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Sweet red wine by the numbers

Sweet red wine continues to burrow its way into the consciousness of the U.S. wine drinker, according to two recent reports that looked at sales data. I’m still not sure anyone knows exactly what this means, but I am willing to guess that it has a lot of people in the wine business dazed and confused.

More, after the jump:


The latest numbers from the SymphonyIRI Group, considered one of the two most important companies that track wine sales, notes that Apothic is the 10th biggest table wine brand in the $8-$10.99 range. It saw sales grow 129 percent in the 52 weeks ending July 8, totaling $31.3 million. Why is this so significant? Because Apothic, for all practical purposes, sells just one wine – a sweet red. In this, consumers bought more Apothic over the last year than they did Smoking Loon and Columbia Crest, more typical brands that offer the usual range of varietals and that were 12th and 13th in the report.

Or, to look at it another way, Apothic, owned by E&J Gallo, sold some 300,000 cases of wine over that 52 week period. That’s almost one-half of one percent of all of Gallo’s volume – not bad for a brand that’s just a couple of years old in a category that has traditionally been ignored by the wine business. How much back slapping and high fiving do you think went on at Gallo headquarters when those numbers came out?

The other study was released by Technomics, best known as the leading restaurant consultancy in the country (and that it is doing wine reports says something about how important wine is becoming). Technomics tracked the top 250 wine and wine-like brands, and discovered that Apothic was the fastest growing brand in 2011, up 566.7 percent from 2010. That’s even better than the top premixed cocktail brand, and premixed cocktails are currently all the rage among the liquor trade cognoscenti.

One caveat: If you click on the links, you’ll notice that Technomics and SymphonyIRI report different sales numbers for the same product, which is something that those of us who pay attention to these things have learned to accept. Counting the number of cases of wine sold is not an exact science.

What makes these numbers even more significant is that they’re only a hint of what’s going on. Most wine companies are privately owned, so sales figures are closely held. We don’t know how well sweet reds from other brands did, since they’re just one wine among several and studies like these don't differentiate between different wines from the same company.

Cupcake Vineyards, for example, was No. 2 in the SymphonyIRI report and fourth in the Technomics. Most of Cupcake’s wines are best-sellers, but I’d love to see how much of that growth came from its Red Velvet, a sweet red that is only a year or two old. If it sold anywhere close to what the Cupcake chardonnay or pinot grigio did, we are truly in a different world than most of us think.

  • carlo donari

    takeaway: the US market is dominated by supermarkets and companies with big muscle impose what is drunk, moreover, US consumers have a good palate for grape juice, not so much for real wine…keep adding sugar!

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jeffsiegel Jeff Siegel

    Your analysis is probably correct, Carlo. And if it is, what does it mean for the wine business as whole, which has worked so long and hard to get Americans to drink dry wine?

  • Eric Jackson

    Well lets think about this for a minute. Many Americans love their sweets. Candy,pop,ice cream,apple pie. So i would expect numbers like this. But i think Americans are also still young in their wine tasting experience. I know here in the midwest alot of people are starting to enjoy a good sweet wine espicially in the hot summer. But as their tastes mature and the more wine we consume we should start to see an uptick in dry wine sales in the future. And thanks to guys like Jeff who are educating us on what a great wine should be!!

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