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02.27.2014  
 

Oregon Pulls Ahead With DtC Sales

Willamette Valley Pinot Noir gains in popularity as distribution improves

 
by Kate Lavin
 
 
“oregon
 
Source: Silicon Valley Bank Wine Division
Portland, Ore.—Oregon wines have made headway with consumers during the past five years, but there is still room for improvement, according to experts speaking at the Oregon Wine Industry Symposium held this week at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland.

“One of Oregon’s barriers has been distribution in the marketplace,” said Christian Miller, proprietor of Full Glass Research and research director of Wine Opinions. Luckily, consumer perception of this problem is on the upswing.

According to Wine Opinions’ survey of perceived marketing conditions, 52% of respondents said retailers carry many wines from Oregon and can recommend them, a 19% increase since 2009. Additionally, the number of respondents who found Oregon wines difficult to find on the shelves fell to 24% from 32% in 2009.

Buying more Oregon wine
According to a survey Wine Opinions conducted of regular wine drinkers in January 2014, 31% of respondents report that they’re buying more wine from the Willamette Valley, while just 7% say they’re buying less. Eleven percent of respondents say they’re buying more wine from non-specified Oregon locations, while just 6% say they’re buying less.

Looking at Pinot Noir specifically, 44% of respondents reported buying more Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, while 6% reported buying less. Sixteen percent of those surveyed are buying more Pinot Noir from the Oregon appellation (compared to 7% buying less).

Among self-identified Pinot Noir fans, 55% said they drink Oregon Pinot frequently; 41% of high-end wine consumers report the same. In spite of these glowing numbers from Wine Opinions, the statistics lag behind California Pinot Noir figures, for which 86% of Pinot Noir fans reported drinking the variety from that state and 51% of high-end consumers reported the same.

Retail sales
For the 52 weeks ending Jan. 5, 2013, Oregon wine sales grew 6.5% by value and 5.2% by volume, comprising nearly 1% of all table wine sold in outlets tracked by Nielsen Co. With an average bottle price of $15.39 during the same time period, Oregon wines net prices higher than California, Washington or imported wines.

While Oregon wines account for just 0.4% of wine volume sold at retail outlets tracked by Nielsen Co., they account for 3.6% of the domestic wine shipped direct to consumers, according to the model developed by ShipCompliant and Wines Vines Analytics, the data arm of Wines & Vines. Fifty-four percent of the Oregon wine volume shipped direct to consumer is Pinot Noir, with Chardonnay and red blends ranking second and third.

“You’re much more important in the market than your production would indicate,” he told the audience at the event sponsored by the Oregon Wine Board/Oregon Winegrowers Association.

More than 15% of the Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio direct shipped by wineries comes from Oregon, according to the model. Direct-to-consumer shipments originate with orders placed through wine clubs, by mail, via websites or visits to tasting rooms. He noted that 13.8% of all domestic Pinot Noir sold through this channel comes from Oregon. Oregon also has an 11.3% share in the Riesling sold in this manner.

While Oregon Chardonnay is popular among direct-to-consumer shoppers buying Oregon wine, 12% of regular wine drinkers surveyed by Wine Opinions were unaware that Oregon produced Chardonnay, and 22% said they had “heard about it but never tried it.” Results were similar for Pinot Gris, which some wineries and associations are trying to make the state’s flagship white wine variety.

The winery perspective
Mark Freund, managing director of Silicon Valley Bank’s Wine Division, also spoke during the State of the Industry session Tuesday, when he discussed the results of SVB’s 2013 Wine Conditions Survey.

Forty-two percent of survey respondents from Oregon said 2013 was a good year, while the national average was 33%. However, 23% of Oregon respondents reported that it was “a year of treading water.”

Respondents estimated that in 2013 sales grew 10% over the previous year, while volume grew 9.4%. More than 75% of Oregon’s survey respondents rated their financial health between “good” and “rock solid.”

Regarding the three-tier distribution system, “Oregon finished ahead of all other geographies in terms of how well they think they are being represented by distribution,” Freund said.

Plans for 2014
Nearly 61% of Oregon wineries responding to SVB’s survey said they plan to raise prices during 2014. Thirty-six percent of Oregon wineries plan to hold prices steady, and 3.3% plan to lower prices.

Thirty-six percent of Oregon winery respondents admitted to a “possible” sale looming, 4.75% more than the national average.

 

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