How Château d’Esclans revolutionized the pink drink.
Nearly a decade ago, a little known wine producer showed up at the Nantucket Wine Festival and debuted their signature rosé on the East Coast. Château d’Esclans had begun global distribution of their Whispering Angel rosé in 2007, when rosé wines were still a niche market of elite European resorts, but they had only sold 800 cases. Then something miraculous started happening. According to Forbes, which began closely tracking Château d’Esclans’ sales performance since Whispering Angel’s debut at the Nantucket Wine Festival, by 2017 the U.S. was importing more than 300,000 cases—a staggering 40,000% increase from its first year of global distribution. The company’s portfolio grew another 44% in 2018, as 414,000 cases were consumed by thirsty American rosé lovers. Now the Château d’Esclans family of wines account for nearly 20% of the total U.S. Provence rosé market.
Regarded as the affordable luxury wine for connoisseurs and novices alike, Whispering Angel has become, according to Sacha Lichine, its creator and the owner of Château d’Esclans, “the greatest wine brand that’s come out of France in the last 20 years.” Nancy Bean, Executive Director of the Nantucket Wine Festival, couldn’t agree more. “Château d’Esclans is one of the most influential leaders in the rosé world – with their foresight and keen marketing strategies, they literally put rosé, specifically those from Provence, on the map. Nantucket Wine Festival was there at the beginning.”
If you are one of the few people left in the first world who has not yet tried Whispering Angel, you are probably wondering what all the fuss is about. A brief tutorial on rosé wines might help contextualize matters. As eye-catching as they are drinkable, rosé wines are made from a wide variety of red grapes by allowing the skins to remain in their juice just long enough to endow it with a desired degree of depth, character and color.
Of the “50 shades of rosé,” Whispering Angel is amongst the palest. Bottled in clear glass to showcase its elegant, peachy-pink tint, it is set apart aesthetically from darker, sweeter rosés. Although the “curb appeal” of Whispering Angel is undeniable (and let’s face it, where wine is concerned, looks do matter), it is Sacha Lichine’s innovative winemaking process that has made Whispering Angel a true game-changer. He utilizes cold fermentation in steel barrels, yielding a drier, cleaner, more sophisticated rosé.
Until Whispering Angel, rosé was mostly regarded as a pleasant source of hydration and had not earned a place in the lexicon of wine snobbery. As one critic put it, rosé “does not merit serious tasting.” Perhaps this is sour grapes on the part of someone who can’t (or won’t) take any pleasure in drinking what is now known as “millennial champagne,” “summer water” and “pink wine.” With celebrities like Francis Ford Coppola, Drew Barrymore, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, and now even Jon Bon Jovi trying their hand at making their own dry rosé wines, it seems everyone is going pink.
Suddenly, the critics agree. Whispering Angel is “palate-grabbing,” “the cool thing to drink” and “one of three wines that should always be in your fridge.” In 2017, June 10th was named National Rosé Day. Fans came up with now-familiar slogans such as “Yes way, rosé”, “Rosé all day” and “Where there’s a will, there’s a rosé.” But if investors and rosé lovers are wondering whether or not Château d’Esclans is getting too big for its barrels, quality control does not seem to be an issue. Lichine is gradually bringing out new wines scaled to make them affordable for everyone.
At $15, the Palm works as a hostess gift at a dinner party. At $20, Whispering Angel is a no-brainer for a first date. A second date may warrant a $30 bottle of Rock Angel, and if you want to meet the parents, there is always Château d’Esclans, which comes in at around $115. Finally, Garrus, released in May as the world’s most expensive rosé, will no doubt impress but will set you back $150. Lichine is, as the millennials like to say, “killing it.”
Undoubtedly the huge success of Whispering Angel is equal parts talent and timing on the part of the entire team at Château d’Esclans. Along with creating a superior product, the brilliant marketing strategy for Whispering Angel celebrates rosé not as just a wine, but as a lifestyle. If wine alone can’t bring us fulfillment, it follows that Whispering Angel must at least make it seem possible. The fantasy of an eternal summer of bar-hopping, roof parties, gallery openings and long, lazy days on Nantucket beaches is enough to keep people drinking Whispering Angel all year long.