It's no secret that rosé is the one sector of the wine trade that's really booming. As red and white sales falter, rosés, blushes and pink sparklers surge ahead. A sunny Easter has kicked off what weather forecasters promise will be a long, hot summer, and pop band The Feeling has even released a single called Rosé.
Pink sales - up 27 per cent from last year - are pushing what has been a flat market into modest growth, and much of th at growth is believed to come from maturing RTD drinkers who are drawn to the sweetness, lower alcohol and higher sophistication of rosé and blush wines.
Retailers say the market is not seasonal anymore, and rosés are selling well all year round, with a peak at Christmas as well as in summer - although Nielsen found that still pink wines did not see sales rise much for Valentine's Day.
Clever marketers are cashing in on the phenomenon by linking rosé to wine's other big climber, Pinot Grigio. Pinot Grigio blush wines from Italy and further afield are rushing on to shelves .
And the market is very brand-driven - the top 10 brands make up 54 per cent of pink sales.
Zak Avery, of Beer Ritz off-licence in Leeds, says: "We are always trying to get people to move away from the Gallos and the Blossom Hills, but although we stock a couple of much more interesting rosés that are cheaper, people are very brand loyal.
"I guess they're addicted to all that residual sugar."
Rosé: key facts
Rosé sales reached Ł351 million in the year to Feb 24 2007 - that's 29 per cent more than 2006 and 73 per cent more than 2005
Case sales reached 7.4 million in February 2007 - that's 27 per cent more than 2006 and 71 per cent more than 2005
Eight per cent of wine sales are rosé, compared with 4.9 per cent in 2005
Sales of red and white wines in the same period have been flat.
Source: Nielsen year to Feb 24 2007
Top off-trade rosés
1. Gallo (California)
2. Blossom Hill (California)
3. Echo Falls (California)
4. Mateus (Portugal)
5. JP Chenet (France)
6. Jacob's Creek (Australia)
7. Kumala (South Africa)
8. Piat d'Or (France)
9. Rivercrest (California)
10. Paul Masson (California)
Source: Nielsen year to Feb 24 2007
Analyst's view by Stewart Blunt, Nielsen
As we move through 2007 there are small signs of wine's growth trend being re-established: total sales are now 92.3 million cases, with the annual growth rate at 1 per cent, which is better than recent times. Yet this disguises the relatively small losses still incurred by red and white - the 1 per cent growth is entirely attributable to rosé, which is gaining sales volume at a rate of 27 per cent per year.
Tracing back over recent years it is obvious that the US can claim to be the originator - and still the big driver - of this pink phenomenon. Californian blush and whites-that-are-pink have gained enormously. Typically fuller-strength European rosés have also gained a lot more attention from both retailers and consumers so, although still dominated by the New World, they are certainly not swamped.
Australia and South Africa had been slower to catch on, but have picked up rapidly over the past 12 months. It is interesting to note that Germany too has more than doubled sales and, while 70,000 cases is a relatively modest contribution, it does represent a significant shift from the stereotypical cheaper whites.
Given the sheer weight of the States in the rosé sector, it comes as no surprise to find the three leading brands are Californians; these three alone account for 39 out of 100 bottles. The long-standing Mateus remains popular, and JP Chenet pushes its way up, being part of the broader brand development.
Australia and South Africa are now well-featured in pink, with Jacob's Creek and Kumala sitting comfortably in the top 10 brands. These collectively cover 54 per cent of sales. In essence the rosé sector is made up of a few big brands which have paved the way, and many smaller ones, but the vast majority are making good headway as listings and rate of sale increase.
We can be sure that some have added rosé to their repertoire (often at the expense of RTDs) and it must also be due in part to the curiosity of the drinker to try something previously overlooked - and even motivated by fashion. Let's just consider - sunny days, the garden, the salad, the strawberries, and the chilled rosé ... appealing, isn't it?