Is Provence rosé wine expensive?

With a range of prices from €3 to €70 (more like $10 to $100 in the US) it would be pretty fair to say that rosés from Provence cover a wide range prices points, but with the better rosés fitting more comfortably within the €8 to €12 ($15-20 in the US) price bracket, rosés from Provence can tend to look a little pricey compared with some of the rosés from Chile or California. But then we have to look at whether we are really comparing like for like. 

Rosés, like white wines, comes in many different styles – sweet, dry, oaked, unoaked and even sparkling, so it’s no surprise then that prices reflect the different styles, with the mass produced sweet rosé styles appealing to a broader consumer group.

But Provence is leading the charge when it comes to benchmarking dry, food friendly rosés. You might think that as Provence is the only wine region in the world largely dedicating itself to the production of rosé (with approximately 90% of wine being of the pink hue) that it would be able to knock these wines out inexpensively.

With 3,000 hours of sunshine a year, the Provence climate doesn’t only have a viticultural appeal, as more and more millionaires and Hollywood A-listers are liking the idea of owning their own Provençal chateau. The prices of the best properties have sky-rocketed in recent years, with the likes of British family Sir Antony and Lady Bamford (of JCB fame and fortune) buying the stunning Chateau Leoube in 1998. More recently Brad and Angelina bought Chateau Miraval for $50-60m and Sacha Lichine (son of the late great Alexis Lichine of Château Prieuré-Lichine) raised a few eyebrows  when he swapped out Margaux in Bordeaux for La Motte in Provence when he bought Chateau d’Esclans for $50m from a Swedish pension fund in 2006.

But the same can be said of Bordeaux and Burgundy where the top estates exchange hands for toe-curlingly large amounts of money. With over 600 chateaux and domaines in Provence, not all properties here are destined for the rich and famous (although one can sense, when looking at the prices of estates here in Provence, that most of the properties on the market are optimistic for top whack prices these days with some ridiculous valuations being seen).

Land prices in Provence are also being driven upwards by construction, especially as the bustling Cote d’Azur spreads its way further inland. Consequently the average price of a hectare of vineyard land in Provence is around €30,000 ($38,400) per hectare compared with €14-20,000 ($18-25,000) in the neighboring Bouches du Rhône.

So the price of land is a contributing factor, as is the price of wine production. The resurgence of popularity of Provence rosé is not only due to consumer’s taste changing, it is also because of significant investments the wineries have made during the past 20 years or so which have lead to noticeable improvements in the quality of their wines. When I first came to Provence in the 1980s, rosé wine was generally a cheap (and largely incidental) by-product of making red wine. In order to extract the biggest bang for their buck, the vignerons (wine farmers) were aiming for the maximum possible yield from their vines and once the grapes were in the winery they would bleed off the excess juice in a process known as saignée (more on that topic soon) to make to more concentrated red wines. The  convenient bi-product being a cheap and simple rosé for the holiday-makers.

But as demand for higher quality wines developed and consumers wanted to buy rosé back at home after holidaying in Saint Tropez, producers knew they would have to up their wine-making ante in order to appeal to wine buyers around the world. Coupled with the added benefit of improved cash-flow in selling rosé wine (reds usually take longer to make) the incentives were in place to focus on making better quality rosés and so these investments (e.g. in new presses, refurbished wineries, cooling equipment, fancy cross-flow filters etc) have also had to be absorbed into the price of the wine on the shelves.

However,  the real reason for the relatively high prices of the Provence rosés is plain old economics; supply and demand. Demand  for Provence rosé has grown exponentially in the past 10 years, with French consumers leading the way (they drink more rosé than white wine here in France) and with other countries also developing a taste for the wonderful dry, complex rosés of Provence, the upward price trend is destined to continue for some time to come.

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