I’m in the process of collating a whole swathe of recent rosé reviews at the moment, and while it’s been depressing to see the sheer volume of middling wines, the rise of the category is fascinating. Before I kick off the reviews, I thought I’d dig out a print article on the subject. A version of the following piece ended up in National Liquor News circa Christmas time last year. As you’ll see I wrote in a very different voice – aimed at retailers – but hopefully it is of interest. I’ll follow this up with another post with recent highlights (plus some also-rans)…
The Rosé Report
Forget craft beer. Forget cider. Instead, there is just one drink that everyone will be consuming this summer.
According to AZTEC figures, rosé is the fastest growing wine category in Australia, enjoying a huge 20% lift in volume over the 12 months to May 2016.
What’s most interesting is that while rosé has always been a part of the fabric of the wine industry – Mateus Rosé was amongst the top ten wines drunk in Australia for many years after all – it hasn’t been since the 70s that pink wine has genuinely enjoyed such popularity.
One reason for the new appreciation of rosé has to be about a shift in the style. In particular, the new generation of pale, savoury and textural wines getting all the attention over the past few years.
But it is more than that, as we have seen a shift in how rosé is now consumed.
Rosé, brosé… frosé
While you should always be sceptical about a trend that pops up via an Instagram hashtag, there is no questioning the noise that has been made about ‘brosé – or blokes drinking rosé.
The notion of men choosing pink wine is far from new – Jimi Hendrix was famously pictured drinking Mateus after all. Yet in recent years the trend has been for more ‘bros’ to choose a refreshing splash of rosé instead of beer.
Brosé is thought to have started to in upmarket New York and London bars. There, premium, pale Provencal rosé found a niche for summertime drinking, serving as an unlikely ‘anti-wine’ for millennial blokes.
Locally, brosé is a real,observable phenomenon, with winemakers such as Oakvale in the Hunter Valley reporting that they have an almost equal split of male and female rosé consumers. That’s backed up by stats from the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) which found that in Australia, the same proportion of rosé is consumed by both men and women.
Beyond brosé, another clear trend in pink wine consumption that has come our way via American bar culture is the ‘frosé’. Branded the ‘drink of the summer’ in the New York season just passed, frosé is essentially just frozen rosé wine, made into a pink slushie form via the addition of a little sugar and water.
While this is anything bus serious, frosé is already viewed as something of a gateway drug to more serious pink wine, with drinkers then ‘trading up’ to more sophisticated prestige Provence-style rosé. Indeed premium styles up by 52% in value over the 12 months to December last year in the USA as a result.
A further illustration of how Provence rosé has become the celebratory drink of choice, look only at how many top producers are now releasing rosé in magnums. The 2016 Château Les Mesclances Romané Rosé, for example, has just been released in Australia in a magnum, with this traditional Provence blend of Grenache, Cinsaut and Rolle gaining traction in both on and off-premise markets.
Premium Pink and the Rosé Revolution
If ever you want an example of just how popular premium French rosé has become – you need only know that Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt also have their own (for the moment, until the divorce works out who keeps it) Provence winery called Chateau Miraval.
It might sound trivial that a celebrity power couple owns a winery, but with Miraval now selling 500,000 bottles of premium rosé, and allocations so limited that there are waiting lists, we’re not talking about something that’s a pure novelty – it’s big business.
Such enthusiasm for rosé hasn’t always been apparent locally, however. In fact, when De Bortoli first launched the pale, savoury, Pinot Noir based La Boheme Act II Rosé the winery sales and marketing staff believed that it would end up dumped on the cellar door as it wouldn’t work in retail.
Still, it actually kicked on (unexpectedly), with Steve Webber and Leanne De Bortoli then further pushing things along with the ‘Rose Revolution’ initiative. That move then saw resources put behind a coordinated campaign to educate and encourage the consumption of more dry, pale, savoury styles of rosé.
While this marketing program has now wound down, the success continues to pay off for De Bortoli, with Steve Webber recently noting that he made twice as much La Boheme Rosé this year than last.
Beyond the revolution
There is more to the rosé segment than pale, savoury and delicate styles, however, as our larger producers have realised too.
Indeed the maker of Australia’s biggest selling rosé by volume, Jacob’s Creek, have recently released two different styles that tap into both ends of the market. Le Petit Rosé is intended to be for retail and is a blend of Pinot Noir, Grenache and Mataro. In contrast, Barosé is made predominantly for on-premise and is all Barossa Grenache, the style fuller and more robust (and more traditionally ‘Australian’).
Even the most traditional Australian rosé wines are being given a slight style change in response to this more varied rosé landscape, as witnessed at Angove Family Winemakers.
