Reflecting on rosé sales from recent summers, it’s apparent that the pink juice has skyrocketed from regional popularity to requisite beverage option on wine lists across the country, a trend driven by wholesale wine buyers from New York to California. But a slurry of other factors—including availability, affordability and approachability, compounded with rosé’s image as a beverage of luxury—have helped propel the drink into the national spotlight.
“In the spring of last year we did a huge rosé promotion,” says Devon Broglie, the Associate Global Beverage Buyer for Whole Foods Market, who considers data from the chain’s 300 locations in 41 states to determine which wines he should purchase at the national level, for all stores. “Last year was the year that it really sort of hit. Like, rosé, 2014, I mean, folks on the coasts had heard it for a couple of years, but 2014 was where rosé really became like, it. And we saw that early enough in 2013 to be able to do a huge program nationally because our Southern California region had done two super successful spring programs in 2012 and 2013.”
Broglie watched rosé’s popularity unfold at a local level before it succeeded across a much larger turf: “That’s one of the most fascinating things for me in my role, nationally or globally, is when we see a trend start at a smaller scale in an individual region and then we actually nationally are able to scale it up. Take it from the individual store or the individual region and maybe, the following season, take it to another region or another two regions, and then, within twelve to eighteen months, we scale it into a national program.”
Rosé’s popularity across the nation today attests to the power of national chain retailers to amplify trends. “Rarely do we look at something nationally that has had success in an individual spot and think to ourselves, ‘You know what, we don’t think that’s going to work nationally'” observes Broglie. “More so, we try it. We are like, ‘If this is great in this region, we’ll try it.'” And rosé has succeeded on the national stage, with outlets across the country reporting brisk sales.
One of the big hurdles to scaling up a wine type across the entire country is the quantity of bottles available: “We see individual items that catch on in a couple of spots and then we can’t get authorized, and we can’t get enough of them fast enough,” explains Broglie. But with rosé, that hasn’t been a problem. He continues, “Someone loves Miraval rosé and gets really excited about it, and in 48 hours we’re able to turn around projections and commitments from all of our regions for three thousand cases, so that we can be the most prominent retailer carrying it.” At the same time, Miraval, the wine label owned by celebrity couple Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, reportedly grew from producing 200,000 bottles of rosé in 2012 to 500,000 bottles more recently, so the quantity was there from which to draw. And also across the rosé category as a whole, “supply is not an issue,” observes Ryan Looper, a sales representative for wine distributor T. Edward Wines, which represents several smaller production rosé labels. “Importers and distributors have brought in more rosé to supply, or feed, the trend,” he adds.
A reality of retail is shoppers’ disinclination to ask store personnel for help. And this fact has only bolstered rosé sales. “Even at Whole Foods, where we pride ourselves on customer service, we know that very few customers want to interact with a team member when they’re shopping,” concedes Broglie. But dry rosé is particularly suited to situations where consumers are reluctant to ask for help; it isn’t a wine that customers feel needs to be explained to them. “When they see a pink wine they already have a thought about what it is going to smell like and taste like,” says Patrick Cappiello, a partner in Pearl & Ash and Rebelle restaurants in New York, who, like many sommeliers across the country, has witnessed a recent boom in rosé sales.
Similarly to Cappiello, Jeff Kellogg, Wine Director at New York’s Maialino restaurant, has also encountered less sensitivity from consumers about the grape varieties listed on the labels for rosé. “It doesn’t matter where it comes from, or what the grape is, you can just order a glass of rosé from a producer and have a pretty good idea that it will taste like rosé. If you have a $12 glass of rosé made from Canaiolo, it sells exactly the same amount of glasses as when you offer a $12 glass of rosé from Pinot Noir. It does not work that way when those grapes are produced as red wine,” Kellogg points out. “Consumers now feel much more comfortable buying rosé,” adds Looper, who thinks that moving away from a variety-focus has led to success for rosé producers. “Consumers generally don’t have to worry about the complications of varietal. How many consumers know the varietal Cinsault is in their Provence rosé? All they have to say or look for is “rosé”—and that is easily identified for all parties.”
Further, consumers see the color of the rosé wine visible through the glass bottle as a self-evident indicator of style. “Salmon pink to ballet slipper pink sells. If you are candy cane pink, you are doomed” in the market, observes Amy Ezrin, Vice President of wine importer Massanois Imports. “Without a doubt, consumers currently prefer light pink” agrees Looper, who hypothesizes that imbibers may associate darker colored rosés with sweeter styles of wine, whether or not that correlation is correct.