Tag Archives: pandemic wine

Supermarket wine sales during the pandemic

supermarket wine
I need more Barefoot, Josh Cellars, Bota Box, and Stella Rosa!

We’re probably buying more supermarket wine during the pandemic, though we have less to choose from – and we’re likely drinking it with a home-cooked dinner

Supermarket wine seems to be thriving during the pandemic, as we make fewer trips and buy more items – including wine – at one store instead of splitting the trip into two or three stops.

Why seems? Because, as with so many things wine, there are few reliable statistics. As one of the country’s leading supermarket analysts told me, “I’ve heard that’s true, and a lot of people are talking about it, but I haven’t actually seen any numbers about it.”

So what do we know?

• Sales appear to increasing. Kroger reported in December that sauvignon blanc was its fourth most popular purchase in 2020, ahead of bags of chocolate candies and burger patties. In addition, noted the annual Wine Business Monthly study, four supermarket brands — Josh Cellars, Barefoot, Stella Rosa, and Bota — grew significantly in 2020. Stella Rosa, a sweet red, was up almost 108 percent.

• We could buying more private label supermarket wine, according to  the Wine Business Monthly study. This ties into a 2020 food industry report that “three in 10 shoppers said they were buying more store brands than before the pandemic,” and while the report doesn’t mention wine, it does talk about increased demand for all private label products.

• Because price still matters, despite premiumization. The New York Times reported in September that “shoppers are being more economical,” and if it’s true for beans and laundry detergent, it may well be true for wine. That’s my sense, anyway, and especially as I struggle to find cheap wine regularly stocked on store shelves. My Aldi, for example, is regularly sold out of my favorite cheap wines.

• We’re cooking more at home, and it looks like this will continue after the pandemic winds down. And that almost certainly means more supermarket wine sales, as shoppers pick up wine to go with dinner. I was skeptical when I saw this report about home cooking this fall, but more analysts say it looks to be the case. Kroger’s chairman told the Times: “People are moving on to more complex cooking, and we don’t see that going away.”

• Fewer wines to choose from when we do buy in a supermarket, by almost five percent, according to Nielsen. This is part of a larger trend, as retailers cut back on inventory in all departments. Interestingly, that five percent was one of the smallest decreases among the 13 categories in the survey. Is this is another hint at wine’s importance to supermarkets during the pandemic?

• More on-line wine sales. Combine better supermarket technology with relaxed state laws, and supermarket on-line sales probably increased, too. I can buy via Instacart or directly from the retailer’s at half a dozen Dallas grocers. In 2019, there were maybe a couple.

Winebits 681: Ed O’Keefe, Internet wine, pandemic wine

ed o'keefeThis week’s wine news: Drink Local pioneer Ed O’Keefe has died, plus a study says consumers may be wary of Internet wine and a French producer addresses the pandemic

Ed O’Keefe has died: Ed O’Keefe Jr., who started Michigan’s Chateau Grand Traverse winery in 1976, has died, aged 89. I was lucky enough to interview O’Keefe several times over the years, and he was featured in a 1995 American Way story featuring U.S. wineries that weren’t in California. It was my first piece ever about regional wine. The story in the link, from the Detroit Free Press, tells O’Keefe’s story, but what impressed me was that he always ignored everyone who said regional wine didn’t matter. And he was right.

Internet wine: Some of us may want to buy wine over the Internet, but a surprising number of aren’t interested. That’s the result of a study by the Wine Intelligence consultancy, which found that only 58 percent of “regular” U.S. wine drinkers would buy wine on-line. The number, given all the time and effort so many of us have made to make Internet wine possible, reminds us how traditional – and resistant to change – that wine drinkers are in this country.

Call it “Vaccs’vin:” A French producer has released a wine called Vaccs’vin– perfect for the pandemic, since its goal is “just to make people laugh” – and it’s sold without a prescription. Sadly, the wine, made with merlot, won’t be available in the U.S. We could use some giggles these days, yes?

Buying wine online: Six months of virtual shopping during the pandemic

buying wine online
“Hmmm.. what does the WC say about buying newer vintages?

Seven things I’ve learned while buying wine online during the pandemic

Buying wine online during the pandemic has not necessarily been difficult. Aggravating in many ways, certainly, and especially for anyone who likes to visit wine shops. Virtual shopping is just not the same as holding a bottle in your hand and waving at the employee in the next aisle.

Having said that, there’s something to be said for buying wine at the keyboard instead of masking up and braving a retailer in a state where not everyone believes in science. So, seven things I’ve learned to make buying wine on-line easier during the pandemic:

• Retailer websites are what they are, and that isn’t Amazon – and there’s nothing you can do about it. When the pandemic started, several analysts told me that most retailer e-services weren’t prepared to handle the traffic they would soon get. So when national e-tailer Wine.com has to apologize because it’s having trouble filling orders, imagine how much trouble smaller retailers are having. Consider one Dallas retail site advertising 15 wines for $15 or less – three of which cost more than $15.

