Gen Z – New Wine Consumers?

This article was originally published in Wine Business Monthly. Reprinted here with permission.

While many wine marketers have been focusing on selling wine to Millennials, more than 20 million Generation Z consumers have reached legal drinking age since 2016, according to US Census figures. Of course wineries should still pay attention to the other lucrative generation segments of Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials, but the fact that Gen Z is even larger than the Millennial generation and already represents up to $143 billion in buying power accorded to Forbes, is of high importance. Even more critical is that very little is known about Gen Z from a wine consumer behavior perspective. Who is Gen Z? What are their traits and characteristics? What are their wine preferences, and what does Gen Z want from the wine industry?

Gen Z Photo purchased from Veer BLP0011526

Gen Z Wine Consumers

Who is Gen Z?

According to the American Generations Report, Generation Z was born between the years 1995 and 2009, though other sources vary slightly on these dates. Also referred to as “i-Generation” and “Post Millennials,” Pew Research has recently reported that the most common term used by marketers and as an online search term is “Gen Z”. In addition to being the largest generation in the US, with US Census number showing they number 80 million vs. 72 million Millennials, they are also the largest generation globally, comprising 32% of the world population according to Bloomberg. They are expected to have a huge impact on consumer products around the world, and that includes wine.

Traits and Characteristics of Gen Z

In terms of traits, Gen Z is reported to be more realistic than Millennials, as well as responsible, determined, curious, and open-minded. They are very entrepreneurial, with more than 40% reporting they want to start their own business according to, and other sources stating the number is higher. They are very multi-cultural with 48% from communities of color according to NPR, and many prefer to avoid labels – finding forms or surveys that request race and gender to be outdated and irrelevant. Gen Z is also very interested in health, including how food/beverage products they consume are created.

Regarding technology, they are incredibly linked, having grown up with the Internet always available. They do not watch as much traditional TV as other generations, preferring to watch YouTube. According to Forbes, 80% of Gen Zers will research a product online before purchase. This includes not only looking at the product website, but also reviewing their social media pages; then many will look at product reviews and also seek feedback from friends before making a final purchase.

Another key way they differ from Millennials is that they desire cool products over experiences, and are also more accepting of online ads. According to the Cassandra Report, 28% of Gen Z consumers want marketers to reach them with online ads compared to just 16% of Millennials. They also appreciate “edgy” and creative ads, especially on their preferred platforms of YouTube and Instagram.

Wine Preferences of Gen Z

Based on the growing importance of Gen Z to the wine industry, a series of research projects at the Wine Business Institute at Sonoma State University were conducted over the past 3 years to explore preferences and perceptions of Gen Z in reference to wine. The most recent 2019 survey included responses from 158 Gen Z wine consumers. Though the sample was small, the results still provide some direction for wine marketers to consider.

Gen Z respondents reported that they prefer both white and red wine (see Figure 1), with a slight preference for white wine (70%) over red (68%). More surprisingly was the high percentage that indicated they enjoy both rose (52%) and sparkling wine (49%), which is a larger number than reported by a national sample of American consumers from mixed generations. This could also be due to the fact that both rose and sparkling wine are hot trends in the US market.

Figure 1: Wine Preferences of Gen Z Sample

(What type of wine do you enjoy drinking? Check all that apply)


In terms of wine taste preferences, more than 50% of the Gen Z sample reported that they preferred their wine to taste smooth, fruity, and semi-sweet. Only 39% stated they preferred dry wines, however this is often common with younger wine consumers, who as they age, will often adopt drier styles of wine.

Gen Z Wine Perceptions

When asked their opinion about wine on a 5-point Likert scale, 90% of the respondents agreed that wine is “pleasurable,” 83% “delicious”, and 81% “fun.” Only 19% agreed that wine is “confusing,” and 15% as “snooty.” These perceptions are fairly positive for young wine consumers, and most likely explain the reason that Gen Zers seem to be adopting wine at almost the same rate as Millennials, according to a Wine Opinions report. The same report states that Gen Z seems to rely more on advice from friends and family, and also values wine scores and ratings more than Millennials. This corresponds with the Forbes report on how Gen Z is more apt to research a product and read reviews before they buy.

