It’s summer, and yet again the tagline of the season is #roséallday. Drinking rosé (all day), however, isn’t just simply about sipping everyone’s favorite pink wine; it’s about a lifestyle. It’s lounging poolside in the Hamptons, popping bottles for your best friend’s birthday, snapping a Boomerang while you cheers over brunch.
More than just a summertime drink, and representing a way of life, rosé has come to be the millennial’s Champagne, a beverage that’s earning year-round popularity. In fact, Vinepair predicts that rosé is set to be this year’s New Year’s Eve trend. Cheaper than its sparkling white cousin, rosé is glamorous nonetheless. It’s the Shinola to the Rolex, the Longchamp to the Louis Vuitton, or that sweet Airbnb to the five-star hotel — because really, millennials can’t afford the latter anyway, yet they still want luxury.
Not only is it affordable — decent rosé costs no more than $30 — it’s also just plain pretty. Rosé owes its popularity in large part to social media. Its trendy “Millennial Pink” hue is, after all, visually appealing, especially when you’re curating a chic Instagram profile, as millennials tend to do. It’s a “basic’s” signature drink.
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Though rosé only occupies 1.5 percent of the total wine category, it’s growing at an unprecedented rate, according to Nielsen, a data company analyzing market trends. “Sparkling rosé is also having its moment with $139 million in annual sales and growing at 19 percent year-over-year, more than double the total sparkling wine categories nine percent growth,” writes Mary Ellen Shoup of Beverage Daily.
The international rosé trend began with the winery Château d’Esclans, located in Provence. Their most well-known brand of rosé, the $22-a-bottle Whispering Angel, is the industry’s most popular, while their brand Garrus is the rosé industry’s most exquisite, priced at around $100 per bottle.
Looking back at 2007 when Château d’Esclans began promoting Whispering Angel abroad, the market for rosé was tiny. “It was not trendy, especially in America, rosé had a bad reputation,” says Paul Chevalier, who oversees Château d’Esclans and Whispering Angel in the United States. “There was a tiny pocket of people who drank rosé in the Hamptons and Nantucket, and the reason why is because those people had probably visited France and had been to Provence.” (Provence is where rosé was born, Chevalier explains: “We don’t make red wine or white wine, we make rosé.”)
A decade ago, when Chevalier arrived in New York to introduce Whispering Angel to America, buyers saw it as only a summertime drink. They told him they had no interest in it after Labor Day because that’s when restaurants would take it off the menu. “It took a lot of education,” Chevalier says. “I’d say, ‘Can I ask you a question? Do you drink Champagne in the winter? Do you drink white wine in the winter? So what’s your problem with rosé?”‘
Chevalier and his team traveled around the States, targeting specific areas like the Hamptons, Nantucket, and Miami. They even considered pushing rosé in hot vacation spots in the Caribbean like St. Barts and the Bahamas, where it feels like summer (and rosé season) all year long.
That first year, they sold only 800 cases — a miniscule number in general, but especially given rosé’s market growth since then. And that growth is being driven by millennials.
Back in the 50s and 60s, people mainly drank cocktails and whiskey, whereas baby boomers were the first generation to start drinking wine, Chevalier explains. “Millennials are the first generation who grew up with their parents drinking wine instead of spirits, so when we started promoting Whispering Angel, millennials were the perfect fit,” he says. “We were careful about where we went to market. We started partnerships with SoHo House in New York, Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles, the Beverly Hills Hotel, and the Fontainebleau in Miami. These were all places millennials would go, so we didn’t do any advertising, only word of mouth.”
And whereas before rosé season ranged from Memorial Day till Labor Day, today it’s expanding beyond that timeframe. The thinking goes: Why wait until Memorial Day to drink rosé when you could start at Mother’s Day, or Easter? Why stop at Labor Day when you could drink it through Thanksgiving, Christmas, and yes, even New Year’s Eve? “Restaurants now have to keep rosé on their wine list,” says Chevalier. “They don’t want to, but they have to. Why? Because the millennial is demanding it.”
Whereas champagne may have lost a bit of its swank, and is still more expensive, rosé has garnered both class and cachet. And when it comes to more affordable sparkling wine options like prosecco, millennials would still rather choose rosé. Now champagne producers are trying to keep up.
“We know that millennials are not drinking their parents’ wine. They want to discover something for themselves,” says Laura Jensen, vice president of estate marketing for Piper Heidsieck, which makes a champagne called Rosé Sauvage. Rosé champagne now exceeds 12 percent of the total champagne available to consumers, she says. “The strength and popularity of rosé are streaming over to champagne,” says Jensen. “It used to be for special occasions only, but now people are drinking champagne more frequently. When you go out, you see multiple types of champagne on the wine list, and now you’ll see rosé champagne by the glass.”
Rosé (or rosé champagne) isn’t consumed because of the occasion anymore, but because of the wine itself, says Cyril Brun, cellar master for Charles Heidsieck, another highly regarded champagne producer. “Now we observe that many makers have developed a range of rosé champagne within an existing range of older champagne,” he says. “Rosé champagne is trying to answer a trend.” And no longer does that trend cater to one specific group or another; the old cliché that rosé is just for girls is dated and inaccurate, Brun says. Both women and men are behind the market surge. In fact, he points out, the rosé “trend” has become a market. “When it exceeds five or six percent of the market share, it’s no longer a trend, but a solid market,” says Brun.
That solid market feeds a solid demographic of drinkers. Rosé appeals to people who want affordable luxury. “That’s what millennials love right now. They associate rosé with the luxury lifestyle,” says Pierrick Bouquet, co-founder of the Pinknic and La Nuit en Rosé event series. “It’s not something that’s very common in France, where I’m from. As a whole category in France, rosé is not considered a fancy, luxurious product, but in the U.S., because the trend started much later on, the wine was positioned as a luxury product.”
Moreover, rosé is simple and easy to understand. “Wine has become over complicated the past few years,” says Bouquet. “When someone asks me, ‘What’s your favorite rosé?’ I hate to describe it in fancy terms because people don’t relate to that anymore. They relate more to the occasion of drinking the wine.”
To that end, Bouquet produces two events that celebrate and educate people about rosé. La Nuit en Rosé takes place every May in New York City and every July in the Hamptons, along with other dates throughout the year in Miami and Los Angeles. The event features 125 different wine labels from various regions around the globe, including places like Corsica, Lebanon, and Israel. The idea is to teach guests about rosé, pairing the wine with food, whilst on a cruise ship gliding through the Hudson River.
Pinknic, on the other hand, takes place on Governor’s Island, a small isle ten minutes from Manhattan. “It focuses more on the experience of drinking rosé, creating a beautiful aesthetic for the event,” says Bouquet. Everyone must wear white or pink, and they’re given a pink picnic blanket as they walk in. (Of course, who other than the French, has mastered the art of picnicking?) During the picnic, local and touring bands play for the afternoon affair.
As Bouquet demonstrates, rosé is both an occasion in and of itself, an aesthetic, and a way of life. Even with its year long popularity, summer fosters a newfound excitement around drinking rosé — maybe because in New York, summer is an event in and of itself, as well, a yearly rebirth and celebration of good weather (finally) and life in the city. “Like with a new season of a TV series, it’s the same with rosé. That’s part of its magic,” says Bouquet. “The seasonal trend makes it fashionable every year. And because it’s growing exponentially in the U.S., rosé is here to stay.”
It remains to be seen if champagne will keep up — this New Year’s Eve and those to come will surely tell.