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An Explosion of Pink!

Three-plus years ago, Geek devoted this space to note an emerging trend we spotted at that time: sales of pink wines (aka rosés) were starting to heat up dramatically in Michigan’s more cutting-edge restaurants. Fast forward to summer of 2016 and heat up is an understatement: rosé wine sales are exploding. And based on some industry information we have, we ain’t seen nuthin’ yet!

First, a little history: America’s first love affair with rosé was in the 1970’s when Mateus and Lancers (both Portuguese and both in unique bottles) were all the rage. Indeed, Mateus Rosé was the #1 selling wine in the world in the first half of the 70’s. Ultimately, it fell from fashion—replaced by the likes of Blue Nun, Boone’s Farm, Lambrusco and wine coolers during various periods.  White Zinfandel started the second wave of pink wine drinkers—though this group/category was almost always slightly sweet to downright sweet. But by the 2000’s, white zin sales were starting their decline—make no mistake, we still sell LOTS of white zin, but it isn’t the lead dog in the varietal wine category that it once was. Then, just in the past 5 or 6 years or so, dry, premium rosés—especially the classic rosés from Provence, France started to resonate and become trés cool…and the ‘rosé love affair part III’ commenced.

Next, let’s look at some numbers—this is the wine business after all. The trends are obvious, but specifically, according to IRI data for rosé wines, 2015 showed a sales dollar increase over 2014 of 32%; for ‘premium’ rosé (above $11 retail), the increase was a stupendous 60%! This is on top of significant increases of 34% in ’13 and 40% in ‘14. But here’s perhaps an even better data point: fully one third (as in 33%) of all pink wine sales in America take place in Metro NYC and Metro Miami. Think about that: those two metropolitan areas represent nowhere near 1/3 of U.S. wine sales, but for this category these trend-setting markets are a juggernaut. The takeaway here—or at least that advanced by the importers and producers of premium rosé wines is: quality rosé wines are coming to a restaurant or store near you—actually every store near you—wherever you are. This is likely true: when it comes to wine trends, with few exceptions (such as the recent Moscato boom which actually started here in the Midwest), America is like a giant pot roast, with the outside edges getting heated up before the center gets cooking. So if they are selling that much is these ‘early adopting’ markets, we’ll get in on it eventually.

Frankly, it’s not like we haven’t already seen huge gains here in the past few years, as stated above, and as evidenced by Geek writing about it in 2013. Indeed, in the past couple of years, we have seen several of our best-selling pink wines sell out by June—just when ‘rosé season’ is starting. And last year, one of our most popular pink wines created a frenzy when our last order from the importer was cut, and we had several restaurants all fighting over the last 25 cases. This is an $18 a bottle, dry, esoteric rosé from France…and people were cursing us because we sold out of it! This year, we tripled our purchases of the wine, but we fear it too will run dry before the demand does. Part of the ‘problem’ too is that the season is now longer: We used to be draconian regarding the selling season: it was our intent to receive all the rosés—strictly from the most recent vintage—no later than April (some actually came in by mid-January), and run out purposely by Sept 1. Selling pink wine in Michigan in October was like pushing a string up a hill. Now however, rosé ‘season’ has no season; sure we sell more in the summer months, but we sell premium pinks all year long. And as for our ‘rule’ of only selling wines from the most recent vintage, some of the very best pink wines don’t even release until a year or so after harvest; we just received the 2014 of a top Provence rosé producer in May of this year. Coincidentally, Geek was at a trade show recently where the proprietor of this same winery was pouring his wines (including a seven-year old version that had been decanted for 2 hours—which was awesome!), and Geek asked about getting the wines sooner/fresher and was told ‘that is a stupid request and it cannot happen’ (but it was said in a lovely French accent). Note too—just in case you are Neolithic—just as it is fine for women to drink whisky, it is completely ok for men to drink rosé—some places even have a ‘Brosé night’!

Bottom line to all this is: your bottom line. These wines/this category are on fire. They have moved beyond the wine lists of cutting edge restaurants, to big displays in all manner of wine shops. Though they all have a similar persona, the range of styles and food affinity are endless. We have seen several restaurants offering, 3, 4, 6 different rosés by the glass—and we’ve checked: they all sell. Also, one of the most attractive things about theses dry rosés is their sheer ease of drinkability—where one bottle of Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio might be plenty for 2 or 3 people, these babies have a very high drinking velocity (and in case you don’t connect the dots—that means you sell more).

If you have not yet tapped into this true phenomenon, we implore you to do so…it’ll turn pink into green!

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