‘In France, rosé has outsold white wine every year since 2009’
I have no idea whether it was the chicken or the egg which initally prompted the remarkable rise of rosé in recent times. Was it the dramatic improvement in quality that fired the category’s exponential sales growth over the last 10 years? or did a spontaneous spike in sales encourage producers to suddenly up their game. What is in no doubt is that rosé has entered a virtuous circle of ever-increasing quantity, quality and popularity.
The figures are extraordinary. For instance, in 2015, US sales of rosé increased by 58% in volume terms and 60% by value. In France, rosé has outsold white wine every year since it first overtook it in 2009.
When I began drinking wine, such statistics were unimaginable. Mainly because of how execrably bad most rosé was. In those happily dim and distant days, it was regarded as an afterthought. essentially, it was a by-product of red wine, bottled in bulk to be flogged off. Back then, pink mostly meant plonk.
Today it’s a very different story, even at the cheap-and-cheerful end of the rosé market. The profit motive has spurred competition and incentivised growers and winemakers to improve quality radically. While there is still bad rosé out there, most producers are giving it the correct amount of care and attention in the vineyard and winery. and it shows in the glass.
But it is at the pinnacle of the rosé market where the changes have been the most marked. For more than a decade, we’ve seen the emergence of a whole new category of seriously good gastronomic rosés (see Top 30 tasting, p28) with fine wine prices to match. It began in rosé’s Provençal homeland, but is now spreading far and wide.
Making this style of wine well isn’t easy to do. It requires investment, experience and skill. The correct sites must be sought and planted with the most appropriate grapes and clones. Picking dates are absolutely crucial, because you want just enough sweet fruit and soft acidity to produce a complex, supple, nuanced and above all charmingly drinkable wine. as for the knife-edge vinification stage, that’s possibly the most challenging of all.
So it’s little wonder that the best of these more serious wines are nudging fine wine prices. For my money, though, these top-end vins de plaisirs are worth every penny.