So, here are two questions for you.
Which country is the world’s biggest producer of rosé?
Which country is the world’s biggest importer of rosé?
If you answered ‘France’ to both questions, you can go straight to the front of the class. According to the newly published report by the Observatoire Mondiale du Rosé in Provence, that’s where 29% of all the world’s exported pink wine goes. Germany, the next country on the list, doesn’t even buy half as much, but with its 14% and the UK’s 10% it is part of a duo of nations that ships in nearly a quarter of the world’s rosé exports.
Most readers might reasonably be wondering why the biggest pink wine producer in the world needs to look elsewhere for stock. And where they found it.
The answers are revealed elsewhere in the Observatoire’s charts and data. First, there’s the fact that French wine drinkers have become very fond of rosé. In 2019, it represented 35% of all the wine they drank, four percent more than a decade earlier. French supermarkets now sell more pink wine than white.
Second there’s the other biggest player in the pink market. Spain, the world’s second biggest producer of the style, has an even more commanding share of its exports than France has of its imports: a staggering 41% by volume. France, by contrast only has a meagre 14%, just behind Italy’s 15%.
But when one shifts the focus from volume to value, the picture changes dramatically. The cheapness of Spain’s exported rosé is revealed by the fact that it plummets from first to third in the rankings, with just 18% - behind Italy (21%) and France (34%).
Given data from the UN Comtrade database that France is regularly the biggest importer of Spanish bulk wine, it is fairly easy to join the dots.
France ships in large volumes of cheap Spanish rosé in bulk, most of which is sold to French consumers in the form of Euroblends (often in Bag-in-Box). This allows its producers to export their own, more premium, pink wine to other markets that are ready to pay the higher prices. Top of this list, of course is the US, which only imports nine percent of the world’s export volume, but has the lion’s share of nearly a quarter (23%) by value.
All of this reminds me of a conversation I had with a fellow airline passenger, 30 or so years ago, shortly after French farmers had angrily set fire to trucks full of English lamb. The man sitting next to me was one of New Zealand’s biggest sheep farmers, and he surprised me by expressing his sympathy for the Frenchmen. “Your country” he said to me “produces some of the best lamb in the world, particularly in Wales.
“Unfortunately”, he continued, “Britons aren’t prepared to pay for it. They prefer to buy the cheap frozen lamb I produce. So British farmers send the good stuff over the Channel to Paris where it is happily bought at premium prices by restaurateurs who appreciate its quality. And that’s why France’s sheep farmers get annoyed.”
I never thought I’d see parallels between penny-pinching British carnivores and bargain-hunting Gallic rosé fans, but that’s certainly the way I read the Observatoire data, and it came as a helpful reminder always to look behind statistics and news stories.