#BERISH

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A sparkling rosé from the south of France has pulled off a coup. Launched just three years ago, Luc Belaire Rare Rosé recently leaped to number 23 in Wine-Searcher’s most-wanted list after barely registering in searches when it first appeared. The top 100 searches are mostly Bordeaux and Napa wines and this rosé is the only sparkler in the chart that doesn’t come from Champagne.

Luc Belaire is the brainchild of Brett Berish, CEO of California-based Sovereign Brands, and was inspired by the success of another sparkling wine it has put on the U.S. wine map: Armand de Brignac. Also known as Ace of Spades, the Armand de Brignac brut gold cuvée was adopted by American rapper Jay-Z after he fell out with the makers of his favorite Champagne, Cristal. His promotion of the Ace of Spades propelled it to fame, pushing up its average price to more than $300 per bottle.

Now, Berish has achieved similar success with Luc Belaire Rare Rosé. In 2012, it was searched for just 16 times on Wine-Searcher. But in early 2013 it was endorsed by rapper Rick Ross and – hey presto – the brand sprang into the limelight. As Ross spread the word the wine was adopted by others within the music industry and even generated a rapper-based fan group named the “Black Bottle Boys.”

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Produced in the south of France by the Piffaut family, the wine is a blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah. It’s packaged in a sleek black bottle while the classically-styled lettering on the label and use of archival photographs from the French Riviera on its website suggest the wine has a “rich heritage.”

Berish declined to be interviewed about the wine’s success but agreed to answer questions by email.

Asked how the connection with Ross came about, he replied: “Rick Ross has always been a fan of rosé – so much so that one of his nicknames is ‘Ricky Rozay.’ When Belaire Rosé launched, Rick was drawn to our unique black bottles, which were unlike anything he had seen, and he quickly fell in love with Belaire’s taste.”

As a result of his affection for the brand, said Berish, Ross has featured the wine in his music videos, used it to celebrate career milestones, and “gifted Belaire to dozens of friends, family and music industry influencers”.

As with Ace of Spades, there is no confirmed financial link between the wines and the rappers who promote them. Berish would only say that “Rick Ross and other celebrities who enjoy Belaire Rosé are both consumers and fans of the brand”.

However, Ross carries some controversial baggage. He was dropped as a spokesman by Reebok last year after his song “U.O.E.N.O.” was judged to have date-rape connotations. “Put Molly all in the Champagne. She ain’t even know it. I took her home and I enjoy that. She ain’t even know it,” say the lyrics.

In answer to a query about whether this controversy had given him pause for thought, Berish repeated his earlier quote: “Rick Ross and other celebrities who enjoy Belaire Rosé are both consumers and fans of the brand.”

At Hi-Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa, California, sparkling wine buyer Jim Duane confirms there is growing demand for Luc Belaire Rosé, resulting from “good marketing and the rapper association.”

According to Duane, “interest is driven by young people that frequent night clubs.” Describing the wine as “a poor man’s Ace of Spades,” he says he finds it “out of balance and way too sweet, but it’s our job to sell what people want.”

Berish, by contrast, describes Belaire Rosé as having “a rich, red-fruit bouquet with an elegant palate of strawberry and blackcurrant. It is dry and refreshing with fine, delicate-yet-persistent bubbles, and an elegant, smooth finish.”

At Valley Discount Wines in Ansonia, Connecticut, store manager Chinmay Amin explains that purchasers of Luc Belaire Rosé are generally black or Hispanic and aged between 25 and 35. “It’s doing phenomenally well in store,” he says, adding that the wine’s celebrity endorsement was key.

Berish would not reveal how many bottles of the wine are now being sold, saying only that it “continues to build momentum and is now in more than 40 markets globally.”

What is clear is that when a canny entrepreneur mixes clever packaging and marketing with the rhythm of rap, consumers will lap up the wine.

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