Rose wine sheds image as sweet summertime tipple
PARIS (Reuters Life!) - Rose wine seems to be shedding its image as a sweet, unsubstantial summertime tipple if recent sales figures from around the world are anything to go by.
Despite a dreary summer that has had Britons reaching for their umbrellas as often as for their picnic baskets - sales of rose wine have risen by about 30 percent this year, according to the trade magazine Off-Licence News.
One in every ten bottles sold is now pink in color -- that's up from one in twenty bottles just three years ago.
The figures are indicative of a global renaissance for rose, particularly for top end wine whose quality and complexity is fuelling the boom.
In the United States, sales by volume of rose wines priced over $8 a bottle have risen just short of 50 percent in 2008 year according to Nielsen, a market research company.
"Where there used to be a $10 plateau for rose wines they're now all the way up to $50," says Chip Hammack, director of K&L Wine Merchants in Los Angeles.
"They're catching on a lot in the Los Angeles area because a lot of people go to the Cannes Film Festival and they get exposed to really good rose and they come back and look for it," he says.
There's even a slightly militant fringe to the rose resurgence in the U.S in the shape of the Rose Avengers and Producers, an international group of wine makers and wine drinkers, whose mission, according to their pink-themed website at www.rapwine.com is to "right the wrongs done to dry rosé."
While the U.S. and UK markets might be more prone to wine fashions the true test of rose's rebirth is in France, where some media reports say sales of rose could outstrip sales of white wine this year and account for one in every five bottles of wine sold.
On the sunny shores of the Mediterranean, near the main rose producing region of Provence, the wine has been a stalwart of the lunch table or the beloved pre-dinner 'apéro' for generations.
But it's the increasing presence of fine roses on sommeliers' lists in chic Paris restaurants, long the exclusive domain of grand French reds and whites, which underlines how far rose has come.
"There's a real change in the thinking about rose. It used to be for the barbecue or on the 'terrasse' or for holidays and festivals in the sun," says Virginie Morvan, purchasing manager at Chez Lavinia, a stylish eatery in central Paris.
"But now, wine growers are investing in making wine that can be drunk at the table, even with meat, and these are wines that are full-bodied," she says.
ROSE WITH YOUR MEAT?
That's right - even with meat!
This new view of rose, particularly with young drinkers who are bucking historical consumption trends by drinking far less wine than their forebears, is a boost to French winemakers battling climate change, currency fluctuations and rising costs of production.
However, there is a concern that, just like in the 1970s when sweet, blush wines had their moment before fading into obscurity, the current rose success story will be a passing fad.
Jean Jacques Breban, President of the Interprofessional Council of Provence Wines, said the aim was to make good quality, affordable wine.
"On the one hand we must continue to improve the product - I think that's the most important. On the other hand, we must keep our feet on the ground and we must keep it reasonable when it comes to the price," says Breban.
The improvements in the product in the last twenty years have been immense.
Alain Combard, the owner of the rose producing vineyards at Domaine Saint Andre de Figuiere in Provence, admits there once was a time when rose wine often was simply surplus red wine and white wine mixed together.
Now, he says, the skill and attention that goes in to making rose has become an art form equal to the making of a classic red or white.
Red wine grapes are pressed and the skins and seeds are left to interact with the juice for just the right amount of time, usually a few hours, to give off color but not the deep tannins of a full red wine.
"A good rose is fruity but with some depth. It's a wine where once you have a glass you say to yourself 'why not another?' It's a wine that gives great pleasure," says Combard.
(Additional reporting by Lucien Libert in Paris; Don McCaughan in Provence and Lindsay Claiborn in Los Angeles; Editing by Matthew Jones)