March 24, 2015 / 12:01 PM / 2 years ago

Foreign, domestic rosé wines vie for bigger share of U.S. market

NEW YORK, March 24 (Reuters) - A wine battle may be uncorked as imports of rosés from France, Italy, Spain, Germany, South Africa vie for shelf space and a share of the U.S. market, which is good news for consumers.

Last year, exports of the dry, pink wines from France to the United States increased 29 percent by volume and 38 percent by value, according to French officials. Sales of rosés from other countries and within the United States have also gained in popularity.

"Consumer interest has grown. There are more and more excellent California rosés from around the state," said Gladys Horiuchi, a spokeswoman for the Wine Institute, which represents California wineries and affiliated businesses. "That's good for consumers, who have more choices."

Olivier Brun, a French winemaker for Chateau de Brigue in Provence, sampled American rosés during a recent U.S. trip and noted that American rose wines differ in style and taste.

"This is a man's rosé," Brun said after sampling a glass of Pedernales Cellars' Texas Dry Rosé, adding that it reminded him of an older style of rosé he made decades ago.

Because of the wine's light cherry color he was expecting it to be sweet, but like his French rosé it was very dry.

"This one has lots of red fruits. It is not bad, but it is not our style," Brun said. He described Provence rosé as dry, crisp and filled with the aromas of fresh fruit.

But Pedernales winemaker David Kuhlken noted that the High Plains of Texas and his blend of Mourvedre and Tempranillo grapes are meant to evoke the terroir of Texas, not Provence.

Together, France and the United States consume nearly half of the annual 594.4 million gallons (22.5 million hl) of rosé produced globally.

While Texas' Pedernales uses Tempranillo grapes, Argentina's Crios de Susana Balbo winery prefers Malbec, and the Forlorn Hope winery in California's Amador County uses a blend of four Portuguese grapes - Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Cão and Tinta Amarela - to produce its rosés.

Whatever the types of grapes, Americans have a wider choice at different price points. In the New York metropolitan area there are about 1,600 rosés available, from countries ranging from South Africa to Australia, according to the trade database Sevenfifty.com

But the Wine Institute said White Zinfandel, a crisp, slightly sweet wine, still accounts for most of the blush wine consumed in the United States. (Editing by Patricia Reaney and Gunna Dickson)

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