From Cinderella to glamour girl

Rosé is coming into fashion more and more worldwide: 17 per cent increase in eight years

This is how unexpected careers can go: Not so very long ago, rosé was regarded by many serious wine lovers as something indefinable between red and white, a beverage for women and young people, mostly with a sweetish touch and made from second-rate grapes. This has changed. According to the French Comité Interprofessionnel des Vins de Provence  (“Inter-professional Committee of Provence Wines”), rosé production has increased by 13 per cent worldwide in the past eight years to far over 25 million hectolitres, and consumption has even increased by 17 per cent. In many consumer countries, such as in Germany, the percentage of total rosé consumption is stable with more than ten per cent – and continues to grow. Rosé is a product on the way from Cinderella to glamour girl.
Foto: Landschaft in der Provence
The present-day fashionable beverage was – at least in terms of colour – with some degree of probability also in existence at the start of wine production. Since the winegrowers of antiquity did not know the technique of red wine production, they pressed their grapes as quickly as possible in order to initiate fermentation and fill the fermented juice in amphorae later. Viewed in this light, the success story of today’s rosé harks back a bit to the Phoenicians. When they founded Marseille 2,600 years ago, they brought winegrowing to Provence – and that had consequences. Nowhere else in the world does rosé have such a relative importance as in the areas between Fréjus and Tavel, between St. Tropez and Aix-en-Provence. 87 per cent of all wines produced there, primarily on the basis of Cinsault, Mourvèdre, Grenache, Syrah or Tibouren grape varieties, glisten in all possible colours ranging from salmon pink and currant and pomelo as well as mandarin and melon. 40 per cent of French rosé production stems from Provence, and the Gallic thirst for rosé is apparently growing incessantly: From 1990 to this day, consumption has nearly tripled from 10.8 to 27.3 per cent and has thus long since overtaken consumption of white wine. The Provençal natives even have their own research centre dedicated to their flagship rosé. In Vidauban they experiment with grape variety composition, colour spectra, sensory analysis and much more.

But where does the “Drink Pink” trend come from? The Belgian Vinopres publishing house has even dedicated a special small trade fair in Knokke and Amsterdam under the motto “The coolest wine exhibition”. “The market and the customers want these wines because they construe a pleasant, easy-going attitude towards life”, says Hendrik Thoma, master sommelier and host of the “Wein am Limit” video wine show (<a href=""></a>): “Rosé is actually more an attitude towards life than a wine”. For Thoma’s sommelier colleague Natalie Lumpp, “the increase of qualities” is clearly responsible for the rosé wine boom of recent years – and its universal applicability in the realm of gastronomy: “Rosé wines are super exciting with antipasti, light Mediterranean dishes, poultry or also lobster!” They also go well with Asian cuisine, which is enjoying great popularity worldwide.
Photo: Glasses of rosé wine
Whereas rosé wines were often made of inferior vintage not suitable for red wine production, a paradigmatic shift has taken place here. During the “pressurage directe” (direct pressing) process, the healthy red grapes that are not overripe or rotten are pressed after a brief maceration period. Depending on how long the cellarer waits with pressing, more or fewer pigments get into the must. During the saignée (‘bleeding’) process, they usually remain cooled overnight – but ordinarily no longer than 24 hours – in the red wine mash fermentation tank and start to “bleed” (French: saigner) their own weight. The mostly pink juice emerging is then abstracted and vinified like white wine. Pleasant side effect of the method: The remaining red wine must is extra-rich and obtains more colour due to the abstraction of juice.
Winegrowers all over the world have been experimenting for years with the right recipes for the best rosé. No limits are placed on the variety of styles. In Szekszárd (Hungary), the fresh “Fuxli” based on Kadarka grapes is currently celebrating a comeback. In Romania, winegrowers make a very distinct rosé from the likewise autochthonous “Zgihara de Huş” variety. In Apulia, complex rosés come mostly from Negroamaro and Montepulciano, while fruity-fine “Chiaretti” comes from the Lake Garda region. The Spaniards demonstrate which robust pink wines can be pressed from their showpiece Tempranillo variety. The Portuguese neighbours, who have already been globally on the go for decades with the Mateus brand from the Sogrape winery group, have recently even come up with “Pink Port”. And the New World has also learned the turnover potential which rosé entails. The “Weighbridge Rosé” made by pioneer Peter Lehmann from Australia, Miguel Torres’ “Santa Digna Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva” or also Danie de Wet’s “Good Hope” from South Africa have even made it into the German Lufthansa portfolio. In the meantime, the Swiss still like their delicate “Œil de Perdrix” from Valais or Lake Geneva, and the Austrians – or at least the Styrians – like the earthy, very acidic “Schilcher” rosé from the “Blue Wildbacher” grape. There is something there for any taste! 
It is true that the French hold their position as being the most important production and consuming country for rosé. However, according to a recent study by the Institutes France Agrimer, Italy has risen to be the leading exporter over the last decade, with a 40 per cent market share. Germany ranks on third place, both with the consumption and the import of rosés, production is on fifth place.