What Gen Z Wants from the Wine Industry

A major open-ended question on the survey asked Gen Zers: “What should the Wine Industry do to market better to Gen Z?” From this process, 236 written quotes were obtained. These were coded and sorted into themes, with 10 major themes emerging (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Gen Z Recommendations for the Wine Industry


Online Advertising – the number one piece of advice was more online advertising cited 62 times by the sample. This corresponds with the Cassandra Report stating that Gen Z is more accepting of online ads. Examples of some Gen Z quotes regarding this issue are:

  • “Just advertise… I’ve never seen an advertisement for wine.”
  • “More commercials on YouTube and ads on the Internet.”
  • “(More) Highly visual wine & food pairings photos on Instagram.”

Better Packaging/Design – the second highest scoring suggestion had to do with better packaging and design (40 mentions). This also corresponds with the Cassandra Report, stating that Gen Z prefers cool products and edginess, over experiences. The responses also showed that Gen Z desired clearer labeling of wines so that consumers could tell what was in the bottle and how the wine tastes. Examples of some Gen Z quotes regarding this issue are:

  • “Find a way to make the packaging stand out. Almost every wine bottle looks the same to me.”
  • “Describe the taste on label more because it isn’t fun to buy a wine and have it taste different than you were expecting.”

Education/Approachability –tied at third place (29 & 28 mentions) was a request for more basic wine education from the industry in an attempt to make wine more approachable. A quote here was: “Make it not so scary and intimidating for people who don’t know as much about wine.” Potential platforms to make this happen could be short and fun YouTube videos or a creative Instagram campaign.

More social media (21 mentions) targeted at Gen Z was another suggestion, followed by more affordable pricing (15) and free samples (13). Given that the average tasting fee in Napa Valley has now reached $44 per person and Sonoma County $22 per person, according to the 2018 WBM/SVB Direct to Consumer Survey, these suggestions are not surprising coming from younger wine consumers just entering the category. “Have options for less expensive wine tastings,” said one respondent, while another recommended, “More sampling in grocery stores and other locations so that people can try it before purchasing.”

Finally, more festivals/events, food pairing, and healthy wine options rounded out the top 10 themes emerging from the data. These are also related to the education and approachability themes. In addition, the healthy wine concept could be linked to a growing trend for “low-no” wines seen in Europe, where more low alcohol or no-alcohol wines are being introduced. The trend to add descriptors to wine labels such as “low carb, gluten-free, paleo friendly, organic, low sulfite, reduced sugar, and natural,” is also related to this health trend that is sweeping the nation, and that is of concern to 25% of the US population, according to Nielsen. This is also supported by a 2019 Wine Market Council report showing that 31% of younger consumers are drinking less alcohol.

A small group of Gen Z wine consumers participated in the creation of a video to describe these ideas in more detail. Please access the video HERE.

Implications for Wineries

In general, this is good news about Gen Z and wine at this early stage. They are adopting wine at nearly the same rate as Millennials, and seem to be mainly positive about it.  They are quite different from previous generations, and have a huge amount of buying power and sheer numbers behind them, which suggests the wine industry should consider paying attention to some of their suggestions. More time engaging with Gen Z online on their preferred platforms of YouTube and Instagram makes sense, as well as responding to packaging and design needs to create “cool products.” This linked with approachable educational opportunities, more affordable pricing at winery tasting rooms (perhaps micro-tastings or thimble tastings…..), and possibly the development of more “healthy” wine options with clear ingredient and taste labeling would be a good place to start.


Will Consumers Pay More for Sustainably Certified Wine?

Completing the process of becoming certified for producing wine using sustainable practices can take years for vineyard owners. Achieving organic or biodynamic certification can take even longer.  Plus the cost of becoming certified and going through the inspection process can cost thousands of dollars.  Is this worth it for grape farmers?  Do consumers really care, and are they willing to pay more for an eco-certified wine?

