We Have a Rosé Situation.
If it were any worse, we couldn’t stand it; if it were any better, we couldn’t get enough.
I correctly predicted a short and awkward Rosé season in 2018 because I saw the writing on the wall. Odd weather + pre-arrival “allocation” offers selling much less than in previous years put the whole season on ice.
Is the Rosé craze over? Are we at saturation? I believe the answer is no on both counts.
Only the industry can shape the future consumer and level them up.
Can we make Rosé great again?
I dive in on where we are and how we can fix it below.
A few seasons ago, I commented on Eater about Rosé being a brand. The Grey Goose-like call at the bar with few producer loyalties and a wide open field. I believe this to still be mostly true, though the field has many more players on it now.
Rosé is a category and not just a color. Still today, few consumers know about Cinsault or Saignée, and even fewer actually drink Rosé year round.
The upside of the Rosé Situation today is that a large portion sold in quality places is of much higher quality than it was 10 years ago. The downside is that expanded choices mean the industry has to lead to something specific and not just take the sales like they will always be there.
JUST THE FACTS
Let’s get this over with. An ocean of Rosé will be sold, and an ocean of Rosé will go unsold.
Yep, big ol’ numbers in the city, and likely a lot left over. The volume is real.
The number one deciding factor is actually the weather, and who can predict that?
Weather – The Seasonal Effect
Rosé is still seasonal, no matter what anyone tells you.
The seasonal buildup still drives the foundation of the year’s sales. And, weather still drives consumer choices, no matter what any “rosé all year ’round marketing says.” When Spring starts to feel imminent, consumers picture late afternoons in the park, springtime clothes and drinking Rosé.
If the industry really wanted year-round rosé drinking, then lists and shelves wouldn’t dramatically shrink in the cooler months. Very few restaurants, retailers, importers, and distributors invest in Rosé year round, and this has to change.
Importers and Distributors have to sell all year long and commit to Rosé as a category as valid as any other.
Vintage matters? nah, brah
99% of the time when it comes to higher quality wine, the vintage barely matters. In fact, a significant portion of rosé tastes better with more time in the bottle. But that would supremely screw the pre-arrival allocation offer game up though, wouldn’t it?
The Offer Game
In order to limit the hanging chad inventory at the end of the season that you need to reduce pricing on or closeout, some importers offer rosé before it arrives and purposely sell a “limited/get it while you can” allocation story about the wine — Even if there is so much wine available it is scary.
Many Rosés are treated like a Birkin bag: Buy now or it will be gone. This veiled threat is made to lock up sales and placements without committing to Rosé all year. Can you blame any importer for this? It creates assured sales, so there’s that.
Further, if you do it right when you offer the same limited wine later in the season, the buyer will feel special (even though there will be more rosé to be had). Buyers feeling special + more availability to them of “hard to get wine” usually leads to even more sales – so you get the double-down sales effect.
My fundamental take on this is simple: Allocations have to be truthful.
Allocation liars will get smoked someday, so anyone who lies may win short-term, but not sustain over time.
One crazy added element to the pre-arrival offer race is that it forced a “whichever importer can send the rosé offer out first wins” Rosé race. January offers used to equal Rosé sales in the coffers, now…not so much. In fact, this year I observed apologetic rosé offers galore from top distributors.
Same ol’, Same ol’ Rosé
NOT SHOCKING: many somms buy the same Rosé producer every year.
Cool – if you know what you are saying by doing this as a buyer/sommelier.
SUPER SHOCKING: it is common for buyers to not have tasted the Rosés they have committed to for several seasons.
BOTTOM LINE: If you treat rosé like a commodity, in turn, it will always be one.
“ it is common for buyers to not have tasted the Rosés they have committed to for several seasons. If you treat rosé like a commodity, in turn, it will always be one.
Bye Bye One-Night Stand Sales
Dear importers, stop DI’ing like lazy fucks. Stop with the one-night stand sales; the “we only order what you order” game. It worked before and works much less today. If you are tiny in scale (producer or importer) and this is all you can do then continue – please.
A monochromatic market is a dangerous one.
To make this absolutely clear: most of the allocated Rosés in the market aren’t small production or actually low in supply – the importers just don’t want to risk going past September with wine in the warehouse. Even further, no one wants to lose the attention that is baked into the functional allocation/pre-arrival approach.
All. Year. Long – The Commitment
To level the consumer up, we need to actually get them drinking Rosé all year round. Originally, customers were attracted to the seasonality of the Rosé craze, the newness of it, the value, and the overall excitement.
The answer here is what is obvious and in the bottle: the color. Darker Rosé in the fall, lighter in the spring summer and everything in between. If ten viable programs do this then the whole market will follow.
Expand the rainbow of Rosé all year and everything gets easier.
The Big Brand Game
Higher quality helped the market get here, and we need to stay with it. There will be more White Girl this, Brangelina that. So what?
We can let these brands run, while we sell quality. Tell the story of quality and lean in on the special aspects and there will be more wins long term.
Trophy Rosé exists. collectibles like Simone, Tempier, etc. We need to expand the spectrum of pricing to have more amplitude. We must create a higher price point comfort.
Lean in on Rosé and treat it like a real wine and the whole industry + the consumer will win. Continue to treat rosé like a commodity and it will get struck down like Rome.
If we can expand the choices thoughtfully and get the consumer drinking all year long – then we are off to the races and will triumph.