Tag Archives: Wine Market Council

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Wine reviews still matter

wine reviews

The conventional wisdom in the wine business over the past decade that wine reviews — unless you’re the Winestream Media, writing for an audience that desperately needs to know that its $28 wine got 93 points — are becoming irrelevant. I’ve written this, and I mostly believe it. For example, the majority of the reviews on the blog are among the least read.

The irrelevancy of review comes from new technology, whether Facebook, texting, phone wine apps, or CellarTracker, that gives wine drinkers the ability to recommend wine to their friends and read their friends’ recommendations without the need for a traditional wine reviewer.

So imagine my surprise when the new Wine Market Council study, detailing the behavior of U.S. wine drinkers, found that reviews still matter.

“I think it is to be expected that people who have not been around wine for years and years are a bit more interested in reading about wine and getting input from knowledgeable sources,” says John Gillespie, the council’s president. And he has some intriguing numbers to back that up.

More than half of Millennials and almost half of Gen Xers who drink wine frequently said reviews were extremely or very important in deciding what to buy. This is twice the number of Baby Boomers who said they valued reviews, and three times the number of the oldest group surveyed, born before World War II.

If that still doesn’t seem a lot, consider this: I located two surveys about film criticism that showed much lower numbers — six percent in a poll on ComicBookMovie.com said reviews were important, and a survey of Indian audiences in 2011 found that just 17 percent said the star rating was important. Yes, these aren’t exactly comparable to the Wine Market Council results, but it’s close enough to make me think wine reviews are still relevant.

The one thing not surprising about reviews in the Wine Market Council survey? The Winestream Media’s grip on its captive audience. Two-thirds of high-end wine buyers who drink wine frequently rated reviews extremely or very important. Which is why they’ll always be a Wine Spectator.

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Are Americans going to drink more wine?

wine market councilOver the past decade, U.S. wine consumption has set all sorts of records, and most observers expect that to continue. This year’s Silicon Valley Bank report called for a 14 percent increase in high-end wine sales, while a study commissioned by the VinExpo trade show said U.S.wine drinkers will power world growth.

But not everyone is convinced.

It ?s not that I ?m not optimistic, it ?s that the reality of the market when you look at the hard data of total table wine sales over the past three years following the recession,” says John Gillespie, the president of the Wine Market Council, which tracks U.S. wine drinking habits. The group released its 2014 report last week, and it seemed to be at odds with what the others have been reporting.

Gillespie’s point: After more than a decade of substantial growth, in which per capita wine consumption in the U.S. finally passed that of the early 1980s, sales coming out of the recession were nothing like the previous 15 years. Perhaps, says Gillespie, this more or less flat growth is the new normal, the sign of what economists call a mature market.

Which raises two questions: Why is this happening, and what does it mean for wine drinkers? Gillespie says it’s difficult to know why consumers do what they do, but that the Wine Market Council figures suggest some of us are drinking less wine and more craft beer.

My theory isn’t as nuanced (and doesn’t have Gillespie’s experience or data to support it) and should not be surprising to regular visitors. It’s about price; consumers don’t want to pay the higher prices the industry is trying to impose, and aren’t happy with the quality they’re getting at lower prices. Hence, they’re looking for something else to drink. The Silicon Valley Bank report said producers are focusing on premiumisation, the idea that better quality wine should cost more money. In this, they want consumers to trade up from their $10 and $12 bottles to $18 and $20 bottles.

Could the flat growth that Gillespie sees be consumers rejecting premiumisation? Will we start to look elsewhere, like craft beer, for value? If so, the wine business could face problems over the next decade, since producers expect pre-recession growth. If growth is flat, we’ll have more wine, and especially more high-priced wine, than there is demand for, and prices could collapse again, just like they did during the recession.

Which may be welcome news for consumers, but hardly anything the wine business wants to hear.

More about the Wine Market Council reports:
? The 2013 Wine Market Council report
? The 2012 Wine Market Council report

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Winebits 321: NeoDry edition

Winebits 321: NeoDry edition

No, no, no — drinking isn’t good for you.

Because there are a lot of people who don’t drink or think those of us who do drink too much:

? One out of two: One of the most telling statistics in the wine world? That 40 percent of Americans don’t drink, a figure that shows up in almost survey of U.S. liquor habits. It showed up again in the recent Wine Market Council study of wine drinking in 2013, where 35 percent of respondents said they didn’t drink and 21 percent were identified as “non-adapters,” those who drink rarely. In other words, more than one-half of adults in the U.S. aren’t interested in drinking wine, one of the few pieces of bad news in a report that otherwise demonstrated wine’s growing popularity. Regular visitors here know who the Wine Curmudgeon blames for this, and it’s not religion. It’s the wine business, for doing everything it can to make wine too difficult for all but the most dedicated among us.