• Pricing is all over the place. The La Vieille Ferme French rose, long a Wine Curmudgeon staple, costs $8.99 on Wine.com and at Whole Foods; $6.99 at Total Wine; $14.99 for 1.5 liters, the equivalent of two bottles, at Kroger via Instacart; $8.95 at Central Market, the Texas version of Whole Foods; and $7.34 at Spec’s, Texas biggest retailers (but it isn’t for sale on Spec’s via Instacart).

• Bookmark the LCBO website – the government owned retailer for Canada’s Ontario province. It includes alcohol levels, something many retail websites don’t list. Because they don’t, I’ve bought too many whites and roses at 14 ½ percent, which is not what I want in a white or rose.

• Scores and winespeak dominate, which does most of us – since we aren’t looking for trophy wines – no good. How about a wine that “expresses citrus and floral notes reminiscent of hawthorn and vine flower. “ Oh yeah, hawthorn and vine flower. On the other hand, I’ve had decent luck with the star ratings on Wine.com; less than 4, and I know to stay away.

Where’s the wine?

• Availability is just as goofy as pricing, and not just for the wine made with weird grapes that I like. It’s even true for mass market products like the La Vieille. I bought it on Wine.com on Sept. 10, but when I checked the price for this post, about two weeks later, it was sold out. This vanishing act happens on other other retailer sites, large and small. Much of it stems from increased demand, as more of us buy wine online, as well as pandemic-related supply chain problems. Plus, as one retailer told me, they’re keeping less wine in inventory to cut costs. My advice? If you see something you like, buy more than one. No guarantee it will be there next time.

• Given this limit in selection, I’ve been forced to try different wines and different styles. Which has been terrific – who wants to get in a wine drinking rut? That includes a variety of South African wines, several from the New World, and even Italian sparkling.

• If the site doesn’t list a vintage, good luck – and many don’t. I’ve had wines as old as 2013 dumped on me, with not unexpected results – oxidized, spoiled, or vinegary. In addition, if the e-tailer is out of one vintage, it will substitute another (check the fine print on the site, which says whether they do this). That’s a problem when I’m buying a 2019 to review and get a 2016 instead. Hence, I’ve started leaving notes, specifying which vintages I’ll take, Otherwise, I tell them to skip that wine.

Finally, make sure to uncheck all the “We’re going to send you e-mails, e-mails, and more e-mails” boxes in the permissions in your account. Otherwise, you’ll spend more time deleting email than buying wine. And, no, Instacart, I don’t want to rate my delivery experience with Eric, no matter how many times you ask me.

Photo: My Friend’s Coffee by John Beans is licensed under CC BY 2.0

More about buying wine online:
Is the coronavirus pandemic the beginning of changes to the three-tier system?
The buying wine on-line checklist
Winecast 45: DCanter’s Michael Warner and wine retail trends during the duration

Winebits 665: Restaurant wine, intellectual property, legal weed

This week’s wine news: High-end restaurants are selling their wine collections to raise cash to say in business. Plus, an Argentine winery may have stolen an artist’s work and more woes for legal weed

So long, wine collection: Nation’s Restaurant News calls them “great wine cellar sell-offs of 2020.” High-end restaurants, which often spend years putting together award-winning wine lists, are selling their wines to stay in business during the pandemic. One New Jersey chain sold as much as 40 percent of its wine; a New York City restaurant turned its wine into $50,000 when it was closed in March and April. Said the restaurant’s wine director: “For us, if it’s between saving the cellar or the restaurant, save the restaurant. Product can be replaced, but you can’t replace the loyal staff members who have been with you for 10 years. A well-stocked wine cellar is of minimal value without the staff who sells it.” Restaurant wine pricing has come in for a lot of criticism on the blog over the years, but no one likes to see this going on.

Give me back my art: An Argentine winery has allegedly stolen a drawing from a well-known U.S. artist, using the art work to decorate its box wine. ArtNet.com (bet you never thought you’d see that link on a wine site) reports that Shantell Martin says Bodegas San Huberto lifted the label for the company’s Aminga Malbec from drawings she made for a work she created for a 2017 show at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo. There’s a picture of the box and the drawing at the link, and they do look quite similar. The story also says Martin’s work appears to be ripped off regularly, and once by retailer Lane Bryant.

More losses for legal weed: One of Canada’s biggest legal weed companies says it lost C$3.3 billion (about US$2.47 billion) in its 2020 fiscal year. Aurora Cannabis saw net revenue fall by some 30 percent and the company laid off thousands. In other words, more bad news for legal weed. And I’m not the only one who feels that way – the comments to the story, posted on the CBC website, wonder how it’s possible to lose billions of dollars selling marijuana. That’s a fair question, eh?