Wine Report 2007: Pinks far from peak
Most expect that this buoyant category still has a long way to go before it reaches saturation point.
The UK wine trade has every faith in its great pink hope, rosé. Eighty-one per cent of suppliers polled by OLN think the category will keep growing over the next few years, and just 17 per cent think it is peaking or nearing its peak.
"British people seem to have a very personal relationship with rosé - they see it as their wine and have an emotional attachment to it," says Gallo's western Europe marketing director Jane Hunter.
Lynn Murray, marketing director for Hatch Mansfield, says: "Rosé has captured the mind of the consumer. It would appear to be a category that divides into three key styles - the high residual sugar, easy-drinking style, the more robust dry but deeply fruity style, and the dry, elegant, restrained style.
"There is still more opportunity for all three styles to grow."
"We've seen some meteoric growth in our rosé SKUs in the past few years and I believe this growth will continue steadily and surely," says Helen Wright, marketing manager for Percy Fox, which is launching a drier Shiraz rosé for Blossom Hill and a Grenache rosé for Piat d'Or.
"I think the rosé trend mirrors the way in which drinking habits are changing in this country - more wine being consumed by women (a trend that is likely to continue following the smoking ban) and more emphasis on food and wine in the on-trade where a glass of rosé is a very appealing choice for summer."
"Many consumers must have noticed that rosé wine can be food-friendly, especially the drier styles, and that rosé wine makes an acceptable compromise when just one wine is wanted for a meal comprising both meat and fish," says Arabella Woodrow MW, business development manager for Myliko.
Others say rosé has a "young, fashionable edge" but is not just drunk because it is fashionable - rather it is taking share from reds and entry-point wines such as Liebfraumilch , and its lower alcohol levels are important for consumers.
Many of those who believe the current rapid volume growth is not sustainable in the long-term think rosé will keep gaining share by developing in more depth, and by encouraging customers to trade up.
"I think growth cannot continue at such a rate," says Sally Holloway, of Booths. "The growth there is will start to come from drier, more serious styles rather than sweeter 'blush', and from the category becoming less seasonal."
But there are those who think rosé's diversity could be its downfall.
Castel UK managing director Anne Burchett says: "We now see two very different styles of wines sold under the rosé name: the sweet, 'commercial' style and the dry, more vinous one.
"As there is little to distinguish them on the outside apart from subtle packaging cues, I fear this may lead to consumers' disaffection at worst, or prevent trial of alternative brands at best, as consumers will be unsure of what exactly they are getting."
"There is a danger that some suppliers to the UK market interpret the 'booming rosé market' as a given and think that if they produce a rosé, no matter what it is like, consumers will buy it," says Louise Hill, marketing manager for Stratford's Wine Agencies. "This is a mistake ."
She adds: "Rosé is a very broad category and styles vary considerably according to grape, country and quality level.
"Just as they do in the sparkling, red and white wine categories, consumers will exert their right to choose wines which deliver quality and value for money, and which say something to them via packaging and communications."