? Ending cancer by abstinence: That’s the goal of the World Health Organization, which said in its 2014 report that alcohol is one of the seven leading causes of cancer, and that cancer is growing at unprecedented rates. Hence the only way to halt the growth was to eliminate the causes, like drinking. Said one of the report’s editors: “”The extent to which we modify the availability of alcohol, the labelling of alcohol, the promotion of alcohol and the price of alcohol — those things should be on the agenda.” Ironically, it also cited delayed parenthood and having fewer children as a major cause of cancer, which makes the Wine Curmudgeon wonder: If we eliminate drinking, how are we going to solve the fewer children problem?

? Not at the World Cup: Want to get a belt while watching soccer’s World Cup on TV later this year? It will be more difficult in Britain, where the government has banned cutting booze prices to attract customers. The Drinks Business trade magazine reports that the crime prevention minister said: ?The coalition Government is determined to tackle alcohol-fuelled crime, which costs England and Wales around 11 billion (about US$18.5 billion) a year.” Ironically, the minimum pricing scheme has been criticised by alcohol charities, including Alcohol Concern, which said the measures were ?laughable ? and that enforcing it would be impossible. Even the government said it woudn’t cut drinking by much, and that ?limited impact on responsible consumers who drink moderate amounts of alcohol.” Almost makes three-tier sound like a good idea, no?

 

 

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What drives wine drinkers? Price, of course

wine drinkers priceNot that the Wine Curmudgeon had any doubt. But listen to enough people in the business, and especially to the Winestream Media, and it’s scores and romance and tasting notes and about as much foolishness as you can imagine. But we have better evidence than ever that wine drinkers buy wine based on price, in the form of the 2013 Wine Market Council Study.

And what kind of wine do most of us buy, even those of us with deep pockets and subscriptions to the wine magazines? Cheap wine, of course.

More, after the jump:

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Millennials and the confidence of the palate

Wine Market Council 2012 report

Confidence is one thing, but that 71 percent number is something else entirely.

Dear Millennials:

Almost no one who writes about wine respects you as much as I do ? in fact, I ?m in the middle of a trade magazine story detailing the massive changes you ?ll bring to the wine business.

But even I had to giggle when the new Wine Market Council study reported that 7 out of 10 of you who drink wine at least once a week said you could ?correctly differentiate a glass of merlot from a glass of cabernet sauvignon. ?

That ?s saying a lot. For one thing, the two wines can taste quite similar, especially given that one goal of post-modern winemaking is to eliminate the qualities that make them different. For another, I often have trouble telling the difference between cabernet and merlot — and I ?ve been drinking wine for a long time.

In this, I ?d love to do a blind tasting ? for money, of course, because I have all these expenses ? to see if you can really do it. I ?d enjoy being proved wrong, though I doubt that would happen. It ?s one thing to wax poetic about wine at the dinner table with your friends, and something altogether different when a bunch of people are waiting for you to demonstrate the acuity of your palate.

Yet, having said all this, I ?m quite impressed that so many of you are so confident about wine. It ?s not something that we ?ve always seen in the past from younger wine drinkers, who are usually more worried about using a corkscrew than about what the wine tastes like. No doubt this is yet another way in which you ?ll change the wine business. I guess I need to figure out to work that into my story.

The 2012 Wine Market Council report: More of us are drinking cheap wine more often

Are more of us drinking wine more often? That ?s one of the conclusions from the Wine Market Council ?s annual report, which tracks U.S. wine consumption habits and trends.

The report, which has been published since 1994, says that core wine drinkers ? those of us who drink wine at least once a week ? make up 25 percent of the U.S. adult population and drink 93 percent of the wine. The good news? That the number of core wine drinkers has increased by two-thirds since the first study.

“Wine drinkers are gravitating towards higher consumption,” says John Gillespie, the president of the market council. “And the driver seems to be they see more occasions as wine drinking occasions.”

But, even then, we’re watching prices. More than 9 of 10 core wine drinkers said it’s possible to buy wine without spending a lot of money. (Insert plug for The Cheap Wine Book here). Says the report: “The most desirable characteristics in a wine bought at retail are value, high quality, previous trial, and a high level of comfort when serving it to friends.” Note that this does not say anything about scores, reviews, or any of the things that drive the traditional wine business.

This fact, tempered with the demographic information that showed that Millennials (consumers ages 21-36) drink more wine than the Baby Boomers, should make everyone in the wine business break out in a cold sweat. Because, though Boomers make up 38 percent of wine drinkers, they consume only 32 percent of the wine. The numbers for Millennials are 29 and 38 — and that doesn’t include the 8 million of them who aren’t old enough to drink yet.

There are still some numbers in the report that bother me, not the least of which is that per capita wine consumption in the U.S. has remained more or less the same for 40 years. But, says Gillespie, that’s probably not as big a problem as I think it is. His focus is on the core numbers, which shows that Americans are taking wine more seriously than ever before. I’ll settle for that.