With National Rosé Wine Day scheduled for this weekend, it is a useful time to examine the causes of the phenomenal growth in popularity of rosé in America. According to a recent report by bw166, a global market research firm for alcohol beverage, U.S. rosé sales volume increased by an astounding 1433% from 2010 to 2020. So what caused this huge increase in popularity of pink-colored wine? A conversation with some experts sheds light on the causes.
Analyzing the U.S. Rosé Wine Sales Numbers
The research conducted by bw166 shows that in the year 2010, U.S. rosé wine sales volume (based on scan data in food stores priced at $7 and above) was approximately 149,000 nine-liter equivalent cases. However, by the end of 2020, it had increased to over 2.3 million cases (see graph below). This huge growth was led primarily by France and California, though Italy, Washington and Oregon rosé were also important contributors.
In talking with experts, it is important to distinguish between rosé and blush wine. According to Gillian Mosher, Senior Director, Global Corporate Communications at NielsonIQ, “Blush wines includes all pink wine, including inexpensive box wine like white zinfandel. Rosé is usually more premium, and has rosé on the label.”
Jon Moramarco, the managing partner of bw166 and co-owner of Gomberg-Frederickson, concurs. “Blush wine is pink, but usually less expensive. Rosé wine is more premium, and we generally track rosé wine in the U.S. as starting at $7 and above.” The data reported in this article is based on rosé wine priced at $7 and above in 750 ml bottles, not cans or other packaging options.
Major Causes of Rosé Wine Growth in Popularity
It is important to recognize that wine, like fashion, often changes based on social trends and other factors. For example, merlot was extremely popular in the 1990’s, but fell out of fashion as pinot noir gained appeal in the early 2000’s. Wine cocktails, such as coolers and spritzers were all the rage in the 1980s, fell out of fashion, but are back again in the 2020s. So far, U.S. wine classics that don’t go out of style, appear to be chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and red blends. But as fashion is fickle, this could change in the future.
So what caused rosé wine to gain such traction since 2010? Elizabeth Gabay, MW, author of Rosé, Understanding the Pink Wine Revolution, and considered to be one of the foremost experts on rosé in the world, shared her opinion:
“I don’t think there is any one reason; it is one of those events where the stars align,” said Gabay. “I really do think the rise of Instagram from 2010 was very significant. The elements that always seem to come in focus is that the color is pretty, and it is an easy wine to understand…. It appeals to young women because it is pretty and pink.”
“It also appeals to people who can drink a glass in the sunshine and fantasize that their life has some glamour,” Gabay continues. “Marketeers, including celebrities, have understood all of this and played on the image. When Whispering Angel played up the shortage panic, it was in the Hamptons – not just anywhere but in the playground for the rich.”
Moramarco agrees with Gabay that the rise in popularity of Whispering Angel was a large part of what made rosé so fashionable. “When one brand catches on fire in a category, it seems to create a stampede, and then everyone wants to produce that type of wine. For rosé that brand was Whispering Angel. It is similar to what White Claw did for the hard seltzer category.”
The Rising Quality of Rosé Wine
Based in Provence, France, Gabay has also seen a rise in the quality of rosé wine over the past decade. She believes this is another important reason for its continued success.
“Today I would say the rise in the quality level in rosé production has been enormous,” she reports. “By quality I mean wines which are fresh, clean, with some fruit and good acidity verses vast amounts of rather rustic rosé.”
“But, I would say,” Gabay continues, “that in the process of raising quality, there has been a move towards sameness in a dry “Provence style” and there has been a loss in the vast range of regional styles. I think this will change as producers gain confidence and knowledge. But definitely, there is an enormous rise in quality, and I currently see the rosé sector as one of the most exciting and innovative in the wine world.”
The Impact of Tariffs and Covid on Imported Rosé
In concluding, it is also interesting to take a look at imported rosé wines, which contributes to a large percentage of U.S. sales. According to Gomberg-Frederickson, a firm that provides market intelligence for the wine industry, in 2010 approximately 936,000 9L equivalent cases of rosé wine were imported to the U.S. By 2019 that number had increased to 6.5 million, but fell to approximately 4.5 million cases in 2020 due to tariffs and the impact of Covid (see graph below).
Over this ten-year period not all of this wine was sold in food stores. At a price point of $7 or more per 750 bottle, a large percentage was sold in wine shops, restaurants, online, and other retail establishments.
At this time, it appears that the future of rosé in the U.S. is healthy. It is possible that with this continued growth in rosé wine that U.S. supermarkets may soon resemble those in France – where the size of the rosé wine aisle is often equal in size to the white and red wine aisles.