Domestic Wine Sales Steadily Up

Varietal wines in single bottles grew 9% in September

by Jim Gordon
symphony IRI SIRI
San Rafael, Calif.—Domestic wine sales at major U.S. food and drug retailers remained steadily up for the most recent period measured by the Symphony IRI Group. Four-week dollar sales ending Sept. 4 hit $351 million and grew 7% over the same period last year. The year-to-date growth rate was also 7%. Volume sales of domestic table wine grew a bit more slowly, at 5%, as prices edged up 8 cents per 750ml.

The news was even brighter in the narrower category of domestic varietal table wine packaged in 750ml bottles. This segment grew by nearly 9% in the recent four weeks. In contrast, varietals in 1.5L packages grew at 5%; non-varietals in 1.5L format actually dropped by 1% compared to the same period a year earlier.

Imported table wines were essentially flat in off-premise dollar sales for the year to date, showing just 1% growth. Tremendous increases of 32% by Argentina and 19% by New Zealand barely balanced hefty losses by two countries that export more to the U.S. France was down by 7% and Australia by 8%.

Oregon up 14%

Symphony IRI, the Chicago-based market research firm, measured Oregon table wine as being up 14% year to date with $38 million in dollar sales. This put Oregon in the same neighborhood as Spain and Germany in total sales, but each only holds about 1% market share in dollars. Sales of Washington wines so far this year grew 5% in dollars. Washington holds 5% of market share.

Speaking of Oregon and other Pinot Noir-producing regions, sales of Pinot Noir were among the fastest growing of the varietal types. Pinot Noir from all sources grew 12% year to date. However, the real champions of growth were red blends and Meritage wines, which increased sales by 28% year to date.

Chardonnay is king
Despite the long-running Anything But Chardonnay argument by some wine critics and trade members, Chardonnay is still the top-selling varietal, SIRI’s data show. Sales of Chardonnay—domestic and import combined—topped $1.3 billion in the most recent 52 weeks. No. 2 Cabernet Sauvignon sold a mere $897 million.

A look at sales of Chardonnay, Cabernet and Merlot by price-point shows that Chardonnay dominates those two reds and every other varietal category in five out of seven segments. Only in the mid-range of $8-$10.99 and in the highest-priced segment of $20-plus did Cabernet outsell Chardonnay in dollars.

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