Wine Consumers.   Photo Credit: Fotolia_123622764

A 2017 survey conducted at Sonoma State University Wine Business Institute with 301 wine consumers illustrates a willingness to pay several dollars more per bottle for “green” certified wines. The online survey was completed by a convenience sample of 26% men and 74% women living in the USA. Age by generation included 65% Millennial, 9% Gen X, and 26% Baby Boomers.

Definitions for Eco-Certified Wines

Consumers were asked: “Of the three major methods of environmental certification for wine in the US, which appeals to you most?” The results show that 44% selected sustainable wine, followed by 36% biodynamic and 20% organic grape wine.

Definition Which Appeals to You Most?
Certified Sustainable Wine – made in a way that is environmentally friendly, equitable to employees and economically viable to winegrowers. No agri-chemicals are applied, unless necessary to save the crop.  


Made with Certified Organic Grapes – means the grapes were farmed with NO agri-chemicals. To achieve this certification, the vineyard must prove they have only used organic products for 3 years or more.  


Certified Biodynamic Wine – goes beyond Organic by not only requiring ORGANIC grapes, but also uses farming practices designed to return the soil to a natural state.  


Will You Pay More for Eco-Certified Wine?

Respondents were then asked if they would pay more for a bottle of eco-certified wine. Figure 1 illustrates that 91% of the sample would pay $1 more for a bottle of wine made from sustainably certified grapes, 88% would pay $1 more for a bottle made from certified organic grapes, and 85% would pay $1 more per bottle of wine made from certified biodynamic grapes.  Likewise, a range of 78% – 81% of consumers said they would be willing to pay $2 more per bottle.  However, as the price increased from $3 more to $4 more to $5 more per bottle, there were a decreasing number of consumers willing to pay more. Interestingly, however, as the price increased a slightly larger percentage of consumers were willing to pay more for certified biodynamic wines.

Figure 1: Are You Willing to Pay More Money for a Bottle of Eco-Certified Wine?

Implications for Winegrape Growers

The results of this survey indicate that consumers are interested and willing to pay a slight premium for wines that are certified sustainable, organic, and biodynamic. The concept of sustainability seems to have slightly more appeal than the other two certifications, even when clear definitions are provided. It is possible this may be due to the fact that the definition of sustainability includes equitable work practices for employees, as well as positive environmental actions. Organic and biodynamic definitions primarily focus on environmental practices.

Previous surveys focusing on this topic show that many consumers are confused by the multiple types of certifications, and that clear messaging must be included in order for the consumer to understand the benefits of the certification. Other surveys have also shown that many wine consumers already consider wine to be a natural product and are surprised to learn that there are certifications to insure organic and/or environmental practices. Due to this type of confusion, some wineries do not advertise the fact that they are certified or are using sustainable, organic and/or biodynamic practices. However, the results of this survey indicate that the timing may be more appropriate now to consider clearer communication on these positive farming practices.

It’s the Right Thing to Do

It should be noted, however, that there are many vineyard and winery owners around the world who elect to implement sustainable, organic, or biodynamic practices because they believe it is the right thing to do. They mention the long-term benefits for the planet, their families, and their local communities. For more information on this topic, see study published in Wine Spectator entitled: Is Being Sustainable Worth It for Wineries.


The Future is Bright for US Wine in 2017: Statistics from 2016 Paint Rosy Picture

Many of the statistics for 2016 US wine sales are in and the results are rosy. Optimism is high that 2017 will continue to see the small but steady growth pattern of previous years, at around 1 to 3% volume and 2 to 4% in value. According to Wines & Vines (2017), total US wine sales approached $60 billion in 2016, with an estimated $39.8 billion in sales from domestic wine and the remainder from imports.


US Wine Consumption Positive in 2016

Hot trends continue in brisk sales of red blends, sparkling, and rose, with a surprising surge in sauvignon blanc sales in 2016 (Nielsen, 2017). Sangria continues to be a sought after wine choice at an estimated 9.3% volume increase (BW166, 2017). The most positive news, however, comes in the form of premiumization, with many Americans “buying up” and spending more money per bottle. The average bottle price is now $10, making the US wine market the largest in both volume and value (Nielsen, 2017).

