Drinks

Rosé Is Here To Stay

By Donna Ahern
Rosé Is Here To Stay

Rosé has been slow to gain traction in the Irish market. However, it appears that the factors that created rapid growth in the UK’s Rosé market are now at play in Ireland. Kevin Ecock reports

Healthy and growing wine markets have the ability to introduce new ideas, styles and categories.

Volume growth, however, is often allied to price reductions and special offers. Each of these holds back innovation and nearly always promotes mediocrity, as globalised ideas and products are shipped in to fill voids created by populist demand.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with this and consumers are rewarded with attractive shelf prices and ready availability of popular styles.

This often, however, promotes a cagey market that is less disposed to change and innovation.

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An obvious result of this across Ireland is the dominance of Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Frizzante Prosecco and €8 bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon from the far side of the world. It might be argued that another result has been the inability of the Rosé category to take off.

A ’woman’s drink’

Rosé wines have had a troubled history in Ireland. Part of this was due to a misplaced ‘wine genderization’. It might seem odd today but, until quite recently, white wines were looked on as female drinks and red wines were regarded as the preserve of males.

Within this scenario, poor old Rosé was never allowed into the company of the male drinker and struggled to be identified as anything other than a ‘woman’s drink’.

It wasn’t helped by the fact that warm sunny weather promotes Rosé drinking, and Ireland tended to move into cider and lager as our summers warmed up. In addition, the major Rosé wines on sale were quite sweet and seldom, if ever, received critical attention.

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There have always been very fine examples of Rosé wines available, such as Tavel from the Rhone Valley and Rosé Champagne. A recognised category, however, needs to present a wide variety of styles from across the world of wine.

At times individual retail groups have worked diligently to kick start ‘Rosé’ as a serious part of their retail mix.

The Next Door group at one time dedicated entire sections in all of its stores to as wide a variety of Rosé wines as they could muster. But it never worked. Or, at least, not in the way that the category mushroomed in the UK.

UK market

Rosé in the UK market has been incredibly successful over the past two years.

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WOTWINE recently reported that one in every ten bottles sold in the UK last year was a Rosé. This, remember, is the sixth largest wine market in the world and wine sales are worth ten billion pounds a year (WSTA).

While many argue that this level of Rosé penetration will be replicated across Ireland soon, others point out that not all UK wine trends work in the smaller Irish market.

What cannot be denied, however, is that many of the factors that caused the UK’s Rosé market to gather momentum so quickly are now at work in Ireland.

WOTWINE reported in February that, in relation to Rosé sales, ‘The hot weather probably helped but Rosé has been the most exciting category in wine for some years now and, whilst there is some clear seasonality, it has established itself as a key part of retailers’ wine ranges throughout the year.

Marketing has played a big part in the growth with smart branding, attractive packaging and film star associations all helping to create a perception, deservedly in many cases, of improved quality.

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The current fashion is for exotically bottled pale Provence-style rosé, with soft texture and barely perceptible tannins.’

Irish market

All of the major retailers in Ireland now lists exotically bottled pale Provence-style Rose wines! In addition, social-media recommendations of celebrity-owned or endorsed Rosé labels are as relevant in Ireland as they are elsewhere.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie own the Provencal ‘Miraval’ label. It sells well in Mitchell and Sons for the very impressive retail price of €29.95. Sitting beside it is another wine from Provence, ‘Whispering Angel,’ which is produced by Chateau d’Esclans.

It sells for €32.95 and is considered by many experts as the finest Rosé wine in the world. It sells out its annual production of many millions of bottles. Similarly, for many years Domaine OTT (Cassidy Wines) has appealed to the rich and famous holidaying on the French Riviera. Each of these three wines has two very marketable qualities in common - high quality and a dry fruity style from Provence, indicated by a light tawny-orange hue.

This is the style that the rest of the wine world is now attempting to bring to the market.

SuperValu and Centra

Kevin O’Callaghan, wine buyer for Supervalu and Centra, put the Rose market in perspective when he spoke to Checkout: ‘...a number of years ago I decided to take up the charge on Rosé.

