Given that drinks markets generally showed little or no volume growth in 2008 and early 2009, and that the light wine market is quite flat, rosé is the bright spot in a dull picture.
Four years ago it looked to be something of a fad, but now we have to concede that its fifth successive year of notable growth makes it more of a permanent feature, and all retailers have enlarged their rosé sections.
In total, the wine market has not shown any growth in volume sales over the past 12 months, to the end of February, and so it seems that a steady conversion from reds and whites has fuelled the 13% increase in rosé volumes. General price
rises - including duty - saw sales value grow 17% to
£54 5 million.
The rise of rosé was led by the US
and it continues to dominate the market, with 49 of every 100 bottles sold being from California. One
three bottles of US wine sold in the UK off-trade is now rosé.
While Australia may have similar capabilities to produce big volumes, it was slow to develop - although it is the leading country overall, it is in sixth place in the pinks.
France has lost its spot as top European rosé
supplier to Italy. Fewer promotional slots in 2008 and the loss of the cheaper end of the market slowed performance and saw its share of the market drop from 11% in 2008 to 9% this year. Italy on the other hand grew its share from 8% to 10%.
Germany continues to gain share, increasing sales by 30% over the year, and Hungary is up by two-thirds - but both are hampered by limited distribution and they only have 1% of the market each.
The star mover is South Africa - it doubled sales over the year, shooting up from sixth to third place, and will take second place in a very short time if present trends continue.
Across the whole market the average bottle price has increased by 5% to £4.21, but rosé lags behind at £4.04 as premium rosés are a rarity.
Californian pinks are relatively expensive at £4.23, compared to Italy and
South Africa which are both around £3.70. Price could also explain Portugal's success - at an average price of £3.31 a bottle it may be a recent discovery for the cost-conscious.
Big brands, such as Gallo, Blossom Hill and Echo Falls, are driving California's rosé sales - they have marked out the ground and account for just over one-third of sales. First Cape and Namaqua join Kumala to make a strong showing for South Africa, and as ever, promotions are accelerating their progress. There is a strong
presence from the familiar European big brands - JP Chenet, Black Tower, Mateus, Canti, La Gioiosa, Piat d'Or and Stowells all feature in the top 20.
But the top 20 brands only make up about 55% of pink sales, with own-labels adding another 15% - so the remaining 30% are made up of what we call the "traditional Europeans" - such as Mateus, vins de pays, Rosé d'Anjou and other generic AOC wines. These, along with an increasing number of developing brands, are all helping maintain that exceptional growth rate.
Pink wines have a very strong following in the lower price points in the market, so it is no surprise to discover that wines with no named grape varieties account for around 35% of sales, and fit nicely into the "three-for-£10" slot. They gained a good 25% more sales over the past year, taking them to 3.9 million cases, but the more "premium" varietal wines from the US - White Zinfandel and White Grenache - still sell more, at about 4 million cases.
Interestingly there have been
successful innovations such as pink Pinot Grigio, Merlot and Shiraz - adding up to well over another million cases
Pink is very much like a mini-version of the earlier years of the wine market itself: it has the big brands, the own-label and a good lump of traditional European and developing brands in the middle. More-over, it seems to be oblivious (so far at least) to the economic pressures that have slowed sales of whites and reds.
Rosé is obviously one of the new values for today's wine drinker - pink will be the entry point for many new wine drinkers, so we should expect its growth to continue for some time yet.
Rosé: key facts
Rosé sales grew 17% to £545 million in the year to the end of February
Volumes grew 13% to 11 million cases - but as wine sales volumes overall remained flat, that growth came
out of red and white wine sales
The average bottle price for rosé is £4.04, compared to an overall average of £4.21
The US continues to dominate the market, but its share has slipped slightly to 49% from 50% last year (and 52% in 2007)
three bottles of US wine
sold in the UK off-trade is now rosé
Italy has taken over from France as the leading European rosé producing country, with a 10% share of the market compared to France's 9%
South Africa has doubled its rosé sales over the past year to take a 9% share of the market.