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Château d’Esclans is revamping its upscale Provence rosé offering.
Leading Provence rosé producer Château d’Esclans is debuting new packaging for the 2015 vintage of its Rock Angel estate-bottled rosé. The new design features a smaller Château d’Esclans logo and more prominent Rock Angel imagery, including a black and white drawing by artist Hello Von of two women with wings on their heads and arms. The new look is meant to present an edgier alternative to the company’s flagship Whispering Angel rosé. Previously known as Château d’Esclans rosé and rebranded as Rock Angel just over a year ago, the estate-bottled wine was fermented in a combination of 600-liter French oak barrels and stainless steel.
Rock Angel ($35) is part of a portfolio that includes Whispering Angel ($22), as well as prestige cuvées Les Clans ($60) and Garrus ($100). Imported by Shaw-Ross International, the Château d’Esclans range grew 55 percent to 118,000 cases in 2015, according to Impact Databank. The company expects to produce 415,000 cases this year, with about 200,000 shipping to the United States. Now one of the top 10 French wine labels in the U.S. market, Château d’Esclans accounts for roughly 20 percent of all Côtes du Provence rosé sold in the United States.
They may call it “Hamptons water,” but Sacha Lichine warns to watch your intake of his ubiquitous rosé, Whispering Angel, this summer.
“People have a feeling that it’s much lighter in alcohol. It’s not,” says Lichine. “In Hong Kong … their nickname for Whispering Angel is Screaming Bitch. [Distributors] give it to their wives, and they drink a bottle of it, and they either start screaming at them or take their clothes off.”
Angry spouses aside, the 55-year-old winemaker has transformed pink wine’s reputation from déclassé sweet plonk to chic sip since he launched Whispering Angel 10 years ago. It’s now a summertime staple, and Whispering Angel is the It label, beloved by Hamptons ladies who lunch, status-conscious Instagrammers and A-listers such as Sarah Jessica Parker and David Beckham.
“It wasn’t considered a real wine,” says Lichine, a Manhattan native now based in Miami, of rosé’s past. “It was always sort of cheap and cheerful.”
In 2006, Lichine changed that when he purchased the 667-acre Château d’Esclans, a sprawling estate in Provence, France, and started producing Whispering Angel with former Rothschild winemaker Patrick Léon. Their goal: Make a dry rosé that would be well-respected by the snobbiest wine connoisseurs.
In his first year, Lichine produced nearly 10,000 cases of Whispering Angel, which retails for $22 a bottle. This year, he will make 415,000 cases of rosé that will be distributed in 102 countries. He estimates nearly 25,000 cases of Whispering Angel will be sold in the Hamptons alone. And Lichine promises he will do everything in his power to prevent a rosé shortage like last year, when restaurants and markets struggled to keep pink wine in stock.
“We are prepared for the onslaught,” says the winemaker, who has additional rosé labels, including Garrus, which, at about $100 per bottle, is the most expensive rosé on the market.
It’s “the Dom Pérignon of rosé,” says Lichine.
When he first tried selling Garrus — a fuller-bodied, “much more serious” rosé that’s suitable for aging — vendors laughed him out of their shops.
“One man said, ‘Are you out of your F-ing mind?,’ ” says Lichine. “Then he put it in his mouth and looked up at me and said, ‘Look I can’t sell it, but I’ll take two cases for myself.’”
Viticulture is in Lichine’s blood. His father was the late Alexis Lichine, author of “Wines of France” and the man largely credited with bringing French wines to the United States in the 1950s. The family had a vineyard in Bordeaux that Lichine sold in 1999, 10 years after his father passed away, to produce high-end rosé with grapes grown in Provence.
“My father would have probably thought that I was out of my mind,” admits Lichine, who drinks a bottle of rosé a day.
But he says there’s nothing to be ashamed of: “Real men wear pink and drink pink.”
By Dana Schuster