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Taste Off: Trade should push diverse rosé offering to maximise sales

Published:  17 April, 2023

Given that rosé has proved buoyant against a backdrop of otherwise largely flat wine sales, it seems short-sighted that many merchants and restaurants continue to undervalue the potential of building upon this popular category.

This was one of the main points made at Harpers most recent Taste Off session at Vinoteca Borough Yards, where the contrasting styles of Provence and Navarra provided the backdrop for a deep dive discussion into how best to turn pink into pounds.

“We definitely need to diversify the category, really highlighting different styles,” said Wieteke Teppema, commercial director and buyer at Drop Wine.

    • Read more: Five minutes with rosé expert, Elizabeth Gabay MW

However, the dominance of Provence and its typically ultra-pale style was deemed a big challenge to promoting other styles, with part of the problem, it was argued, lying with the trade for “training” consumers to expect and demand that signature Provençal colour.

“With rosé we’ve gone too far and allowed the UK public to judge by the colour,” said Riaz Syed, owner of indie merchant Stone Wines.

Amphora Cambridge owner Cong Cong Bo suggested that “the trade should challenge consumers”, eschewing a simplistic colour-based trio of choice – ‘white, red or rosé’ – and instead recommend “on what the wine smells and tastes like, rather than colour, because in no other context [beyond rosé] are you choosing a wine based on colour”.

On another tack, Miles McInnes, MD of Jascots, cautioned against a trait sometimes exhibited by the trade whereby it turns its nose up against a consumer-driven success story.

“For people like us, who are all passionate about wine, we don’t always do ourselves the best favours commercially,” he said.

“We should celebrate rosé for its success with customers. That should not preclude us selling different wines, different styles, different colours, different grape varieties, and so on, but I don’t think we should attack this engagement that has been created between the consumer and that style of wine.”

In this sense, the panel agreed, rosé – and specifically Provençal-style rosé – “works because it’s become a ‘brand’”, as with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or Argentine Malbec, engendering trust and loyalty, “and that brand is that [pale] colour”.

As a supplier to the on-trade, MacInnes suggested that such styles work well to anchor rosé’s slot on the list, but then outlets could play around with other colours, styles and varieties to encourage trading across and up within the category.

He highlighted that rosé is typically given “just three to five slots”, even on the lists of quite high-end establishments. A solution to help free up more space for more diverse rosé listings, he argued, could be to fold the rosé wines in with the reds, giving “a bit more scope”, while helping change perception that pale pink styles are the only way to go.

A final say went to Ben Bernheim of who, along with co-founder Liz Gabay MW, is a globally recognised expert on rosé.

“The number of slots for rosé is really important,” he said. “If rosé is 10% of sales, should it be 10% of the slots and skus on a wine list?”

Bernheim highlighted how even in southern France, where he lives, summer sales of rosé can reach 60% of a restaurant’s wine turnover (and 35% annually) but still only be afforded just 5% of the list space.

“That congestion is a real problem – people will choose less exciting wines if they are offered a smaller selection. And I think part of that is the trade fighting back against consumers, saying ‘no, don’t buy rosé, it’s not very clever, drink the reds, drink the whites’.

“And I think it’s the trade not being willing to engage with what the consumers are looking for. If most of your sales are rosé, then most of your list should be rosé,” he concluded.

A full write up of our Rosé and Rosado Taste Off will appear in the May issue of Harpers.