Rosé Wine Sales Stay Hot

As rosé and DtC sale surge, overall wine sales in the U.S. remain steady

by Peter Mitham
Sales of rosé wines priced between $15 and $19.99 have more than doubled in the past 52 weeks according to market research firm IRI..

San Rafael, Calif.—U.S. wine sales were steady in April, with strong sales underpinned by the full range of options on offer to consumers. While growth in table wine sales softened, rosé growth outpaced the category with sales in the past year rising 53%.

Meanwhile, surging direct to consumer (DtC) saw both rosé and sparkling wine — key varietals driving growth of packaged imports — moving in ever greater volumes from U.S. wineries to consumers.

Wines Vines Analytics/ShipCompliant by Sovos report total DtC shipments of $290 million, up 28% from a year ago. Case volumes increased 23% to 603,232. Growth for the month exceeded that of the latest 12 months, and also saw the average bottle price rise 3% versus April 2017 to $40.05.

Cabernet Sauvignon still holds the crown with a 28% share of the channel, but that’s down from 30% last year. Rising volumes have given a lift to Pinot Noir, now at 17% channel share, as well as Zinfandel and all other varietals, which claim 5% and 27% of the channel, respectively.

Drilling down into the top varietals and wine types, however, the picture becomes more interesting. While all the major varietals saw volumes increase in the latest 12 months, sparkling wine shipments increased 32% to total $69 million — sufficient to overtake Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc as the seventh most-shipped varietal. Rosé, meanwhile, edged out Cabernet Franc for 10th place with the strongest growth of any wine type at 48% and shipments totaling $48 million.

Both sparkling and rosé producers attribute greater DtC shipments to consumer interest in the wines.

Argyle Winery in Dundee, Ore., is a well-known sparkling producer in the Northwest. “It seems to us to be more consumer interest in general on sparkling, and the interest in learning more about sparkling,” said Rob Alstrin, sales director with Argyle.

DtC sales generally have increased 21% year-to-date versus last year, and demand led Argyle to introduce an Extended Tirage series of sparkling wines specifically for its wine club members. The new series features sparkling wines produced in smaller quantities that command a higher price. It has had no trouble selling them.

Sparkling rosé sales have also grown, outstripping production, highlighting the momentum for both types of wine — a momentum that rosé generally is exhibiting for producers such as Matthiasson of Napa and Crimson Wine Group, which owns properties in both California and Washington.

The surge in rosé offerings might ordinarily be a concern, Steve Matthiasson told Wines & Vines, but the rising tide seems to have lifted all boats. Matthiasson’s shipments of rosé aren’t increasing like they did three years ago but they are holding steady. “So we’re actually happy,” he said. “It’s settled into more of a kind of steady thing for us.”

Steady demand for rosé was enough to prompt Crimson to launch a rosé-specific brand, Malene, which is rolling out two offerings exclusively for DtC.

“They’ll both be DtC-only and we’re really excited to start having folks taste them,” said Emilie Eliason, vice-president, marketing with Crimson.

Malene is also seeing good demand at retail, as is a rosé from Walla Walla’s Seven Hills Winery. Seven Hills’ offering typically sells in the $15-$19.99 price segment, where market research firm IRI reported that rosé sales increased 119% in the 52 weeks ended April 22. The growth outstripped that of total wine sales through multiple-outlet and convenience stores IRI tracks, which increased a mere 3% over last year to reach $686 million.

Sales for the latest 52 weeks also rose 3% above a year earlier to $8.9 billion. Domestic table wines outstripped growth in domestic sparkling wines, rising 3% in the month versus a 2% increase for sparkling. Both categories reported 3% growth for the year, consistent with domestic wine sales generally.

U.S. wine sales were unchanged from a year earlier at $2.9 billion in April, market research firm bw166 reported. Domestic table wine sales were $8 million lower than a year earlier offsetting greater sales of sparkling wine (up $3 million) and imported bulk wine (up $5 million). A similar dynamic played out in the latest 12 months. While sales of domestic table increased by $70 million and sparkling wines gained $59 million in sales, bulk imports rose by $440 million, leading domestic wine sales 1% higher.

Yet the real story of the latest 12 months was packaged imports, which drove growth in total wine sales nationwide. While imported sparkling wine increased 10%, a gain of $368 million, imported table wines increased by 6%, or $866 million. All told, the category saw an additional $1.2 billion in sales in the period, up 6% from a year ago. This was more than double the $570 million in additional sales logged by domestic wines (including bulk imports). The activity drove total wine sales in the U.S. 3% higher in the latest 12 months to $63 billion.

Steady sales continued to support winery hiring. With the approaching summer season, demand for DtC positions (including tasting room and retail staff) increased 28%, leading Winejobs.com’s Winery Jobs Index 16% higher than it was a year ago. The index reading of 482 was just 3% below last month’s all-time high of 497.

Greater demand was also seen for winemaking roles (up 22%) and vineyard labor (up 12%). Demand for finance roles and general administration and other staff dropped 22% and 18%, respectively.

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