have something to offer there.”

However, Spain’s coronavirus lockdown put a stop to any brand awareness activity planned for this year. Visits to trade shows and consumer events in the UK were put on ice. “It’s been really tough”, Martinez said, adding that the shutdown came at the worst possible time, “the months of maximum consumption and sales.”

During lockdown, export markets have behaved differently, and most wineries have adapted their sales efforts to this new situation.

According to Martinez, statistics show exports figures very similar to 2019 in the same period. At a closer look, some traditional export destinations for Jumilla such as Switzerland, Russia and Belgium have suffered. Meanwhile, others such as Germany, Japan, South Korea and The Netherlands have bought more Jumilla wine than in 2019. The main markets such as EU, China and the UK, have been stable.

Instead of in-person activities, producers turned to online tastings, which Martinez found were “super fast to organise. The week after we went into lockdown, we launched our first online tasting – it’s a nice way to reach a lot of people that maybe you didn’t even think about .”

It sounds like Jumilla’s wineries may continue to work with digital activations to reach people around the world, even if lockdown is now coming to an end in Spain.

“We don’t want to lose the focus on this online discovery, but we’re already thinking about smaller presentations, and especially now with the good weather we think we can do it outside, maybe in summer and at night, taking all preventive measures into account. We need to see people and they need to see us explain the wines.”

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