Positive Stats for US Wine Industry in 2016

  • Revenues for US Wine Sales = estimated $39.8 billion, a 5% increase from 2015 (Wines & Vines, 2017)
  • Total US Wine Sales Revenue including imports = estimated $60 billion (Wines & Vines, & BW166, 2017)
  • Total Cases Shipped = 399 million, up 3% from 2015 (GFAWine, 2017)
  • Growth: 2016 is the 24th consecutive year of grown for US wine sales slide1

Imports Vs. Domestic Markets by Volume

  • Domestic Wine Sales = 67.1%
  • Imported Packaged = 25.4%
  • Imported Bulk = 7.5%

(Source: BW166, 2017)


Wine Sales Channels

 Off-Premise – roughly 78.75% of US market with an average bottle price of $10. According to Nielsen (2017) volume grew at double digits in the following categories: $11-$14.99, $15-$19.99, $20-$24.99, $25+, but only at 3.2% for $8 -$11.99 and negative growth below $8 per bottle. Despite this, 58% of wine sold in the US is still under $8 per bottle, not including boxed wine.

On-Premise = estimated at 20% of the US market with an average bottle price of $40, but is still relatively flat with only .2% value growth and -1% volume. It is presumed the higher cost of wine at restaurants/bars compared to beer and cocktails, as well as other factors are creating this lack of growth. (BW166, 2017; Nielsen, 2017).

Direct to Consumer (DTC) = though still only 1.25% volume of the total US market, DTC is booming with 5 million cases shipped, an increase of 17.1% over 2015. Even more positive are the revenues at $2.33 billion, an increase of 18.5% over 2015 (Kirschenmann, 2017; ShipCompliant, 2017).

Amazing Fact: In the US, there are now 550,000 locations that sell wine, an increase of 120,000 outlets over the past ten years. Some of the innovative new locations to sell wine include bookshops, movie theaters and car washes. (Nielsen, 2017).

 Growth of US Wineries and Exports

  • Number of US Wineries in 2017 = 9,091 (Fisher, 2017), up 4% from 8702 wineries in 2016.
  • Five Largest Wine States by # of Wineries: California 4202, Washington = 747, Oregon, 713, NY = 385, Texas = 287
  • US Exports – $1.62 billion in 2016, up from 1% from 2015. Volume = 412.7 million liters or 45.9 million cases. (Wine Institute, 2017)


US Consumers Continue to Embrace Wine

  • 120 million Americans drink wine – approx. 36% of 330 million (Nielsen, 2017).
  • Per capita global ranking = #42
  • Gender Percentage = 57% female and 43% male (Nielsen Spectra, 2016)
  • High Frequency Wine Drinkers = 38% drink weekly (Nielsen, 2017)
  • Largest Wine Consuming Generations = Millennials and Baby Boomers (Wine Market Council, 2016)
  • Americans continue to prefer wine and spirits over beer, even with popularity of craft beer (Nielson, 2017).


 Hot Varietals and Trends Now and for 2017

The Five Most Popular Wine Varietals/Styles are 1) chardonnay, 2) cabernet sauvignon, 3) red blends, 4) pinot grigio, and 5) pinot noir (WBM, 2017). This is expected to continue in 2017, though chardonnay is not growing as fast as the other categories.

Sparkling Wines continue to sizzle with double digit growth. Prosecco leads at 17% of category with $12 – $20 as a sweet spot (Nielsen, 2017). There is room for additional sparkling in the market, as consumers are expected to crave more bubbles in 2017.

Rosé is still all the rage, with Provence rosés in the lead with a 64% dollar share. However, all price points over $5 per bottle are doing well (Nielsen, 2017), and expected to continue in 2017.

Sangria continues to surge with a 9.3% volume increase in 2016, though most Americans prefer to drink it in warmer months, so summer of 2017 should be positive for Sangria (BW166, 2017).

