THE DRINKS BUSINESS

CHÂTEAU D’ESCLANS PAINTS ROSY PICTURE IN ASIA

Asia, led by Hong Kong, has become one of the fastest-growing markets for Provence-based rosé wine giant Château d’Esclans, according to its owner, Sacha Lichine.

Accounting for 12% to 15% of the winery’s global sales, the region is catching up with d’Esclans’ more established markets such as the US, where its most popular wine is ‘Whispering Angel’ – known as ‘water of the Hamptons’ due to its popularity in the seaside resort.

Since first entered the Asia market in 2009, Château d’Esclans’ wines, including ‘Whispering Angel’, ‘Rock Angel’, ‘Les Clans’ and ‘Garrus’, have been shoring up interests in Hong Kong and the more “complicated” market in mainland China, where its first release rendered little result for the rosé producer, says owner Sacha Lichine.

In the beginning, while his wines made it onto wine lists in high-end hotels in Beijing and Shanghai, duty free shops in Hainan and hotels in Sanya, “nothing had worked,” he confessed.
The country’s obsession with red wine and domestic wine’s dominance were cited as the main reasons at that time. However things are now starting to change in the market as consumers’ taste evolve, he said, largely in part thanks to people’s association with Provence and the kind of lifestyle that rosé represents.
This year, the winery’s sales in Asia, led by Hong Kong, increased by about 25%. The style of his rosé wines, described by the owner as the “equivalent to Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc”, which is precise and crisp, in contrast with heavy, oaky French styles, is a go-between of light white wine and heavy red wine, said Lichine.

Listing its Grenache-Vermentino blend ‘Garrus’ as an example, Lichine said: “We don’t want to give any heaviness to the wine. We want to make it light and elegant. It’s a serious wine and is fruit-driven.”
The wine did not go through maceration and the color comes from its free fun juice. Selling about US$100 a bottle, the wine is described by the vintner as a “Burgundian style rosé”.

Demand for its rosé has grown so strong that its production has grown from 130,000 bottles in 2005 to 6.7 million bottles this year, Lichine revealed, to such an extent that he exclaimed, “we can’t keep up with demand”.

Speaking of consumer preference for pink wine, Lichine believes that a paler shade is sought-after at the moment.
“The color is important and the perception for today’s consumer trend is that the paler, the better,” he said. “The paler it is, the lighter it is and more precise it is,” stressing the color in rosé wine is, “the easiest thing to make average and the hardest thing to make good”.
Its wines are available in Hong Kong through its local importer Jebsen Fine Wines.

By Natalie Wang