Pink drink comes of age
Rosé is still the driving force in the UK wine market
- growing at nearly 30% a year - and Nielsen analyst Stewart Blunt says retailers can expect more success with it this year
Incredible as it may seem, the wine market's pink phenomenon is continuing unabated.
We first noticed the increase four years ago, and in 2008 it is still snowbal ling at 30% a year.
Rosé wines now account for one in every 10 bottles of the 96 million-case market (up 4%), and if it weren't there the wine market would have only modest growth to report.
The trade made shelf space for the expanding pink selection with supermarkets carrying 30 lines or more - twice the number there were in 2005
- and specialists and independents are also offering a much wider choice.
The US pioneered rosé and remains at the forefront, supplying half the 113 million bottles we buy, but really all countries have made notable gains.
The average price for rosé is £3.93 per 75cl, the same as white and just below the reds. Rosés from France, Italy and Portugal are less expensive, and France is the second-largest supplier to the UK with over a million cases.
Italy has seen spectacular growth over the past 12 months, capitalising on that well-known grape Pinot Grigio - now available in pink.
Outside the US, New Worlders have been slow off the mark, but we saw a number of new entries in 2006-7. The real outsider is Germany - rosé has given it the opportunity to show another side to what it can offer, and it has made impressive progress.
The lighter alcohol content, typical of German wines, goes in its favour.
Retailers' own -labels make up 17% of rosé sales, and it is no surprise to see the major groups being active in a growing market sector and generally offering lower prices than the brands.
Although rosé will be associated with hot summer days, it does not hibernate for the winter. There is a natural dip, but it gets less each year.
There is a barbecue boost in summer, we see another lift at Christmas, and February can be better than one might expect - pink is undoubtedly the colour of romance.
We may be witnessing a sea change in the market. Younger drinkers seem to be moving away from RTDs and US rosé is their next step, according to Nielsen's
Nielsen colleagues in the US
and on the Continent say rosé is increasingly making gains there, too, but no one is sure why this is. Perhaps as mature wine markets we are adding it to our purchases for variety - or is it a generation thing, or even a subtle shift in the national palate?
I see it as a sign of coming of age in the wine market when sizes proliferate. Three-litre boxes say a style is here to stay
and boxes already make up just over 5% of case sales of pink, and are growing even faster than the category.
There seems to be no reason to think rosé's growth will slow down, for a good while at least, though we will have to come to terms with a fairly hefty increase in the cost of living as power, petrol and council tax go up and we take in the 14p duty hike. Perhaps a cheerful-looking bottle of rosé will offer some comfort.
Rosé: key facts
Rosé sales reached £453 million in the year to February 2008 - up 29.8% from the year before
Rosé sales topped the £40 million mark in September 2007 alone and again at Christmas
Rosé made up 10% of volume sales in the UK off-trade in 2007, up from 8% in 2006 and 4.9% in 2005
Average bottle price is £3.93 - the same as white, and slightly under red
Zinfandel and Grenache are the most popular rosé grapes, followed by Shiraz, Merlot and Pinot Grigio. Around a third are blends
The US is still the biggest supplier of rosé to the UK market, but Italy nearly doubled its volumes in the past year and the New World - notably Australia, South Africa, Chile, Argentina and New Zealand - is gaining share.
Top off-trade rosés
1. Gallo Family Vineyards (California)
2. Blossom Hill (California)
3. Echo Falls (California)
4. Stowells (various)
5. Mateus (Portugal)
6. Jacob's Creek (Australia)
7. JP Chenet (France)
8. Isla Negra (Chile)
9. First Cape (South Africa)
10. Piat d'Or (France)
11. Black Tower (Germany)
Source: Nielsen, February 2008
Share of sales by country (2007 figures in brackets)
USA 50% (52.2%)
France 11% (13.2%)
Italy 8% (4.8%)
Portugal 7% (8.5%)
Australia 7% (6.3%)
South Africa 5% (4.3%)
Chile 5% (3.1%)
Spain 4% (4%)
Germany 1% (1%)
Argentina 1% (0.5%)
New Zealand 1% (0.6%)
Other countries 1% (0.5%)
Source: Nielsen year to Feb 23 2008
(Nielsen to Feb 24 2007) by volume