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Top Wine Web Stories in 2013

Online readers drawn to successful brands, labels and winemaking

by Andrew Adams
IRI off-premise wine sales
San Rafael, Calif.—The most read web story at during 2013 was a look at the top 20 new wine brands of the year.

Some of the other most popular stories included a report about the challenges of picking a winery name, different views on Brettanomyces, an examination of California’s bizarre and obscure alcohol laws and managing a successful wine club.

A report about the industry’s top 20 brands overall (not just new ones) was the second most read story at The two articles by Wines & Vines editor Jim Gordon were based on data by the market research firm IRI. Such analysis is part of the regular Wines Vines Analytics metrics reports released each month by Wines & Vines.

The following top 10 list is based on web traffic numbers according to Google analytics and does not reflect the news value of a particular story or event.

1. Eye-Catching Names Lead Top 20 New Wine Brands, March 15 (9,386 pageviews)
Fresh brands with provocative names like Skinnygirl, Ooh La La and Stark Raving made the Top 20 New Table Wine Brands of 2012, as selected by the IRI group in Chicago. At least half a dozen appeared to be targeting female consumers, while only one new “critter” brand—Curious Beasts—made the top 20 this year. Wine companies other than the big three—E. & J. Gallo, The Wine Group and Constellation Brands—launched the top four brands out of 20. Skinnygirl by Beam Global ranked No. 1 and led No. 2 Be wines from Treasury Wine Estates by more than $1.5 million cases.

2. Half of the top 20 brands belong to Gallo and Constellation, June 5 (4,526 pageviews)

Winery giants E. & J. Gallo and Constellation Wines dominated the top 20 wine brands selling off-premise through May. Each of the industry giants claim five brands in the top 20. Gallo clearly led the pack in 52-week sales with $678 million collectively among five labels, and its Barefoot brand was No. 1 with $323 million. Barefoot was already No. 1 when we last published this list in August 2011, but since then the $6-per-bottle brand added $68 million in annual sales. Sutter Home was No. 2 two years ago, and it held that place in the new rankings with virtually the same $208 million.

3. New Thinking in the Brett Debate, April 4 (4,145 pageviews)
As much as it’s reviled, Brettanomyces still has its supporters in those who think a little bit of barnyard or wet dog imparts a distinct identity to their wines. The clean, modern winemaking practices of the sort espoused by the University of California, Davis, have long put Brett squarely in the menace category. Dr. Linda Bisson, who studies the metabolic pathways of yeast at UC Davis, however, likened Brett to a color in an artist’s palette. Granted, it might be a color similar to a brash, fluorescent green that is best used sparingly, she told Wines & Vines.

4. Why Vintners Can’t Sign Wine Labels, March 21 (4,071 pageviews)
The most lively sessions at a two-day industry symposium sponsored by the Seminar Group were an update about California’s onerous tied-house laws and holding events in Napa County, which has the most restrictive regulations for winery events in the United States.

5 Experts Dissect Effective Wine Labels, June 25 (3,928 pageviews)
Labels & Labeling magazine assembled a diverse professional panel to address a webinar focused on the North American wine industry June 18. The agenda, moderated by Labels & Labeling North America editor Danielle Jerschefske, included the industry’s continued strong growth, buying patterns of Baby Boomer vs. Millennial consumers, the intricacies of planning and producing effective labels and improving technology and materials.

6. What’s in a Winery Name? April 23 (3,412 pageviews)
“You want to have a simple, memorable name that is not too difficult to pronounce or spell,” said Dr. Liz Thach, wine business professor at Sonoma State University. Naming a business is a serious business—part sentiment, part art, part science—and can have serious economic ramifications.

7. Predicting Wine Club Member Behavior, June 24 (3,397 pageviews)
If you have a good idea of who your average wine club member is (age, gender and buying habits), then you’ll have a better chance of convincing him not to leave your club. That was the key message from direct-to-consumer sales experts at a forum June 20 at Sonoma State University. Understanding more about your existing customers can also help you target new wine buyers as well.

8. Winemakers Blind Taste Each Other’s Trials, July 8 (3,377 pageviews)
Rarely do winemakers get the opportunity to blind taste other winemakers’ experiments with wine quality, particularly examining the effects of various winemaking techniques in a controlled, peer-reviewed environment. A recent event called The Winemakers Tasting helped fill that vacuum for members of the Napa Valley Vintners. About 60 winemakers came to The Culinary Institute of America, Greystone, to blind-taste 21 trials involving harvest methods, yeast selection, fermentor type, extended maceration, oak types, closures and more. The results were dramatic in some cases.

9. Mary Kay Meets Merlot, July 9 (2,920 pageviews)
Forget Tupperware and Mary Kay cosmetics; Boisset Family Estates has been quietly testing home parties for selling wine since May 2012. The umbrella company for Jean-Charles Boisset’s California wine companies already has grown from eight to a few hundred “ambassadors” arranging parties and telling attendees about Boisset wines made in California. Leaders at Boisset like the idea of selling wine and building visibility for the company’s brands. It’s well known that personal recommendation has a powerful impact on buying wine. It’s not a new idea in wine sales but is unusual for a major U.S. wine producer.

10. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in Napa, Jan. 28 (2,836 pageviews)
Tighter enforcement of existing rules and applications to substantially increase wine production at two wineries have inspired a new look at a long-dormant aspect of Napa County’s 1990 Winery Definition Ordinance. Among many other provisions such as outlawing weddings and corporate meetings at wineries, the ordinance allowed the approximately 250 existing wineries at the time to continue sourcing grapes from outside the county to make wine. New wineries in areas zoned for agriculture had to get at least 75% of their grapes from within the county. In any case, a wine has to be made from 85% Napa County grapes to use a Napa Valley American Viticultural Appellation designation on its label. The “75% Rule” was likely critical in passing the ordinance, which all groups agree has greatly benefitted Napa’s wine business.

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