William M. Dowd photoAnyone who thinks the increased shelf space given to rosés by smart wine shop owners in many markets is a local aberration isn't keeping up with the wine press.
That's those who write about wine, not the device used to squeeze the grapes.
What they're doing is reflecting a nationwide uptick in sales of the pink wines.
The Nielsen Co, reports that total table wine sales in the 52-week period ending February 9 grew nearly 8 times faster by value and 17 times faster by volume than total table wine sales.
Sales of rosé wines priced $8 and above grew 53.2% by value and 49.1% by volume during that same period increased 6.3% by value and 2.9% by volume. Domestic rosé sales priced at $8 and higher showed stronger growth than those for imported rosés. Domestic rosé sales increased 62.6% by value and 51% by volume, while imported rosé sales grew by 50.5% by value and 48.5% by volume.
"Though still a small slice of the overall U.S. wine market, these numbers are very impressive," said Danny Brager, Nielsen's VP group client director, beverage alcohol.
In what Nielsen terms key markets, rosé sales really soared percentage-wise: Miami with 89.4% growth, Seattle 86.6%, New York 75.2% and San Francisco 39.4%. Imports continue to dominate the category, owning a 76.7% share based on dollars.
Defining a rosé beyond it being identified as such on the label can be a bit tricky, depending upon which school of thought one subscribes to. White Zinfandel, for example, often is billed as a rosé but actually is a "blush" wine. A mixture of red and white that tends toward a pale color also can be found masquerading as a rosé. But, that is not a rosé, either.
Rosés, like reds, get their color from the amount of time the grapeskins stay in the liquid. Rosé winemakers tend to allow this to happen for only a few hours, enough time to tint the grape must, before removing the skins. The finished product can range from pale pink to orangey, depending on the type of grapes used. Blush wines usually go through the process of "bleeding," or "saignee," in which some of the fluid is removed to give red zinfandel more color and flavor.
Personally, I find the right rosé -- meaning one with some distinguishable tannins and a decent floral, fruity nose -- is an excellent summertime change of pace, particularly when you want something to go with the array of salads, cheese platters, and light seafood and chicken dishes we tend to grill up during the hot months. Plenty of time for the bold whites and beefy reds when the leaves begin to fall and we feel that very mammalian instinct to store up nutrients for the winter.
Here are just a few examples of rosé commentaries I've come across in the past few weeks:
• "I have already made the leap -- I love drinking good rosé and am willing to say so even amongst the most snobbish of wine lovers. ... The recent boom in demand for rosé has been a blessing for the (Provence) region. Where many areas in France suffer from excessive production and unsold wine, Provence producers simply don't have enough juice to go around. Depending on which appellation you are in, rosé accounts for 70 to 90% of all the wine produced. Even Bandol, the most prestigious of red-wine producing appellations in the region, produced a record amount of rosé last year.
-- Bill Zacharkiw
wine critic/columnist, Montreal Gazette
-- James MacNaughton
wine columnist, Life@Home magazine, Albany NY
-- Tom Ciocco
blogger, Terroir Wine Library.com
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