The one consistent from last year? Consumers are still looking for value, and they’re still worried about prices. Or, as my pal Gil Kulers, who works for Atlanta’s Tower Wine and Spirits, one of the largest retailers in the southeast, described it: “If it’s a choice between spending $1 more to get a better wine, and not spending the $1, I had a customer who didn’t want to spend the $1.”
The good news is that prices remain consumer-friendly, save for some higher end wines and Champagnes. In addition, the retailers I talked to said we’re looking for value in places that we haven’t necessarily looked for value in the past. The details are after the jump:
That wine drinkers are looking for something other than the usual is terrific news. What’s better than an adventurous wine drinker?
Wine.com founder Mike Osborn said this has been especially true for his company’s gift sets, which have sold surprisingly well. The three to six bottle sets follow a theme, whether it’s unusual reds or whites of the world.
“I think wine drinkers are eager to expand their palates,” says Osborn. ”This helps them do it beyond their go-to wines. It’s a way to learn about something else.”
James Moll, the co-owner of the upscale Domaine Wine Company in Dallas, has seen the same thing with sparkling wine. His customers want something besides what Moll calls “the glut of homogenous, corporate driven wine. They’re tired of buying the same old things and they want to step out.”
And what are they buying? Cava, believe it or not, for its combination of quality and value. How often do I get to write that about an upscale wine drinker? Moll says his customers are also trying grower Champagnes – made by small producers as part of the local wine movement in France and generally less expensive than the better known brands – in their same search for quality and value,
Consumers are still price sensitive. If they’re not buying exactly on price, they’re looking for value and their range seems to be between $15 and $40, say Moll. And, says Osborn, despite the furor earlier this year about price increases, there is still plenty of quality wine available at more or less the same wonderfully inexpensive prices they’ve been at for the past several years.
Finally, don’t be surprised to see consumers buying sweet wine this year – like consumers that you and I know. Apothic, the sweet red from E&J Gallo, is No. 120 on Wine.com’s best-seller list, which says a lot given that the wine is available in almost any grocery store without a shipping change. And Tower, reports Kulers, has doubled the shelf space devoted to sweet wines over the last year to keep up with demand. “It’s like we can’t have enough,” he says.