San Rafael, Calif.
—Based on the latest round of metrics, the North American wine industry closed out 2012 in robust fashion as retail and direct-to-consumer sales grew and winery hiring also stayed strong.
December data, the most current batch of Wine Industry Metrics, is now available at winesandvines.com
. The 12-month index of job postings on winejobs.com
showed a 16% increase over last year, and the month-to-month activity grew by 13%. The greatest number of job postings came for hospitality employees, but the number of open winemaking jobs grew significantly between 2011 and 2012.
Strong wine sales
A 23% increase in direct-to-consumer sales for December raised the 12-month total to $1,466,000—a gain of 10%. Since 2009, DtC sales in December have grown from $87 million to $128 million in 2012. The average bottle price rose by 2% to $38.42.
Off-premise sales finished 2012 with a 6% climb that pushed the year’s total past $5 billion. December sales grew by 4% over 2011, from $462 million to $478 million.
Chardonnay led sales by varietal with Cabernet Sauvignon in second place. Merlot, a distant third, was also the only varietal to see a decrease in sales. While still a small player compared to Cabernet, red blends experienced the largest growth in sales from 2011 to 2012.
The $20-and-higher category of wines continued to post strong sales in December. In 2012, the category recorded more than $30 million in sales, which is $5 million more than in 2011 and more than twice as much as in 2008.
More wines offered through flash sites
While the initial success of flash sites was fueled by the recession, activity in the channel remains brisk even as off-premise sales show strong growth. Nearly four times as many wineries had their wines offered by flash sites in December 2012 than in January 2011.
This past December, flash sites offered wines from 382 unique U.S. wineries. A growing number of websites and a growing acceptance of online wine sales by wineries fueled the growth. There were 35% more flash offers in 2012 than 2011, and the month-to-month total grew by 5%.
Wineries grow by 1%
Growth in the total number of North American wineries slowed to a 1% increase from December 2011 to December 2012. According to WinesVinesDATA, the total now stands at 7,450. Of those, Napa County wineries have the highest average bottle price at $57, which is $20 higher than the average in the rest of the California.
Within Napa County, the average bottle price rises as the winery’s production shrinks. The county’s largest wineries, making more than 500,000 cases per year, have an average bottle price of $13, while those making less than 1,000 cases have an average price of $67.