I promoted Rosé hard and made a focal point of it in our communications.

The thinking was, as it was such a small part of our offering, the extra spend wouldn’t cost greatly, but it would still get people to try wines long forgotten and encourage customers to try new wines that were not yet explored.

To this end we focused on drier Rosé and that’s actually, and thankfully, where the trend is leading. Rosé was in decline at -11% and only 3.5% of our business.

Today it has seen a complete reversal, with 30% growth and share of trade of 5% (it is worth noting that while share still isn’t huge it is very seasonal product prone to summer experience).

Rosé today is trendy and the wine of Provence I liken to a Pinot Grigio of 10 years ago or Malbec of recent times where peoples’ conversations are on, “have you not tried a Provence Rosé yet”.

Rosé is back and here to stay and with food matching style now more readily available it’s great to see.’

This development is clear to see on the SuperValu shelves.

This June the ‘Bendel Cuvée Caroline’ from Provence will be displayed as a Wine of the Month at only €10.00 a bottle. Along with many of its kind today, it is presented well in a distinctive, tall and clear glass bottle with the back-label message telling us that this is, ‘a gastronomy wine, to be shared over aperitif or with a sun-drenched cuisine, grilled fish or fresh cheese’.

The ‘summer message’ is carried also by the fabulously successful ‘Graham Norton’s Own Pink by Design’ Rosé whose agents inform us that one in every 10 bottles of New Zealand wine sold on the Irish market is now a Graham Norton (chief winemaker) wine.

In relation to this wine, we are told that, ‘some call it a summer picnic in a bottle. Rosé is the perfect light, slightly sweet and very fruity wine for a sunny day – or the perfect way to make any day sunny’.

Dunnes Stores

Rosé wines are available in all manner of sweetness levels. While there is nothing inherently wrong with a sweet wine, it is interesting to note that most of the expensive, Provencal-style wines are quite dry. That said, every shelf carries wines that are both dry and quite sweet.

This summer Dunnes Stores will list 26 different Rosé wines. Among its list is ‘Whispering Angel’ at €32.00 a bottle.

They will also carry the excellent ‘Silver Moki’ from New Zealand at €10.50, an impressive looking magnum, ‘Bastide Neuve’, from the Languedoc, and the fabulous ‘Laurent Miguel Solas Pay’s d’Oc Syrah Rosé’.

These will sit alongside perennial favourites such as ‘Mateus Rosé’, ‘Gallo White Grenache’ and ‘Blossom Hill Blush Zinfandel’, a few of which are styled very much on the sweet end of the spectrum.

NOFFLA presented its Gold Star Rosé wine award last year to the very interesting ‘Doña Paula Rosé of Malbec’ from Argentina, followed closely by the ‘Coto Mayor Rosado’ from Rioja and the ‘Gran Feudo Rosé’ from Navarra.

This was a good result, as it showed that quality is available across many different styles, with the Navarra wine showing a rich red/pink traditionally associated with its region.

Aldi

Aldi held a sumptuous spring/summer tasting this year where they showcased a number of Rosé wines.

The Cote du Luberon ‘S de la Sablette’ was fabulous and will sell for only €8.50. Aldi Ireland group buying director, John Curtin tells Checkout that, “Rosé is certainly going from strength to strength in Ireland.

In April, we sold over 50,000 bottles of Rosé across our 137 stores nationwide. This was due in part to the amazing weather we had over Easter. Rosé sales in April in Aldi were up by 19.6% compared to the same time last year.

The reason for this is we expanded our seasonal offering and Rosé range, providing something for everyone.”

Marks and Spencer have taken sparkling Rosé to a new level this year, with many different styles from across the world, including the brilliant ‘Graham Beck The Rhona Brut Rose NV’ from South Africa.

© 2019 Checkout – your source for the latest Irish retail news. Article by Kevin Ecock. Click sign-up to subscribe to Checkout.

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