Social media has helped rosé skyrocket to fame and fortune. That’s just one of the insights that came out of the masterclass on rosé held at Vinisud 2017 in Montpellier this past week. Called ‘The many different styles of Mediterranean rosé’, the masterclass showcased wines from Provence to Turkey, Lebanon and Israel.
“America has the largest number of Instagram users in the world, with Russia second,” said Sarah Abbott MW, one of the moderators. “There are over 60m Instagram users in the States and they share these images.” Abbott showed photos taken from Instagram feeds, of bottles of rosé in swimming pools, on lunch tables, and in the hands of the young and beautiful. “French wine has the advantage on social media because everybody is tagging ‘rosé’ not ‘rosado,’” she said, adding that ‘rosé’ is becoming the synonymous term for the style, in the “same way that Champagne became known as sparkling.”
Another important point is that the images being shared by consumers are relatively glamorous, typically featuring blue sea, sunshine and good looking Millennials in bikinis. “Between 2009 and 2015, there was a five-fold increase of sales of Provencal rosé in the US, and this is the way these kinds of trends are being shared.”
According to Newsweek, rosé now accounts for more than 30% of wine consumed in France (not including Champagne). France is the world’s biggest producer, producing 7.6m hL in 2014; in 2015, Provence accounted for 1.38m hL. Rosé has seen the second-fastest wine category growth in the US, after red blends, while rosé sales doubled in the UK market in 2016, partly as a result of men taking to the style.
Christy Canterbury MW, who was unable to attend the tasting because of the weekend chaos at New York’s airports, wrote notes for the tasting that mentioned that “rosé was once a slightly embarrassing thing to drink.” Abbott went on: “It was the style that people who didn’t really like wine drank, associated with the lower end of the market and marketed in sexist ways.” But not only has Instagram helped to rehabilitate the image of rosé, it’s also helped drive the phenomenon of ‘brosé’ – men drinking rosé.
Another driver of the rosé success story, said co-moderator Elisabeth Gabay MW, is that quality has improved, driven by the work of the Rosé Wine Experimentation and Research Centre, founded in Vidauban in the French department of the Var in 1999. “Twenty years ago, there’s no way we thought we’d do a masterclass in rosé,” she said. “There wasn’t enough quality around. Rosé appealed to a lot of consumers because it was cheap, fresh and fruity.” But winemakers now take rosé seriously. “Winemakers being winemakers, how many would be happy to stay making a wine that nobody talks about?”
The result has been an outpouring of diverse wine styles, with a wide range of colour, sugar levels and complexity on offer. Abbott said that the UK market has recently become polarized, with sales of cheap volume rosé wines declining and sales in the £8.00 to £10.00 category rising. “The listings of dry, more food-friendly rosés are going up.” Another trend that’s happening in London is restaurants doing food pairings with rosé, centred in “hipper, younger restaurants. That’s the sector where you want to be.”
The two moderators noted, however, that rosé can still face prejudice in tastings and competitions, particularly if the colour is a vibrant pink. “I have judged with professionals who have looked at the colour and given it 79 points, just because of the colour,” said Abbott. “If you are working with a grape variety or terroir, there’s work to be done on countering that prejudice.”
For more information on the rosé phenomenon, see the upcoming Issue 1, 2017, which features an in-depth article on Provence rosé by Jamie Good. To secure your copy, subscribe here.