Sauvignon Blanc, especially from NZ, captured strong increases in both volume and dollar value, with expectations for increased sales in 2017 (Nielsen, 2017).

Innovation in wine containers, packaging and product will continue in 2017. For example, the introduction of wine in aluminum cans in 2015 was appealing to some consumer segments (Thach & Chang, 2016).

Premiumization – with a higher consumer confidence rating in 2017, it is expected that consumers will continue to trade up to more expensive wines.

Acquisitions and start-ups within the wine industry are expected to continue in 2017, even with higher interest rates (McMillan, 2017).


BW166 (2017). Wine Imports and Exports Report. Available at:
Fisher, C. (2017). Number of US Wineries Reaches 9,091. Wine Business Monthly, Jan. 2017, p. 72-77.
GFAWine. (2017). Total wine shipments to the US expanded 3% to 399 million cases in 2016.  Available at:
Kirschenmann, E. (2017). State of the States: 2016 Banner Year for DTC Shipping., Jan. 13, 2017. Available at:
McMillan, R. (2017). 2017 SVB Wine Report. Silicon Valley Bank. Available at:
Nielsen (2017). State of the Industry – What’s Selling. Presentation by Danny Brager at Unified Wine Symposium. Sacramento, CA: Jan. 25, 2017.
ShipCompliant (2017). 2017 Direct to Consumer Report. Available at:
Thach, L. & Chang, K. (2016). Adventure, Tradition, and Semi-Sweet Wines Highlighted in 2016 American Wine Consumer Survey., Dec. 6, 2016. Available at:
WBM (2017). Retail Sales Analysis – Off Premise Wine Sales up .08 Percent. Wine Business Monthly, Feb. 2017. P. 142.
Wine Institute (2017). California Wine Exports Reach Record $1.62 Billion in 2016. Feb. 14, 2017. Available at:
Wine Market Council (2016). Overview of US Wine Industry. Presentation by John Gillespie at 11th Annual Wine Market Council Research Conference on U.S. Wine Consumer Trends. Jan. 25, 2016. New York, NY.
Wines & Vines (2017). Domestic Wine Sales Nudge $40 Billion in 2016. Jan. 13, 2017. Available at:
Photo Credit: Veer BLP0011526


State of the US Wine Industry in 2016 – Trends and Statistics


In 2016 US consumers continue to reach for wine as an enjoyable beverage, even with craft beer grabbing an increased share of the alcohol beverage market.

A review of the 2015 wine statistics and buying trends for 2016 are generally positive. Most experts predict another good year for wine, at its usual 1 to 2% growth rate in the US. Despite fluctuating stock markets, a very competitive alcoholic beverage industry, whispers of recession, and fast-moving social media/apps that can influence trends overnight, in general wine seems to be well positioned for 2016. However it could be a pivotal year for American wine, if the industry doesn’t begin to innovate as fast as the competition.slide1

Statistics for the US Wine Industry in 2015

  • Revenues for US Wine Sales = $38 billion, a 1.3% increase from 2014 (Gord0n, 2016)
  • Number of Outlets in the US selling wine = 545,907 (Brager, 2016)
  • Total cases shipped: estimated 323 million, a .07% increase from 2014 (Impact Databank, 2016)
  • Percentage from California = 60%
  • Percentage from Other States = 9%
  • Percentage from Imports: 31%, (21 million cases in bulk)
  • The US continues to be the largest wine consuming nation since 2010 (Wine Institute, 2015)
  • 2015 is the 23nd consecutive year of grown for US wine sales 


US Wineries & Consumers

  • Number of US Wineries in 2015 = 8702 (Fransen, 2016)
  • 5 Largest Wine States by # of Wineries: California 4054, Washington = 718, Oregon, 689, NY = 367, Virginia = 262
  • Percentage of US Adults who drink wine: 40% (Halstead, 2016)
  • US Wine Consumption per Capita: 3.14 gallons (11.9 liters) in 2014 (Wine Market Council, 2015)
  • Gender Percentage = 57% female and 43% male (Nielsen Spectra, 2016)
  • High Frequency Wine Drinkers = 35% of US wine drinking population, or those who drink wine several times per week; an increase of 2% since 2010 (Gillespie, 2016).
  • Percentage Sales by Wine Color = Red: 46.3%; White: 44.3%; Pink: 4% (Brager, 2016).
  • Largest Wine Consuming Generations = Millennials at 36% and Baby Boomers at 34% (Gillespie, 2016) 

