Monday, January 23, 2012

Time to Think about Pink

This is the time of year when importers, distributors and ultimately retailers forecast and commit to their Rosé purchases for the warm months of 2012. We have seen a steady increase in the sales of rosé for as long as I can remember, and we are now at a point where every fine wine shop and restaurant in the country is doing something with this category. The mantra is: Rosé is brought in right after the wine is finished and sold out before it hits 1 year old. Rosé is seemingly held in the same regard as Beaujolais Nouveau, if you don't drink it, it will be dead wine in 2 years. This is absolutely absurd. Rosé lives longer than many similarly priced white wines, and unlike it's white counterparts, actually could use a bit of time to develop. I'm not talking about cellaring these wines, but I certainly would think that a 2 year old Rosé isn't the kiss of death we have come to believe in this industry.
I not sure how we got this way. The demand for early arrival dry pink is so great that many producers have prioritized it's bottling and release before that of many white wines. Who decided that was a good idea? And who decreed that 2 year old rosé is the kiss of death? My theory is it is the mentality of the people taking the risks of buying and selling the wines. If they place some sort of hard and fast parameters and metrics on these items, they are held less accountable for taking risks. Unfortunately, they are setting themselves up for some degree of disaster. Purchasing agents groan when confronted with having to buy in on rosé, and many feel like they get burned every year because it isn't all sold out by August 1. Then they need to discount it, sometimes at a great loss, and then the cycle starts all over again, because the market does demand rosé. Admittedly, rosé has become closely associated with Summertime, and rightfully so. We all know that rosé does quite well year round though especially at Thanksgiving and Easter. It's a breakable cycle if we as a wine community can teach and learn just two thing about rosé: it improves in year 2, and we can and should drink it year round.
Not too many generalizations work in wine. I am pretty confident about this one. I would estimate that 95% of dry rosés out there will peak in the 18 month- 24 month window, 6 months after many have been closed out. I'm not suggesting buying these and sitting on them for 2 years as that's pretty bad business. What to do, and now is a great time to do it as rosé continues to gain popularity, is to educate the wine community, starting with consumers, sommeliers and retailers as to the durability and year round drink-ability of rosé.
Perhaps if we band together, we can help out those poor purchasing agents staring at their rosé offerings with dread right now.


  1. Adam, While I do not disagree that some roses have a lifespan of a couple of years or even longer (see Tondonia) IMHO most are at their best within the first year of life when their vibrancy, delicacy and transparency are most evident. After stumping hard for the pink for over a decade now I can say with full confidence that many will not improve beyond the 1st six months. The wines are simply at their peak earlier than the 18-24 month window you suggest.

    Perhaps some of it is marketing, but if you are an orderer placing emphasis on metrics and parameters (like me) it makes absolutely no sense to declare the rose market DEAD on September 1st. Yet that is the truth. For a wholesaler having rose on October 1st means having it on March 1st, sometimes even with a close out. That is the nature of the industry. Yes, some sales occur on Thanksgiving and Easter, but Turkey Day usually accounts for less than 2% of our rose sales, and if we are good at our jobs when Easter rolls around we are working on current vintage anyway. The notion that rose is strong all year long means you are doing a better job with them than anyone I know ever has.

    If I had to rely on some sort of nefarious manipulation on the part of Tier 2 for creating such a sense of urgency I would place it on all the chickensh*t suppliers and wholesalers out there who sell rose in february on a pre-sell only basis. I say chickensh*t b/c these wholesalers are unwilling to take any stance/ chance themselves on the wine and therefore place all the emphasis/ risk on the retailer and restaurant. "You want pink wine this season, which is only the hottest castegory out there not named Moscato?" they pose sometime just after Valentine's Day. "Then you better commit to 4 months worth of wine right this second because the wine will never stop in our warehouse." Thus when Joe Retailer finally gets his rose in July (even though expected arrival was May) he then has 4 months of wine for a 2 month season. It would be nice if every wholesaler treated rose like every other wine and actually committed to an amount, purchased and warehoused the wine and then had product to sell on a regular basis.

    In no other category is it acceptable for a wholesaler to pre-sell $15 retail wine. In no other catgory is it acceptable to play handcuff games with a $15 retail wine. In no other category is it acceptable move so much wine without actually warehousing any of it. IMO until wholesalers both big and small get away from these tactics we will keep playing the same game year in and out.

  2. Sunny,

    Thanks for the comments. It's definitely interesting to read the comments of a purchaser in this instance. I will continue to carry the torch of rosé developing over time.That said, everyone along the supply chain is reacting to what the market is right now, whether that is you, a retailer or an importer. We are all terrified of getting stuck with inventory on October 1. We somehow need to change the market, that would solve all problems. no one cares about Sauvignon Blanc Vintages, even though they are age sensitive.

  3. This post made for great reading - thanks for this. In Europe, Rose is now becoming far more popular - trendy even - compared to a decade or so ago. If you want some nice glasses to drink it from, check out this site that showcases various glasses for spirits (cognac in particular) and other tipples -