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California Wines With Momentum

Trinchero's Ménage à Trois on top; Diageo's Snap Dragon hottest new brand

by Jim Gordon
Menage a Trois
San Rafael, Calif. -- The Ménage à Trois wine brand from California made by Trinchero Family Estates landed the No. 1 spot on the Information Resources Inc. 2009 Momentum Report released today. Ménage à Trois, a brand of red, white, rosé and Chardonnay wines in the $8-$10.99 price segment, rose to the top of the IRI Top 30 Momentum Brands, based on a combination of its dollar and volume sales, sales growth, market share and other criteria, as calculated by IRI from data collected at U.S. food and drug stores for the year ending Jan. 3, 2010.

Two California brands in the less expensive $5-$7.99 segment were in the top three: E. & J. Gallo took the No. 2 spot with its Barefoot brand, and Constellation Wines U.S. landed at No. 3 with Rex Goliath. In fact, 27 of the Top 30 Momentum brands were Californian. The only other top 30 finishers were Washington's Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, winning the 8th and 14th places with its Chateau Ste. Michelle and Red Diamond brands, and Chile's Concha y Toro Frontera brand from Banfi Vintners in the No. 30 spot.
IRI Report
IRI, the U.S. market research leader for the beverage alcohol category, calculated the Momentum leaders by taking the 98 brands with more than 100,000 cases of U.S. retail sales in 2009, compiling their performance in 10 categories, awarding points from 98 for most down to 1 for least, then totaling the points to give overall rankings.

Value as a driver

Clearly, value was an important issue driving consumers' behavior. In 2009 IRI saw an increase in the purchase of value brands. The segment with the largest increase was $3-$4.99. This segment went from a presence of only three brands of 30 in 2008 to seven in 2009.

But value means different things to different people, as the presence of several higher priced wines in the Top 30 attested.

"My opinion is that people buy wine at different price-points for different occasions," said James Nunes, managing director of marketing for Trinchero. "It boils down to: Consumers put a lot of ego into the wine they are going to serve to people. If you pour Ménage à Trois for 10 people, the majority are going to say they like it. If they like to drink it they will recommend it, and that's how this is selling."

The wine's imaginative name suggests a love triangle. The packaging is upscale but playful, and the quality of the wine is high for a California appellation. Nunes said Trinchero has done little traditional marketing other than merchandising, and has instead emphasized social media and other online marketing.

What happened to the idea that a wine had to be easy to pronounce to sell well? "I think it proves that the name has to be memorable, not some usual thing like canyon, ridge or crest," Nunes said. Ménage à Trois has grown by 60% or more annually for four years, he said.

The strong performance of Ménage à Trois at a relatively high price-point may give hope to winemakers and grapegrowers who have watched extreme value wines take much of the volume growth in sales the past two years. Further encouragement came from the 10 other brands in the Top 30 that were priced in the same segment as Ménage à Trois or higher, up to $14.99.

When you consider that the U.S. market for wine consists of about one third imports, it's interesting that only one imported brand made the Top 30. No Australian, French or Italian brands qualified. The lone import was from Chile. The previous year's top 30 had two imports.

The IRI rankings capture how well certain brands continue to perform at retail during a time of generally slower wine sales, when on-premise sales have dipped dramatically.

The Wine Group had by far the most hot brands in the IRI Top 30 Momentum list, with seven, compared to five by nearest competitor E. & J. Gallo. After those two, however, the competition was much closer. Companies with two brands each were Constellation, DFV Wines (Delicato), Diageo, Ste. Michelle and Trinchero.

Proving that smaller, independent wineries also showed momentum in 2009 were Bogle Vineyards (No. 12), C. K. Mondavi (15), Francis Coppola (17), and Rodney Strong (27).

IRI Report
Top 10 new brands

In the same report, IRI also announced the 2009 Top 10 New Table Wine Brands. A Diageo brand from Califor nia, Snap Dragon, topped that list with $1.18 million in sales over 42 weeks. Snap Dragon markets Riesling, Chardonnay, red table wine and Cabernet Sauvignon between $8-$10.99.

A hot new Fosters brand from Argentina, Colores del Sol, took the No. 2 spot with $886,000 in sales over 52 weeks ending Jan. 30, 2010, while Bodega Belgrano Head Snapper was No. 3 with $775,000 in sales over just 37 weeks.

Notably for a recession year, seven of the 2009 Top 10 New Table Wine Brands were priced at $8 and above. 

IRI, founded in 1979 and based in Chicago, is the world’s leading provider of enterprise market information and services. The company focuses on the consumer packaged goods, retail and healthcare industries. Ninety-five percent of the Fortune Global 500 in consumer packaged goods and retail use IRI, including several of the Top 30 wine brand owners.
Posted on 03.09.2010 - 07:08:52 PST
This information only highlights the fact that Gallo and large wholesalers like Southern and RNDC control grocery sets. If you flood the grocery markets with their juice and IRI gets their data from primarily grocery what do you think the outcome will be? Deep pockets and mass marketing wins again...
Wine Prof
Richmond, VA USA

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