In which consumers are pretty much in charge, whether they want to spend a lot of money or not very much at all. More, after the jump:That’s because prices, despite the fearmongering that kept cropping up in 2013, are still in line. And they’re even better than that if you live in a part of the country where Total Wine and BevMo, the two biggest U.S. chains, are opening stores and trying to grab market share by cutting prices. As one Dallas-area retailer, who asked not to be named, said: “If we were an independent, and after seeing what Total has done to prices here, we’d be out of business.”
In this, consumers seem to be willing to pay a little more for wine this holiday season — as long as they get value for the extra money, says Andy Meyrowitz, the beverage director at The Wine Harvest, a fine wine retailer in Potomac, Md. “There are still good values out there,” he says, “but instead of looking for them at $7, $8, and $9, they’re looking for them at $11 to $18.”
That’s something that Mike Osborne, the founder and vice president of merchandising at Wine.com, the largest on-line retailer in the U.S., is also seeing. One hot spot for his company is critically praised wines costing $20 or less, where prices have remained flat and quality has increased.
What are consumers buying this year? Not necessarily what you’d expect:
? Rose (for which the Wine Curmudgeon will take a little credit, given how I have pushed rose for the past six years at great personal sacrifice in the form of the blog numbers). Osborn says rose sales at Wine.com were up 17 percent this year, and he doesn’t expect that to slow down anytime soon. Rose as a holiday gift, perhaps?
? Sparkling wine, which should not be surprising to anyone who has followed the blog this year. It’s not news that we’re buying it during the holidays, which always happens, but that we’re buying more of it, at other times of the year, and that much of it is coming from Spain and Italy. Though, and I suppose I’ll have to learn to live with this, the biggest sellers at Wine.com remain the couple of most overpriced and overhyped Champagnes in the world.
? Wines that aren’t from California — and if they are, they aren’t from Napa. Everyone I talked to mentioned one of Spain, Washington state, South America, and California’s Central Cost as the hot regions that combine price and quality.
? Wines not made with chardonnay, cabernet sauvingon, and merlot. Grenache, mouvedre, and riesling each came up, and everyone agreed that U.S. wine drinkers were becoming more adventurous and more willing to try different things, a trend that started a couple of years ago and has only increased since then.
? Pinot noir, whether it’s because there are quality wines for as little as $10 or because California winemakers are making more accessible pinots, minus the tannins and high alcohol of years past, is rebounding from a couple of off years.
Finally, some things have not changed at all. The Dallas-area retailer, whose store is located at one of the highest-volume intersections in the U.S. and whose customers don’t mind spending money, says one of his biggest sellers this holiday season will be $10 Bogle chardonnay. Even the wealthy know a good deal when they see one.