After Explosive Growth, French Rosé Sales Slow

The French are drinking less wine - including rosé which had been enjoying spectacular growth. Exports of pink wine have fallen too.

Reading time: 6m 45s

In Pays d'Oc, Cinsault, along with Grenache, is the most important variety for rosé production. (Photo: © Vins Pays d’Oc IGP)
In Pays d'Oc, Cinsault, along with Grenache, is the most important variety for rosé production. (Photo: © Vins Pays d’Oc IGP)

In France, total sales of all three colours of still wine saw a 4% decline in 2023, following a 9% drop in 2022. This decline primarily affected reds, which saw decreases of 6 and 14% respectively over the two years.

"Rosé de Provence is also impacted by the reduction in purchasing power both in France and in exports," explains the Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins de Provence (CIVP). Additionally, poor weather at the beginning of summer in 2023 had a negative effect in France. "Even though Germany – our fourth largest export market – saw a decline in 2023, it's important to remember that we had record exports in 2021 and 2022, keeping us at a high level, compared to 2018 to 2020," notes Caroline Benetti, head of European marketing. This analysis applies to other countries as well. Over the past decade, exports, now accounting for 37%, have significantly boosted the profile of Provence rosés, reducing the share of French supermarket sales to just 23%.

"We remain the only true rosé specialists in the world, and many ambitious projects are underway, particularly to help the environment, but also to produce more interesting wines," stresses Jeany Cronk, co-founder of Maison and Domaine Mirabeau. In fact, Provence, which produces 5% of global rosé production, is the only major wine region in the world that focuses nearly 90% of its production on this style. 
 

Where Rosé Thrives

In terms of volume, however, the producers of Pays d’Oc IGP to the west of Provence now make nearly 50% more rosé than Provence. Over the last decade, their volume has increased from 1.1m hl to 1.7m and now representing 7% of global production. This growth is largely due to the shift in vinification practices, switching red varieties to rosé production. While, in 2010, rosé accounted for 20% of IGP Pays d’Oc production, it now makes up 30%. During the same period, the share of red has decreased from 58% to 42%.

Source: Inter Rhône, CIVB, CIVP, Interprofession des Vins Pays d'Oc IGP/Syndicat des Producteurs de Vin de Pays d'Oc, Interprofession des Vins du Sud-Ouest
Source: Inter Rhône, CIVB, CIVP, Interprofession des Vins Pays d'Oc IGP/Syndicat des Producteurs de Vin de Pays d'Oc, Interprofession des Vins du Sud-Ouest

"Our producers are constantly developing new products and increasingly moving towards premium segments," explains Delphine Lorentz, Communications Officer for the Inter Oc association. "They have created cuvées that were 100% destined for rosé" First came pale, easy-drinking 'Rosé piscine' (Swimming Pool Rosé), then luxuriously packaged 'Rosé Bobo' and now 'Arty style' examples that come with artist labels. "In addition, many producers have also integrated rosés into their traditional wine lines."

In 2018, Vignobles Foncalieu, a union of four Languedoc wine cooperatives decided to focus more on rosé. From the equivalent of 8m bottles, they grew to 9.3m in 2023 and aim for 10m by 2025. "We increased by 8% in value and 2% in volume in 2023," notes Séverine Nougué-Lassère, sales director for Europe. "Today, 34% of our production is dedicated to rosé, using 14 different grape varieties, including the rare Piquepoul Noir and Sauvignon Gris." This shift has clearly been at the expense of red wines. In 2019, their bottled wine sales comprised 26% white, 34% red, and 40% rosé. By last year, the proportions had shifted to 23% white, 27% red, and 50% rosé.

"In Germany, our fifth most important market for rosés, we saw a 19% increase in volume in 2023 compared to the previous year,"

Foncalieu's sales have increased in Sweden, the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, and the USA. "In Germany, our fifth most important market for rosés, we saw a 19% increase in volume in 2023 compared to the previous year," emphasizes Nougué-Lassère. This export success is supported by a significantly expanded range of rosés at different quality levels, for various occasions, and with special packaging.

Domaine Lafage is one of the leading rosé producers in Roussillon. Since 2018, their rosé sales have remained relatively stable. However, 2023 saw a downturn, particularly in the USA, but also in France and Europe. In Germany, there was significant growth post-COVID (2020/2021), but a decline followed in 2022/2023. This year looks more promising, with their rosé sales up by 9% worldwide by the end of March. Following ProWein, orders Germany rose by 20%.