If it is true that the Americans always set the trends in the world, then the ‘pink hype’ may last a while. The import of rosé wines with a bottle price of more than twelve dollars increased by 23 per cent there in 2012, and the price of wines from Provence increased by a hefty 43 per cent – double-digit increases now for the tenth year in a row. The French also report substantial increases for Brazil and Russia. In Great Britain – in the ranking of rosé consumers together in fourth place with Italy (six per cent) behind France (35 per cent), the USA (14 per cent) and Germany (seven per cent) – consumption is also on the rise: The market share of ‘pink bottles’ on the market has climbed upward from 2.5 to 12.5 per cent since 2000. “At the turn of the century rosé was the ‘Austin Allegro’ of the wine world – cheap, out of fashion and something that nobody would have brought along to a dinner party”, says journalist Martin Green, “but today the winemakers have understood that there is a demand for good rosés and money can really be earned with it”.

Photo: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie

Hollywood stars Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie settled in Provence and took over the Chateau Miraval winery.

Perhaps the 350 vintners and cooperatives along the “Route des vins de Provence” (“Provence Wine Route”) have understood this a bit better than their colleagues elsewhere. But perhaps the key to success also lies in the beautiful landscape and the many tourists in the south of France. If such locomotives for an entire growing area come along such as “Domaines Ott” – which has been serving the premium market for rosés for many years – or Sacha Lichine with his legendary Chateau D’Esclans, then one also does not have to worry as a small winegrower. Lichine sold the family chateau in St. Emilion in 2005 in order to face a new challenge in Provence: “At that time, many people thought I was crazy – but I merely discovered the trend towards quality rosés earlier than the others.” For the homeland of rosé, the fact that Hollywood stars Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie settled in Provence and took over the Chateau Miraval winery was almost like winning an additional lottery jackpot. The 14,000 bottles of rosé from the vintage 2012 reserved for Germany had to be allocated to individual customers, despite the hefty price of 16.50 euros…

Thomas Brandl
Foto: Landschaft in der Provence
Provence - home of the Rosé.
Foto: Tavel - Premier Rosé de France
Tavel - Premier Rosé de France.
Foto: Spanische Rosados
Variety of Spanish Rosados.
Foto: Sacha Lichine
Sacha Lichine: „At that time, many people thought I was crazy – but I merely discovered the trend towards quality rosés earlier than the others.”
Foto: Rosé - Vielfalt aus der ganzen Welt
Rosé - variety from all over the world.
Photo: Rosé Miraval
Rosé Miraval: The 14,000 bottles of rosé from the vintage 2012 reserved for Germany had to be allocated to individual customers.
Foto: Landschaft in der Provence
Weinchateaux dominate the landscape of Provence.
Foto: Drink Pink (Werbeveranstaltung)
Special small trade fair in Knokke and Amsterdam: "Drink Pink".
Foto: Lavendelfeld in der Provence
Typically Provence: Lavender fields and wine grapes.