It’s not pink; it’s light salmon,” François Matton emphatically corrects his audience on the colour of his celebrated rosé wines.
Matton and his brother, Jean-Etienne, are the third-generation owners of the rosé brand Chateau Minuty, a family-owned winery and the rosé category leader in France. In February, Moët Hennessy took on a majority share in the chateau, sending out a clear signal about their interest in the rosé wine category.
For the last decade, ‘rosé fever’ has reached astronomical heights. The blush wines are unrelentingly popular so much so that celebrities like Brad Pitt, Kylie Minogue, Sting, and Bon Jovi invested in Provence rosé brands, as have other drink conglomerates.
With the part-acquisition of Chateau Minuty, French wine and spirits company Moët Hennessy, which is known for its coterie of premium-tier wines, including prestige champagnes Krug, Ruinart, and Dom Perignon, has a stake in three premium rosé houses. The company owns Chateau Galoupet, holds a majority share in Chateau d’Esclans (producers of the iconic Whispering Angel), and now Chateau Minuty in Saint Tropez.
Rosé with a rich slice of history
Founded in St Tropez, Minuty boasts a rich history and credentials. Built during the reign of Napoleon III, Minuty ranks among the 18 chateaux in Provence selected and nominated as Cru Classé in 1955, a prestigious historic club similar in some ways to the renowned Bordeau’s grand cru classé classification.
The vineyards are spread over 160 hectares in the villages of Gassin and Ramatuelle, overlooking the Gulf of St Tropez. The grapes, comprising grenache, syrah, and mourvèdre with small amounts of locally-grown tibouren, are farmed organically and pressed gently to extract the seductive colour and flavour.
In all, Chateau Minuty produces four expressions of rosé — Minuty M, Minuty Prestige, and the two upmarket cuvées: Rose et Or and 281, which collectively sell over nine million bottles per year without relying on endorsements from any superstar celebrities.
Speaking to The Peak on a recent visit to Singapore, Matton explains his reasoning behind the partnership between Chateau Minuty and Moët Hennessy. “We initiated this partnership because, as a single independent family company, we reached our limit for increasing the volume,” he reveals.
It is estimated that Moët Hennessy took on a share of over 50 per cent, and the rest stays with the family, including Francois Matton, his brother, and his daughter, Anne-Victoire Matton, a member of the fourth generation who recently joined the business.
A Moët Hennessy acquisition means exponential growth, as evidenced by Chateau d’Esclans’ double-digit sales growth since their acquisition in 2019, but Matton insists it’s not a volume expansion alone. “The goal is not to double the volume but to continue to work on building the brand.”
Irrespective, the investment has helped the Chateau Minuty increase its vineyard holding by 40ha, which they will develop and reshape over the next few years.
Wooing the warm tropics
Julian Quintero, general manager at Moët Hennessy Diageo, who recently moved to Singapore from a long stint in Japan, points to the heritage and terroir of Chateau Minuty as the key selling attributes. “And on top of that, it’s a lifestyle proposition. The fact that rosé wine is a booming category, not just because it’s trending in the last 10 years, but because it’s answering a consumer need,” he explains.
After all, who doesn’t enjoy a fruity, light, and refreshing chilled wine that evokes the leisurely terraces of Provence and the Mediterranean? Besides, rosés are gastronomical wines — they pair well with grilled vegetables, meats, and salads and do not cost a fortune. Every country in the West has fallen for its charms, but so far, none of the Asian wine hubs has yielded.
Currently, rosé plays a minor role in the Asian wine appetite and has yet to conquer the traditional red wine-drinking Asian markets. However, the demand is rising, and more importantly, as Quintero suggests, the synergies are just right.
“The equation works. We feel Singapore has all of the elements — the weather, the food, the quality of the outlets.” But more than anything, Matton and Quintero notice how much rosé compliments the local offerings of seafood and punchy, spicy foods. “Singapore is a great example. The potential is right there, and we’ve just started,” says Quintero.
He is impressed with the dynamism of the Singapore market. “There are so many things happening in the restaurant and cocktail scene with so many hotels opening,” he notes. “I think places like Singapore are open to new ideas.”
If rosé in Asia needed a champion, Moët Hennessy might just be the one. With their superior branding and marketing prowess as well as their powerful distribution, the drinks conglomerate is primed to elevate the rosé category.
The only caveat is the heat; a rosé must be consumed chilled. As Matton points out, a warm rosé will only highlight the alcohol, not the freshness. His suggestion to best enjoy rosé: Add ice.
“I encourage you to taste it first, without ice,” says Matton, suggesting adding some ice cubes to bring down the temperature. “That’s what the people are doing on the beach in the South of France.”