San Rafael, Calif.
The value of DtC shipments in September spiked to $133 million. If seasonal trends hold, sales will surpass $200 million in November.
—September wine sales posted strong gains over 2011 in both the retail and direct-to-consumer sales channels. Sales for domestic table wines at food and drug stores grew 7% to $377 million in September, and the value of DtC shipments reached $133 million, according to WinesVinesDATA.
The complete set of wine industry statistics can be found on the Wines & Vines Wine Industry Metrics page
Tracking DtC shipments by varietal, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel were the hottest in the past 12 months, growing 21% and 18% respectively in value. Conversely, Cabernet Franc fell 5%, and Merlot dropped by 10%. With 36% growth over September 2011, and if October and November sales beat September as they traditionally do, the value of the channel could grow to well over $200 million in both October and November.
Red blends up in stores
Retail sales for red blends/Meritage grew by 26% this year, fueled by California and Washington state wines. Brands such as Ménage à Trois
led the charge. “This category just continues to be the place to be,” said Curtis Mann, director of client insights for the Symphony IRI Group
The Fumé/Sauvignon Blanc category also saw strong growth, posting a 14% increase in sales growth and accounting for $176 million in sales value. The category owes much of its increase to New Zealand wines as well as California wines.
Syrah sales plummeted by 16% to $58 million. Mann attributed the lackluster sales of Syrah to factors including inconsistent styles and the lack of a top-tier U.S. winery or wineries promoting the varietal.
Consumers appear willing to embrace (or at least try) wine in pouches. Sales of 500ml wine pouches grew by 35% and topped $100 million in value. While 3-liter bottle sales dropped by 10%, the demand for 3-liter boxes grew by 17%.
Wine flash offers up 50%
Flash sites continue to grow as a sales channel for the wine industry. The 3,895 total wine offers in the past nine months was 50% larger than the total for the same period in 2011. September offers were up just 11%.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the most common wine offered by flash sites, but in this area red blends saw tremendous growth as well. The number of offers for red blends more than doubled between 2011 and 2012. The average flash price for this varietal also saw the largest growth, from $34 to $41.
Just as the popularity of red blends was evident in both the flash channel, so too were Syrah’s challenges. The varietal saw the lowest growth in offers year to year, and its average flash price dropped by a dollar (from $24 to $23.)
Winery hiring activity cools
The Winery Job Index by Winejobs.com
posted a 20% drop in hiring activity in September, due in part to a shorter number of business days during the month than last year—19 vs. 21. The category of hospitality jobs declined the most at 25% and sales and marketing fell by 14%. With most wineries fully staffed for the 2012 vintage, production job postings slipped by 5%.
New wineries multiply
WinesVinesDATA also showed that the number of U.S. wineries grew to 7,406 in September, up 2% from September 2011. California dominated the count of all new bonded and virtual wineries but new wineries, many in urban settings, spread across many states.