California Home to 19 of Top 20 Luxury Brands

Symphony IRI data show off-premise sales strong for $20-plus wines

by Jim Gordon
symphony iri off-premise wine sales
San Rafael, Calif.—Nineteen of the top 20 luxury-priced brands sold off-premise come from California. The only one that isn’t domestic comes from Italy, and it holds the No. 1 spot.

Santa Margherita is by far the biggest selling wine brand in the $20-plus category sold at major U.S. food and drug stores whose sales are monitored by the Symphony IRI Group (SIG), a Chicago-based market research firm. Well known for its luxury-priced Pinot Grigio, Santa Margherita tallied sales in the 52 weeks ending June 10 that more than doubled those of its nearest competitor, Sonoma Cutrer.

With Napa-based Rombauer in third place, the top three brands hold the same slots as the last time Wines & Vines reviewed this top 20 segment. (See “Highest Priced Wines Grow Fastest” in the October 2010 issue.) New at No. 4 is Duckhorn Vineyards’ Decoy brand, and Stags’ Leap Winery bounded past Charles Krug to take the No. 5 spot.

Belle Glos (including sister label Meiomi) from the Wagner family of Napa Valley grew faster than all the other top 20 brands, showing a 175% increase in dollars and $3.1 million in 52-week sales. “They’re the hottest thing out there for Pinot Noir,” said Curtis Mann, director of client insights at SIG. Two other Wagner brands, Caymus and Conundrum, also made the list, for a total of $10.9 million.

Caymus was the first blue-chip Napa Valley Cabernet brand to reduce prices during the recession, but now its price has gone up by $10 per bottle during the past year. Rombauer showed atypically slow growth of 3%, but Mann said this popular on-premise brand may be simply in short supply for retail.

Besides Decoy and Belle Glos, the other brands new to the top 20 are Francis Ford Coppola Director’s Cut, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and Justin. California brands Cakebread, Newton, Trefethen and Beaulieu dropped off the list, along with Ruffino Riserva from Italy.

The $20-plus category has been growing fast off-premise since late 2009, and domestic table wines in this range continued to grow at 26% during the previous 52 weeks. Growth in the category  slowed to 11% during the most recent four weeks, but Mann said he is not convinced the slowdown will last.

Domestic table wine at all price points continued to grow at 7% in dollars during the most recent four weeks as well as during the past 52 weeks.

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