Crush Wines rides a pale rosé wave with Bijou
Crush Wines has experienced such high demand for its Bijou rosé that it has been forced to expand out of its Cabrières heartland and source grapes from other appellations.
Its Bijou range contains a red, white and rosé, all from the Languedoc, and sales of the rosé are soaring after it gained listings with various wholesalers, retailers like Majestic and Waitrose and buyers in export markets.
To meet demand it is moving into Saint Chinian and beyond.
Owner Chris Ellis, who set up Crush Wines after working in the wine trade for 25 years, notably as export director for Skalli, told OLN: “We can’t quite keep up with demand. We have exhausted Cabrières and we are moving into Saint Chinian. For the next few months we are looking for different appellations to work with.
“The idea of the brand is that it expresses each region and its microclimate. We might end up expressing different microclimates with different vineyard potential. It’s a flexible brand and that creates interest. We are not reinventing the wheel but it’s a relatively new way of marketing a brand. This is genuinely wine-led, region-led, quality expression and a quality label, which we hope consumers and buyers will pick up on.”
The Bijou rosé is made up Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah and is positioned in line with entry-level Provence rosé, at £8-£10 retail.
But national account manager Emma Laval said the wine they have sourced from Cabrières “has more character, more concentration and more flavour than a [standard] Provence rosé, but it still has the elegance and the pale colour”.
She added: “Buyers in pretty much all markets want pale rosé. We are doing some Saint Chinian slightly paler. In Saint Chinian it’s a more salmon, onionskin colour.
“Majestic realised they didn’t have enough pale rosé, the only had an entry level Pinot Grigio and Provence, but nothing in between, so they took it on.
“Everyone has a different requirement and we can do slightly different blends and labels for them.”
The wine it sources going forwards will not be the same as from Cabrières, instead it will showcase the characteristics of each sub-region’s terroir, but the pale colour consumers are demanding will be maintained.
Ellis said: “We don’t want to emulate the exact same thing in each appellation. But there is a move towards paler and paler and we may even get one that’s almost a Gris, a shade between salmon and white.
“The rosé market is buoyant and there is not a good, modern, go-ahead brand from the Languedoc that we can think of that is wine-led and vineyard-led and has the quality to price ratio. We have benchmarked against others and for sheer quality we think we are ahead of the competition.”
The soil in Cabrières is highly volcanic, which imparts great aromatic qualities, and it is highly concentrated as yields are just 38hl per ha, compared to 70hl for Vin de Pays d’Oc.
Ellis said: “Languedoc is still really good, with surprising quality. People have been saying it for years, but there are still so many exciting producers not bound by prohibitive appellation rules. Some appellation rules have been modified to allow far more modern types of wine.
“It’s perfect for what we are doing, particularly the rosé. We could do the red and white in another part of France or Spain, but for rosé southern France has the cachet and rosé is of prime importance and we couldn’t do it anywhere else. Nothing in the New World quite catches with the consumer like southern France.
“We don’t add any sugar on any of the Bijou wines. The very real difference between this and Australian and Californian rosé, apart from the colour, is that they might have 30g of sugar, but this has none and it’s the ultimate food wine. It is reaching an ABC1 audience, someone that might buy Whispering Angel but wants to save £10. It’s affordable luxury.”
He added: “Rosé is definitely becoming less of a seasonal drink. We have a peak in the summer but we still have big orders in November and January.”
The rosé has won plenty of awards and plaudits. Olly Smith called it a “brilliant find from deep in the Languedoc with a wealth of summery fruit flavours alongside a moreish herby twist – glorious”.
Crush Wines is taking the wine to the Cannes pink rosé fesatival, Prowein and Vinexpo and is making it a key commercial focus of 2017.
Crush Wines also produces a red Bijou, blended from Syrah and Grenache, which displays soft tannins, supple texture and a palate of ripe berry fruit and hint of herbs. Bijou white is a 50/50 blend of Viognier and Chardonnay and “is bursting with juicy tropical fruit character and a mouth-watering citrus finish”.
It is also planning a Cremant de Limoux and has had success with magnums.