Provence rosé Imperials set to take the UK by storm

29 January, 2016

An Englishman who found fame with a viral video instructing people how to open a bottle of wine with a shoe is hoping to make his six-litre Imperials of Provence rosé the drink of choice at parties and BBQs this summer.

Stephen Cronk quit his telecommunications job to move his family to the south of France and did not have the money to go down the traditional route of buying a chateau and enjoying the sunshine.

Instead he set about forging a burgeoning empire, working with a group of growers and creating a brand that has listings at Waitrose, Booths and some independent wine merchants.

Cronk, who claims to own the most viewed wine brand in the digital world after the shoe video, is pushing larger formats this year as he believes they are perfect for parties.

He told OLN: “Large formats are proving so popular. Last year was the first time we made Jeroboams and this year we are going to make not only Magnums and Jeroboams, but also Imperials, so six litres of Provence rosé.

“Large formats of Provence rosé work so well. The colour suits it. Rosé is the only wine you choose by the colour. In these formats it’s just so attractive.

“Last year we took the large formats to Taste of London and everyone just wanted to be photographed with them. We’ll be going back this year.

“Large formats work well with Champagne and Provence rosé. There is something quite decadent about walking around with one at a party.”

Cronk’s team will be bottling the large formats at the end of February, with a Jeroboam retailing for around £85 and an Imperial at about £175, and some can be personalised for weddings and other events. 

Large formats are more expensive to make than multiple bottles as they require special corks and craftsmanship. Cronk said a Magnum costs eight times as much to produce as a single bottle.

He added: “It’s not about economising. It would be cheaper to buy a case of single bottles than a Jeroboam, but one says something very different than the other about the type of party you are having.”

Cronk’s flagship rosé retails for around £10 a bottle at Waitrose and the more premium Pure variant costs £12.99.

He said: “The UK was our first market and Waitrose gave us our first big order. I approached [buyer] Nick Room with out first vintage five years ago and I am staying loyal to them. Waitrose took a punt but it’s worked out really well: our Classic rosé was one of their top sellers last year. We also have a listing at Booths, which doesn’t really cross over, and with some independents. I really want to work with more independent retailers. My heart is with them because that’s where I discovered wine eons ago.”

Cronk and his family moved to Provence in 2009 and tried to get his head around making money out of the wine industry. “It resonates with Brits that sit in their day jobs wondering if there’s another way of making a living,” he said. “Most Brits buy a property in Provence or a wine estate because they have money. I didn’t have that, so I had to be pragmatic.”

He said he does not make terroir wines and followed the approach of negotiants in the Champagne region: he doesn’t own any vineyards or a winery; instead he works with four of the major growers in the region, selecting grapes from across their 1,500ha of planted vines and brings in a local team of expert blenders in a bid to create a style of  rosé that is consistent each year.

Cronk said: “The consumer is the centre of our world. We work with growers around the region to maintain a style that is consistent and recognisable year in, year out.

“The average vineyard in Provence is 25ha and we couldn’t give the consumer that year in, year out consistency if we didn’t work with several growers.”

Cronk has taken an innovative approach to marketing on a small budget as he tries to take on rivals like Whispering Angel and the Brangelina-backed Miraval.

“We have had 11 million views on our YouTube channel,” he said. “I did a video on how to open a bottle of wine with a shoe and that went viral. That was my 222nd video. We are the most viewed producer in the world now. We have more than 10,000 followers on Facebook.”

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