Angove have just released the 14th vintage of the Angove Nine Vines Grenache Shiraz Rose, with this industry stalwart seeing a subtle style evolution towards the lighter pink tones, while not sacrificing any of the flavour the dedicated consumers have come to expect, as Angove Chief Winemaker Tony Ingle explains:
‘This year we are aiming to express the strawberry of the Grenache more and show a touch drier palate’ he said.
Keen to play around with different styles, Angove have also just released the ‘Mediterranean Inspired’ Angove Alternatus Rose – a McLaren Vale sourced blend of Grenache, Tempranillo, Graciano and Carignan that uses a variety of different processes (including saignee and co-fermented parcels) to build a savoury, Euro-inspired pink.
It’s not surprising that so many producers are expanding their rosé range, as there are multiple styles and pricepoints to cover.
As retailer Tom Hollings of Different Drop explains, there is a space for this spectrum of rosé flavours in the Australian market too, despite recent changes in style preference:
‘I think there will always be lovers of the old pink lolly water styles’ he said.
‘But the more pale, savoury and serious styles of rosé are where the growth seems to be‘.
That runaway growth is so strong that other very fashionable wine styles might be next in the firing line. Indeed Giuseppe Minnisale of Porter’s Liquor believes that rosé is destined to be the next big thing:
‘In my view (rosé) will be a serious category’ he said.
‘Summer next year it is possible that rosé will be as large as NZ Savvy.’
If you’re looking for an answer as to why rosé is growing so quickly, Hollings has a possible answer – that everyone is taking the wines more seriously:
‘Winemakers are making these rosés from the ground up to be more textural and complex without losing any ‘smashability’’ he said.
Smashability and the svelte bottle
That notion of ‘smashability’ is hard to pin down though – it’s an unquantifiable character that taps into the very essence of ‘drinking’ wines, and is the key appeal of modern rosé.
But balancing out the fun and the serious sides of good rosé is a perpetual challenge, if an entertaining one, for producers, as winemaker Tessa Brown of Vignerons Schmölzer & Brown explains:
‘I love rosé’ she said.
‘In an industry where we can tend to take our jobs super seriously and view what we do as a craft or an art, rosé is a wine where we get to be a touch frivolous and youthful, even though we can still offer people something of very good quality’.
Brown’s new Pret-a-Rosé 2016 falls into the more savoury, premium style of pale rosé that is built on texture, with the clever use of phenolics and partial malolactic fermentation to produce a beautifully delicate style.
Despite what Brown says, nailing the perfect rosé is not all that easy, with the best Aussie pinks required to not only offer that elusive drinkability and proper structure, but also to be well packaged and presented too.
Look only at the new Longview Nebbiolo Rosato as a perfect example.
Already considered one of Australia’s better pink wines (the 2014 was a trophy winner at the Royal Sydney Wine Show), this Adelaide Hills rosé had a packaging overhaul in 2016, with a stunning new imported Italian bottle that makes quite an impact on the shelf.
Sure, it’s just glass, but as Longview Marketing Director Mark Saturno explains, there is more to rosé than just what’s in the bottle:
‘Ultimately, quality of the product is paramount, but I would say packaging plays an important role also’ he said.
‘Historically, I think the category as a whole hasn’t been taken seriously and producers probably saw it as an afterthought.’
‘So many (local rosé wines) are in pretty generic, clear flint claret bottles that all just meld together in different hues of pink. We wanted to break away from that’.
All Saints Estate also have a brand new rosé out that, like the Longview, is built around an Italian style. A blend of 66% Sangiovese and 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, ‘Rosa’ is packaged in a clear glass bottle with a Vinolok closure The name itself is a homage to the Brown family’s maternal grandmother Rosa, who apparently would have loved a glass of pink (and apparently made a mean scone).
The pink future
Ultimately, summer remains the make-or-break peak period for pink wines. Will the pale and savoury style eventually become more dominant than the often sweeter, more ‘traditional’ rosé wines?
One angle for retailers it is that rosé has as a unique selling proposition – it is neither a white or red wine. Instead, rosé straddles the barrier, offering something for drinkers of both segments.
As Sales and Marketing Director of All Saints Estate Angela Brown explains, this egalitarian nature is highly appealing:
‘Rosé is perfect for indecisive consumers’ she said.
‘(You can) enjoy on its own in the sunshine, and it’s also a perfect match to lighter styles of food… many people now enjoy it’.
Hollings, however, put it best:
‘Rose is the perfect wine for the Aussie sun!’
Read more via National Liquor News