This is a continuation of a blog I posted in July of this year. I was thinking about how much the color of a Provencal rosé wine influences its sales. If you have an interest in reading it, here is the link to that post: http://damewine.com/2014/07/does-the-color-of-a-provencal-rose-wine-influence-its-sales/
Because I had not answered the question for myself, I was inspired to try to write a second part to this blog. I wanted to focus Part II on Whispering Angel, not only because it has become an extremely popular Provencal rosé in New York City, but also, it combines a stunning color that is distinctively pale with a rich palate and long finish. A few weeks later, I had a phone conversation with Paul Chevalier, the National Fine Wine Director of Shaw-Ross International Importers, which is the US importer for Whispering Angel.
May I first say that Mr. Chevalier was a very knowledgeable fellow, who spent a good deal of time talking to me about his experience with Provencal rosé wines, as someone originally from France, and who had many years of market experience in the US . He took the time to answer all of my questions, and followed up with an email to make sure I had all of my questions answered.
Well, what do Whispering Angel and I have in common?
Whispering Angel has a very light pale color, almost gives it a fragile, less serious perception that one may compare to a Jane Austen heroine. These heroines are typically seen as being not tough, smart, serious, or well-bred enough by the society that surrounds them. This could be due to many of the following factors: looking too fragile, not coming from the proper background, refusing to put on a pretense, or speaking the truth to the potential detriment of their position in life. Even though every character in the story does not appreciate the strength of ethics of these heroines, and perhaps some view the heroine as a fool, there are others who will eventually appreciate the heroine in the end.
Yes, this is how I see Whispering Angel, and how I see myself, as one of those heroines. And maybe, there are many of you that see yourself the same way…. and you do not need to be a woman to feel this way, this absolutely applies to men as well.
I have been told many times in my life that I was not good enough, that I did not have the pedigree, or I did not look like the “kind” of woman who could handle myself in certain situations. Through time, I have proven myself to many of these people (I’ve come to peace with the idea that some people will never see my potential), and every time I drink Whispering Angel, it proves itself to me.
What about the color?
Mr. Chevalier talked about his childhood in France. How the adults thought Provencal rosé was a joke, with only older Tavel rosés taken seriously. When Provencal rosés were first introduced to the US, the stigma of off-dry mass produced rosés was a challenge for sales; a challenge that Mr. Chevalier still finds in some regions of the US today. The top Provence producers needed to find a color that was distinctively their own, and hence, a color that was lighter than most other rosé styles became the high quality standard for the region.
Fast forward to today, there are many consumers who love Whispering Angel rosé, but with commercial success comes criticism. One can always guarantee, the moment some raise you on a pedestal, that there will be others trying to knock you down. Shamefully, I have to admit, when I tasted Whispering Angel in that staff tasting I wrote about in July, I did not want to show how impressed I was by it initially. As a known wine nerd, you are always afraid of being judged for liking a wine with great commercial success. But then I found the strength of some of those Jane Austen heroines, and I showed my enthusiasm for the obvious high quality, and luckily I was surrounded by co-workers who were not afraid to show their enthusiasm as well.
How does Whispering Angel achieve such a pale color with a rich palate?
They make sure to pick their fruit when it is ripe (5 days up to 2 weeks later), as opposed to some other wineries picking under ripe fruit, which achieves a pale color but green notes. Whispering Angel picks during the wee hours of the morning while it is cool, destems immediately, then the grapes go through a heat exchange that brings their temperature down to 7-8C (44-46F), and then gentle pressing by their German Bucher Press. Since the grapes are cold, they give very little color. Yes, they have thorough selection practices (human and optical eye) with a short maceration (bleeding off aka Saignee method) that all adds to the very pale color. But I found the cold temperature = less extraction of color interesting. Also, extensive battonage (lees stirring) develops a creamy texture, and that technique, with the addition of using ripe fruit, gives a rich mouthfeel while keeping that fragile pink color.
Wines of Provence reported that Provence rosé sales have climbed 40% from 2012 to 2013 in the US. Beverage Dynamics named Chateau d’Esclans as a Rising Star Wine Brand, (#21 out of 46) posting a 51.5% increase in one year (between 2012 and 2013), in their March/April 2014 issue. And there is no doubt when you compare Whispering Angel with other Provencal rosés, they are placed in the category of some of the palest wines. But again, I find they distinguish themselves by over-delivering on the palate.
Well, do I have any solid marketing facts about how the color influenced these sales of Provencal rosé and Whispering Angel? No, and I am not going to pretend that I have any, or jump to assumptions. Mr. Chevalier did say that he thought color was one of the most important aspects of rosé wines. Whispering Angel’s color lets the consumer know, by first glance, that it is a class act, and once you taste this wine, it will give more than what was expected.
All I have ever asked for in my life is to be given a chance to prove myself; those who have gambled on me, I like to think, they have benefited, and I feel the same way about Whispering Angel.
Tasting note from July tasting of Whispering Angel:
-2013 Chateau D’Esclans Cotes de Provence Rosé “Whispering Angel”
(Grenache, Rolle, Cinsault, Syrah, and Mouvedre -> do not have %) :
As a wine nerd you always want to pick the lesser known wine as one of your favorites…. I have to give it to Whispering Angel, they know how to make an elegant rosé, no rough edges, smooth until the very end of the finish, very good length and nice complexity (mineral and floral notes)….always impresses the staff…. lightest color with the exception of the Petite Cassagne