Stéphanie Sinoquet

"With climate change, producing rosés based on Merlot has become much more complicated. It's much harder to obtain acidity, good color, and proper alcohol levels."

Stéphanie Sinoquet
Director of the Syndicat des AOC Bordeaux et Bordeaux Supérieur

Demand is especially strong for Lafage's flagship rosé, Miraflor, as well as the accessible rosé from their new "Les Sardines Catalanes" line. Traditionally, Roussillon was known for its darker, more robust rosés, but Eric Aracil, export and deputy director of the CIVR association, sees no return to this style. "The lighter rosés are undoubtedly better suited for export today." He also points to the recent years of healthy grapes with very low yields. "In these vintages, where natural concentration occurs, it is less feasible to produce rosé and more logical to make red wines."
 

Little Movement

In the Rhône Valley, 2023 saw a 3% decline in red wine sales and a 7% decline in rosé sales, primarily due to poor weather conditions. The overall volume and percentage share of rosé in Rhône wines showed little movement.

In Southwest France, rosé production experienced positive growth from 2012 to 2020, increasing from 232,495 to 309,777 hl, raising its share from 12.5 to 15.2%. However, the past three vintages brought smaller harvests, reducing rosé volume. The late-April frost will continue to impact this situation in 2024.

The situation in Bordeaux is even more challenging. "The wine industry is going through a global crisis," notes Stéphanie Sinoquet, director of the Syndicat des AOC Bordeaux et Bordeaux Supérieur. "In Bordeaux, we are also affected and will reduce our production potential (8,000 ha. 20,000ha are planned for uprooting in 2024), primarily Merlot, which is used for both our reds and rosés. Over the last five years, we have faced numerous weather events (frost, hail, or downy mildew in 2023) that have significantly reduced our yields across all wine types. For rosé, yields are around 45 hl/ha, while the potential is usually 59 hl/ha. Climate change makes producing Merlot-based rosés much more difficult, as achieving good acidity, color, and alcohol levels is more challenging. In 2023, it was a feat to maintain rosé production of 145,000hl."

With global rosé consumption stagnating and production exceeding demand by around 3m hl, Bordeaux aims to stabilize its rosé production rather than increase it, despite the region's unusual ability to produce pink Cabernet Sauvignon.

In €/bottle (producer price before customs duties and taxes)
In €/bottle (producer price before customs duties and taxes)

In the Loire Valley, around 30 appellations and IGPs produce rosé. At the forefront is semi-sweet Cabernet d'Anjou, followed by Rosé d'Anjou and the dry Rosé de Loire. Cabernet d'Anjou, with approximately 320,000 hl (as of 2020), accounts for two-thirds of all Loire rosés and is a bestseller in French supermarkets and in Belgium. Australia ranks second in the export markets, followed by the Netherlands. Despite its popularity, Cabernet d'Anjou experienced a 15% decline, partly due to a temporary shortage of white glass bottles. In the central Loire Valley, rosé accounts for only 4% of total production. However, in some markets Sancerre Rosé made from Pinot Noir, is a successful niche product.
 

Premium Potential?

In Languedoc, Gérard Bertrand, one of France's most dynamic producers sees growing demand for complex rosés among wine enthusiasts, particularly for ultra-premium rosés like his Clos du Temple. "Rosés like Clos du Temple, produced with significant effort, find their place in gastronomy, where wine and food are paired. More and more sommeliers and chefs are looking for structured rosés with great aging potential to enhance dishes." 

Rosés designed for aging, often with a deeper color, are reminiscent of a tradition that has been overshadowed by pale rosés. Wines like Bandol, Tavel, and Rosé des Riceys are part of this heritage. A group of wineries, under the name Rosés de Terroirs, has banded together to highlight this style. Robert Oustric, sales manager of Domaine de la Bégude in Bandol for the past two years, emphasizes that these rosés target a market of sommeliers and specialist retailers seeking to offer something distinctive. "When targeting a clientele of connoisseurs and specialists, you can generate interest. The supply of aged rosés is so limited that specialists are immediately intrigued." André Dominé

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