This week’s wine news: Sommeliers pick supermarket wine, plus another shout out for wine ingredient labels and Kroger expands its on-line wine business
• Interesting choices: Vinepair asked sommeliers to pick quality supermarket wine, and what struck me as how un-supermarket so many of the wines were. How many of us go to the grocers to spend $60 for a bottle of Jordan cabernent sauvignon? And you can tell many of the sommeleirs had not bought wine at a grocery store lately, given the number of hard to find European wines they selected. Still, it was good to see Dallas’ Barbara Werley select Chateau Ste. Michelle and Houston’s Jay Pyle pick the Matua sauvignon blanc, a top $10 wine.
• Thank you: Mike Veseth, The Wine Economist, says “I believe that wine, beer, and spirits will eventually be required to list their ingredients and nutritional data. I wonder what would happen if wine were to take a voluntary step and be more transparent now as a way to shape the narrative?” Which is good news for those of us who have fought long and hard for ingredient and nutritional labels and to convince to join the 21st century. Veseth’s reasoning is well taken: “We might think wine is special — and it is in many ways — but we shouldn’t assume that it is immune to the forces that are making transparency, accountability, and technology more important every day.”
• Good luck: Kroger has expanded its on-line wine store to 19 states and Washington, D.C, offering – get this – some four dozen wines “selected by winemakers and sommeliers for their quality, value and flavor profiles.” I wonder: Is it a coincidence that one of the wines is the Matua sauvignon blanc? You can check out the store at this link – just click on one of the states listed in the menu. Selection is limited, and most of the wines aren’t well known. But it is intriguing that Kroger is trying something that mighty Amazon gave up on long ago.
This week’s wine news: Rose growth continues, plus Coke is launching alcopop in Japan and on-line grocery store wine sales
• Bring on the pink: Rose shows no signs of slowing down, despite what some curmudgeonly wine writers might think. This post in a trade publication calls it a “category killer,” which means its sales are growing much, much faster than other wines. According to Nielsen, rose is outpacing overall U.S. wine growth and still growing at double digits – “a rate unheard of in other categories.” I’m convinced (and ignoring the hip factor, which has played a role) that’s because rose represents one of the last values in wine – a quality product at a fair price that tastes like it should.
• One more time: Coke, whose failure in the wine business 30 years ago was almost as big a debacle as New Coke, is launching an alcoholic beverage in Japan – call it alcopop. The BBC reports that Coke wants to take advantage of “the country’s growing taste for Chu-Hi — canned sparkling flavored drinks given a kick with a local spirit called shochu.” The products, sweet and fizzy, have about as much alcohol as beer, three to eight percent. Chu-Hi is especially popular with younger women.
• Directly to your door: A European consultancy says U.S. supermarkets will boost wine sales via on-line and home delivery – shocking news for those of us who have watched the three-tier system have the opposite effect. But a Rabobank report says its “relative irrelevance will not last long. We firmly believe it will develop into the most important driver of on-line alcohol sales.” The reason, says the report, is that alcohol delivery will benefit from projected growth in increased grocery store delivery, piggybacking on its increase. It also cites a huge boost in Google searches for “alcohol delivery.” Which is all well and good, but there’s a long way from a Google search to actual on-line delivery.
? YellowTail growth resumes: Remember all those stories about how the strong Australian dollar and YellowTail’s financial problems were going to mean the end of an era for Aussie wine? Not true, apparently. The biggest imported brand in the U.S. expects 2 1/2 percent gorwth this year, reaching almost 9 million cases. Driving that growth are the brand’s two sweet red labels, including a sangria. That YellowTail has rebounded from its problems says much about its marketing skill, but also speaks about its clout with retailers. How many other brands could have slumped the way YellowTail did, but not lose shelf space and even added space for two more wines? In this respect, Big Wine is becoming more and more like other consumer goods, be they ketchup or detergent, with all the means — good and bad — for the consumer.
? Is craft beer headed for a bust? This matters to wine not only because craft beer competes for drinkers with wine, especially in the younger demographics, but because the growth in craft beer (“But even such a healthy rise in consumer demand won’t be enough to sustain the many new breweries jumping into the marketplace“) has similarities to what happened in California with “boutique” wineries heading into the recession and with the unprecedented growth in moscato and sweet red over the past couple of years. What’s interesting is that someone in craft beer has noticed what ?s going on, while almost everyone in wine was in denial before the recession and during the moscato and sweet red boom.
? If you can sell wine on-line. ..: You can sell a lot of it. That was the experience of the British supermarket chain Tesco, which doesn’t face the three-tier restrictions that U.S. retailers face in this country. The story, on the drinks business trade magazine site, says sales may have gone up as much as 51 percent over the same period last year, and offers all the reasons why that is so. Contrast this with Amazon’s wine marketplace, which after nine months still can’t sell wine in all 50 states.