I hate statistics, but they are helpful and, Lord knows, we have to live with them. We don't have to love them, though. Anyway here is a snapshot of the wine numbers now, er, last fall, that is, when the three articles I read for this report were dated.
The United States is now the largest wine consuming nation in the world, surpassing France. (We're #1!) Wine sales here have actually shown growth annually for the past twenty years with the most recent annum reflecting a 2% growth margin. Prior to this era wine was up and down in part due to the wine cooler/malt-fruit beverage debacle (previous blog) and the always popular beer segment, which by the way is currently down (!) with liquor up. The twenty year mark, by the way, coincides with the first airing of the 60 Minutes program, "The French Paradox" and the health claims for moderate red wine consumption.
Currently sixty-one percent of wine sales domestically are California wines. Of the imported wines that register statistically, there are two clear winners, Italy and Australia. In decending order after that are: Chile, France, Argentina, and New Zealand. Noteworthy is the fact that France has dropped in position and Argentina and New Zealand are climbing quickly.
The good news in California varietal sales is that all varieties have shown growth in recent years as reflected in Nielson grocery store ratings. The most popular varietals continue to be Chardonnay (1st) and Cabernet Sauvignon. Moreover, their sales increase is two to three times greater than the others. In decending order after those two are: Merlot, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, and White Zinfandel. Another report I read noted large increases for Zinfandel and Riesling. Sparkling wine is also up significantly. One trend noted food friendly grapes like Sangiovese are becoming increasingly popular but the sometimes higher alcohol cocktail wines like Chardonnay continue to dominate.
So here's the rub so to speak. One third of wine sales are done in the grocery stores which track sales for Nielson. These figures are national sales figures reflecting a lower price point and they do contrast with my own numbers. Here is what is hot at my little outpost: Malbecs at any price; Pinot Noir, likewise but to a lesser extent; California Cabernets always; and Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc in whites in decending order. Moreover as a smaller independent retailer I do take chances with wine types you won't find in the chain stores and like my cheese business, sometimes we strike gold and get new trends started. May I claim Malbec?
Here, by the way, is a disappointing non-trend: Washington State Merlot and Syrah, great wines that have yet to find an audience. At a lower price point, Spanish reds still don't sell like they should. Likewise, dry German Riesling.
This Friday 5-7pm: Mark Caporalis of Rotta Vineyards will be here pouring tastes of his fine fare. Saturday 3-5pm: Jon Allen of Georgia Crown with Handcraft wines.