Over the past decade, rosé has experienced astronomical growth. For many, it’s an affordable commodity, with prices that usually hover between $15 and $25. With high-end bottlings, however, brows immediately furrow. This begs the question: Does any rosé merit more than $50?
Sacha Lichine acquired Château d’Esclans in 2006 with a desire to create some of the world’s best rosé. It’s best known for Whispering Angel which retails around $25, but the estate’s top wine, Garrus, sells for about $100.
“If other types of wines existed in the ‘high-end/luxury’ category, then why couldn’t it also be done with rosé from Provence?” says Paul Chevalier, vice president national wine director at Shaw-Ross International Importers, which represents Château d’Esclans in the U.S. market.
Garrus is crafted from 90- to 100-year-old estate-grown vines and aged in barrels with a majority of new French oak. Concerning its retail price, Chevalier credits the estate’s investment in winemaking technology, the wine’s ability to age and the limited supply—all elements that can contribute to a higher value wine.
“Only 25–30 barrels of Garrus rosé are produced per year, [which] makes it very rare and hard to get,” he says.
“There are very few producers in the world [that] make pink wine with the same level of intention and integrity as the greatest white wines and red wines in the world,” says Maggie Harrison, winemaker at Antica Terra in Dundee, Oregon. Harrison attributes a personal obsession with ageworthy rosé as the inspiration behind her Angelicall bottling, which sells for about $110.
The wine’s maceration period limits the volume of rosé that can be produced. One ton of fruit destined for Harrison’s rosé spends an average of six days on its skins, producing about 228 liters of wine. By comparison, a ton of fruit for red wine would macerate longer and extract more juice when pressed. It would produce about 1,000 liters according to Harrison.
“If a bottle of our Pinot Noir costs $110, the equivalent rosé [would] cost $440,” she says. Harrison claims that rosé production actually causes her to lose profit.
Christophe Baron, winemaker at Cayuse Vineyards in Walla Walla, Washington, says it’s his estate’s terroir that’s the driving force behind the cost of his Edith Armada Vineyard rosé, which can retail for more than $60.
“We planted Grenache to make [both] high-end still red wine and also rosé,” he says. Baron cites Domaines Ott in Provence as a major inspiration for his style. “Our rosé isn’t saignée. We grow the grapes to make a true, high-end rosé. There’s a big difference between a high-end rosé and bleeding the tank.”
Baron says that high farming costs, biodynamic production and low yields play into the wine’s price. His yield is only three tons per hectare, as opposed to the average six to eight tons for conventional vineyards.
“When you look at high-end rosé, you shouldn’t even think about rosé,” he says. “You should think about wine [in general]. The approach for our rosé is the same approach for all of our wines, so we think for the price that we charge is a very fair price.”
Part of that value, Baron says, is that his rosé has potential for aging.
With rosé Champagne, the price gap between entry-level cuvées and upper-echelon rosé bottlings can be drastic. Michelle DeFeo, president of Laurent-Perrier U.S., says that Pinot Noir is one of the most difficult grapes to grow due to its susceptibility to rot and disease. In addition, the region’s climate makes the grape more challenging to cultivate.
Champagne’s lengthy aging process for vintage rosé also adds a premium. At Laurent-Perrier, fruit for the Cuvée Rosé comes from 10 grand cru vineyards and is aged a minimum of five years.
Not all sommeliers believe that high-end rosé is worth it.
Victoria James, beverage director at New York City’s Cote and author of Drink Pink: A Celebration of Rosé (HarperCollins, 2017), says that few rosés merit a price tag of more than $50. The ones that do, she says, are exceptional.
James names Domaine Tempier’s Bandol, Château Simone’s Palette, Valentini’s Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo and Lopez de Heredia’s Rosado as some of the best examples. Their reputations, ability to age and small production quantities merit the price, says James.
“Honestly, besides those examples above, the rosé market is still developing,” she says. “Many producers will slap a pricey tag on bottles and call them luxury products, but they don’t justify the price.”
To James, just like well-crafted reds and whites, rosés crafted soulfully from grower-producers justify the price tag.
“If you want to drink extraordinary rosé, it’s definitely worth $100-plus,” says Jeff Harding, beverage director at the Waverly Inn in New York City.
“In general, I don’t think it’s worth it to pay a superpremium for Provence rosé,” he says. “Provence rosé is supposed to be fun, fresh and easy drinking. There are plenty of great wines well under $50, so beyond that, is it fun anymore?”