THE BOOZE BIN
By Emily Valentine (@ebvalentine)
Do you remember the first time you tasted rosé wine?
I do. And, no, I don’t mean that swig of Boone’s Farm Wine after a high school dance or the after-dinner “blush” my grandmother makes by pouring white on top of her red.
I’m talking about the crisp, dry, perfect-with-a-picnic-lunch type of rosé produced mainly in Southern France, but also in parts of Spain, like Rioja. It’s not made by mixing, but by crushing dark-skinned grapes and leaving the skins in with the juice for several days before discarding them, allowing them to impart tannin and a rosy color.
In my pseudo-scientific research, I’ve discovered almost everyone has a story to tell about their experience with the pink stuff. From “Hmmm … reminds me of the summer I spent in Spain,” to “yeah, I drank the world’s supply of it at a cookout last night,” rosé is a beverage that knows how to leave its mark.
Wine media have been forecasting a major comeback for rosé in the U.S. for years, and, so far, the sales figures support their predictions. According to a 2012 Nielsen survey, sales of imported rosé swelled more than 26% last year – a growth rate more than seven times that of total retail table wine sales for the same period. The average price per bottle is also steadily rising, indicating consumers’ growing appreciation for premium rosé.
But there are still plenty of Americans who balk at pink wine.
Sales drop off dramatically outside the top rosé-consuming states—New York, California, Massachusetts, Illinois and Florida—and true adoption is concentrated among a few customer groups:
- Europhiles – The primary consumers of rosé in the U.S. are people who’ve traveled to France, Spain or the UK, tasted the good stuff and formed positive associations with it. For them, rosé is all about the experience – enjoying a touch of European flavor in moments of relaxation.
- Wine and Food Lovers – Highly educated wine lovers understand how rosé is made and appreciate its versatility.
- Gen Y Urbanites – City-dwelling millennials are increasingly opting for rosé over the usual alcopops or cocktails.
Its popularity is growing, but rosé still has a significant image problem in the U.S. To reach next-tier customers, imported rosé will need both greater distribution and stronger reputation management.
Baby boomers still tend to equate pink wine with the sugary “blush” wines that began flowing out of California in the 70s, and plenty of Gen-Xers cite bad experiences with pink wine they’ve encountered in tasting rooms or on grocery store shelves. There’s still a lot of bad rosé produced in the world, so if you don’t know what to look for in a bottle, it’s easy to get screwed.
In addition, Rose is hindered by misperceptions about its flavor profile (“ugh, too sweet”), quality (if pink wine is sold at 7-11, how good can it be?) and production (I blame my grandmother).
So, herein lies the opportunity…
From a functional standpoint, imported rosés have a lot going for them. They’re light and refreshing, pair well with a variety of foods and actually have lower sugar content than most white wines.
They also have a built-in premium positioning thanks to their precise, purposeful production methods … and they apparently have a knack for creating memorable experiences.
As a brand marketer, I’d love to see the rosé industry conduct research on current perceptions of their product, evaluate gaps and uncover opportunities for enhancing its identity. Messaging that works for Europhiles and Gen-Yers may not work for next-tier wine purchasers, so rosé producers need to figure out what will … and then craft campaigns accordingly.
Investing in image development and reputation management will help the dry rosé industry build awareness, fight “color profiling,” and ultimately drive sales.
I’ll keep rooting for rosé regardless, because la vie est trop courte pour boire du mauvais vin ….
Photo credits: Gourmet.com, Georges DuBoeuf