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‘On fire’ rosé ready for upmarket push

Rosé is showing signs of a real opportunity to push into higher price points as this booming category wins over Champagne drinkers and finds listings at top restaurants.

A selection of Gérard Bertrand’s growing rosé range

“The market now needs super-premium rosé,” insisted Gérard Bertrand, a Pays d’Oc producer whose own rosé range has been expanding significantly.

Citing the example of Garrus, a rosé from Château d’Esclans in Provence that retails for over £50, as evidence of what can be achieved, Bertrand remarked: “People like to have a beautiful magnum of rosé on the table. They drink it like a white wine.”

In particular, he highlighted the opportunity for top end rosé in France and the US, both of which he described as being “on fire” when it comes to this category.

Tracking rosé’s recent boom in the French market, Bertrand reported: “In the last five years we have doubled the rosé market because it is being consumed by women – before they were drinking Champagne.”

As a result of this shift, he noted that French rosé sales had moved within five years from holding a 15% share of the country’s wine market, while white held a 31% stake, to the present situation where, Bertrand observed, “now white is 16% and rosé is 30%.”

Although his own company has found the shift less marked in the UK, retailers here have reported strong growth in rosé sales, with Majestic noting an 84% rise in Provençal styles over its last financial year. Likewise, the Provençal Wine Council (CIVP) predicted that UK sales of its rosé in magnum format were set to double within a year as exports soared.

Nevertheless, Andrew Bewes, managing director of UK importer Hallgarten Druitt & Novum Wines, suggested that there was a challenge in expanding the market for more expensive rosé styles. “One of the problems is that as a trade the rosé market is dominated by blush,” he remarked. “We have to educate the gatekeepers.”

Despite this issue, Bewes pointed to the recent positive reception of an Italian rosé from Frescobaldi, made in the drier Provençal style, when it launched to the trade at last month’s Vinitaly.

Bewes also acknowledged the surprise success of Bertrand’s Gris Blanc, which retails in the UK for around £8.50. “We thought it would be taken up by mid-market aspirants but it’s being sold by the glass at some top places like Zuma and the Arts Club,” he remarked.

Gris Blanc represents an example of the commercial opportunity opened up by the rosé boom to Pays d’Oc producers. The wine is made with grapes from old Grenache Gris vines that were previously used for the region’s fortified specialism Vin Doux Naturel, a style which, while critically acclaimed, often struggles to find a customer base in the modern market.

Despite that fact that most rosé is intended to be drunk young, Bertrand noted the particular suitability of this variety for making more serious, age-worthy expressions. “When you use Grenache Gris for a rosé, like when you use it for a white wine, you have some ageing potential,” he maintained.

Although Provençal rosé currently holds the limelight in terms of both quality and volume, Bertrand hailed the Languedoc as a region ideally suited to feeding this trend. Highlighting the range of local varieties suited to this style, he remarked: “Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault give us a beautiful line-up of rosé.”

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