Interest in â€œall things pinkâ€ and a perception that rose wine is â€œyoung and extrovertedâ€ is propelling a growing market for nonvintage rose champagne, reports Sarah Nassauer in The Wall Street Journal (2/15/07). This trend, which â€œmost producers believe â€¦ is a structure shift, not just a trendâ€ â€” a new category, in fact â€” is being promoted most notably by Moet & Chandon, which made a decision that pink champagne made sense about six years ago. Part of their thinking was pure economics. Itâ€™s less expensive to produce a bottle of nonvintage rose champagne than nonvintage white champagne (nonvintage wines mix â€œgrapes from different harvestsâ€). The margins on the pink stuff are also better, with bottles of nonvintage rose priced â€œ15 percent to 20 percent higher than a bottle of nonvintage white champagne.â€
Thatâ€™s not to say the move into rose champagne wasnâ€™t risky for Moet & Chandon. Their decision meant â€œtransferring valuable grapes to rose production years before any actual sales while the bottles aged.â€ They couldnâ€™t just plant more grapes because of â€œa 1927 French law, aimed at maintaining quality, that fixed Franceâ€™s Champagne region at about 84,000 acres, most of which is already planted.â€ But Moet figured if they got the marketing right, they should have a hit on their hands. The marketing began with â€œrose-petal covered Valentineâ€™s Day ads in glossy magazines and special packaging in the late 1990s.â€ But the real focus has been the fashion industry. For three years running, Moet & Chandon has hosted the Moet Rose Lounge in New Yorkâ€™s Bryant Park during fashion week.
The events cost â€œhundreds of thousands of dollarsâ€ but when Paris Sheratonâ€™s publicist calls and asks for a VIP pass, Moet assumes itâ€™s getting the right kind of buzz. Next up are Moet Rose “picnic bags, complete with magnums of Rose Imperial. Only 10 will be available for sale in the U.S., priced at $1,500 apiece.” Other champagne houses balk at that kind of marketing, but Moet brand manager Franklin D. Isacson says itâ€™s whatâ€™s required: “Theyâ€™re so jaded,” he says of the fashion crowd, “We have to do something to stand out.” So far, so good: “For decades, roseâ€™s share of the French champagne export market hovered around two percent to three percent. But since 2000, rose champagneâ€™s share has climbed to more than seven percent, with exports soaring 37 percent in the first nine months of 2006,” versus a year ago.
By Tim Manners, editor www.reveries.com