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Winebits 354: Costco wine, wine demographics, wine and drugs

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costco wine

Annette Alvarez-Peters

Costco’s Peters speaks: Annette Alvarez-Peters, who buys alcohol for the Costco warehouse chain, is one of the most important people in the wine business; as such, she rarely gives interviews. Hence my surprise at an interview with the Shanken News Daily trade news service, even thought it’s short and Alvarez-Peters doesn’t say all that much. What’s worth noting is how much of its private label wine Costco sells; its Kirkland pinot grigio and cabernet sauvignon are two of the chain’s biggest sellers, both at less than $10 a bottle. That consumers will drive to Costco just to buy its wines is mind-boggling in the day of the Great Wall of Wine. Most retailers would kill for that kind of loyalty, which they’d have to do because they don’t know how to get it any other way. The other reason to mention this? Because a Costco piece that ran on the blog in 2012 is the second most popular post , based on one-day visitors, in blog history. Shoppers don’t just want to go Costco — they want to read about it.

Who drinks wine? The Wine Market Council has updated some of its numbers, and the results are intriguing. If you’re a high-frequency wine drinker (you drink wine at least once a week), you’re more likely to be married than if you drink wine less than once a week, the occasional wine drinker. High frequency wine drinkers are older, 51-44, than occasionals, but it’s not like either of them is young. The latter makes perfect sense given the wine business’ inability to understand it should try to sell wine to people other than old white guys. Note to advertisers: the blog’s demographics skew younger than that, no doubt because I write about wine that younger people can afford.

Examine that spending: The British spend about £1 billion (about US$1.6 billion) more on illegal drugs and sex each year than they do on wine and beer, according to a just-released UK government study. That works out to about £260 (US$422) per adult. I don’t know whether that’s a lot of money for dope and whores, but I think the numbers are a little dicey. The average adult in the U.S. spends about $150 a year on wine (based on 242 million adults and $36.3 billion in wine sales, per the Wine Institute) and $413 on beer (based on $100 billion in beer sales, per the Brewers Association). That a country with a pub culture spends less per capita than we do on beer and wine is hard to believe, which makes me think the drugs and sex number should be higher. By comparison, I spend nothing on the latter and some US$2,500 (about £1,500) annually on wine, which doesn’t include other booze or restaurant wine purchases. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about that.

All the wine statistics you’ll ever need

Wine statsThis ties in nicely with the various Big Wine discussions we’ve had on the blog over the last month, and it also puts many of the numbers that I’ve reported over the years in one place — wine consumption, wine production, and most popular wines according to grape variety. The chart is courtesy of the Statistic Brain website, compiled in August; just ignore the misspellings.

Pay careful attention to the most popular restaurant wines, listed near the bottom of the chart, which is as Big Wine as it gets. Click here for a PDF — it's the only way I could get the chart on the site and make it readable.

Winebits 171: Jess Jackson, U.S. wine consumption, alcohol laws

Has Jess Jackson retired? Apparently so, reports Forbes magazine. Jackson's wine empire, which includes Kendall-Jackson and more than a dozen other brands, is making do without its founder. The Press Democrat of Santa Rosa fills in the story: "Jackson, 81, the only resident of Sonoma County to make the Forbes list of billionaires, was missing from its latest roster … for the first time in a decade. Jackson's family informed Forbes in January that the self-made billionaire no longer owns a stake in Kendall-Jackson or its parent company, Jackson Family Wines, said Clare O'Connor, a reporter with Forbes." Jackson, said the paper, is reportedly battling cancer.

U.S. drinks the most wine: We passed France as the world's most prodigious wine drinking country in 2010, says the Wine Institute. Americans downed almost 330 million cases of wine, up two percent from 2009. Impressive? Depends on how you look at it. The French, with 63 million people, drank about 321 million cases last year, so their per capita consumption is still about four times ours. On the other hand, considering that only about one-third of Americans say they drink wine regularly, those of us do drink wine are more even with the French — 3 1/2 cases per person for U.S. drinkers compared to 5 for the French.

No coupons in Massachusetts: The Bay State's liquor cops say the state's bars and restaurants can't use popular Internet coupons like Groupon. They're in violation of the several state regulations, and the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission ios going to go after establishments that honored the coupons. The coupon process, says the ABCC, “unlawfully transfers” an interest in the restaurant’s liquor license. For its part, Groupon was circumspect (instead of reaching for a lawsuit). Said a spokesman: "Since we are pioneering a new industry, issues arise within our space that we must evaluate in the best interest of our merchants and customers."

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