Wine Sales Channel Performance in 2015 

Off-Premise– sales of wine in grocery stores, wine shops, and other off-premise establishments continued to perform well, with double digit value and volume growth in 4 price points: $11 – $14.99, $15 – $19.99, $20-$24.99 and over $25 (Brager, 2016). Despite this, 75% of the wine in the US is still sold at $9 and under. (Fredrikson, 2016)

On Premise – sales of wine in restaurants, bar, and other on-premise establishments continued to remained relatively flat in 2015. Dollar sales were up .1%, but volume was down by -4.1%. Varietals selling well on-premise were Prosecco, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon (Guest Metrics, 2016).

Direct to Consumer Shipping (DTC/Ecommerce) – online wine sales and shipping direct to consumer was a bright spot in 2015. According to ShipCompliant (2016), revenues hit $2 billion, an increase of 8.1% from 2014 with 4.2 million cases shipped. Thought still only 1 to 1.5% of total wine sales volume in the US, DTC is doing well and expected to increase over the next few years. Average bottle price was again $38, and wineries can now ship directly to 43 states (Fredrikson, 2016).

 US Wine Exports – though not a large wine exporter because the US tends to consume most of its own wine, in 2015 the US exported 51.2 million cases worth $1.61 billion in revenues (Wine Institute, 2016). This was up 7.6% in revenues and 4.1% in volume from 2014.

Hot Wine Trends Now and for 2016


Premiumization Continues– the desire to try a more premium product and pay more for it, or “premiumization” is expected to continue in 2016 for wine and other alcoholic beverages. This is reflected in consumers paying more for wine and the double digit increases in the $11 – 25 price range. This should continue unless something happens in the economy to spook consumers.

Hot Wine Styles: Sparkling & Sangria – though still table wine continues to grow in value and volume, sparkling wine, especially Prosecco, is extremely popular in America and grew at 11.7% in value, while Sangria grew at 9.8%, according to Nielson (Brager, 2016).

5 Most Popular Wine Varietals – surprisingly the slightly tart and refreshing style of Sauvignon Blanc won the prize for most increased value(13.3%) and volume change (10.7%). This was followed by the continuing hot trend of Red Blends, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and then Pinot Grigio (Fredrikson, 2016). However, the highest volume varietal sold in the US continues to be Chardonnay.

Most Popular Imports – Americans continue to be in love with wines from Italy and New Zealand. However both France and Portugal made great showings in 2015 with 10.8% and 8% increases in value for wines from both countries (Brager, 2016).

Fastest Growing Wine Containers – though the 750 ml glass bottle still dominates the US market at over 50% of the volume of wine sold, the 3 Liter Box and Tetra pack continued to grow in popularity (Fredrikson, 2016)


  • Brager, D. (2016). US Wine Consumer Trends – Battle for the Next Pour. 11th Annual Wine Market Council Research Conference on U.S. Wine Consumer Trends. Jan. 25, 2016. New York, NY.
  • Franson, P. (2016). Number of United State Wineries Reaches 8,702. Wine Business Monthly, pgs. 76-81, Feb. 2016 Issue.
  • Fredrikson, J. (2016). State of the Industry. Presentation at Unified Wine & Grape Symposium. Jan. 27, 2016. Sacramento, CA.
  • Gillespie, J. (2016). Overview of US Wine Industry. 11th Annual Wine Market Council Research Conference on U.S. Wine Consumer Trends. Jan. 25, 2016. New York, NY.
  • Gordon, J. (2016). U.S. Wine Sales Total $38 billion. Wines & Vines, Jan. 15, 2016. Available at:
  • Guest Metrics. (2016). ON-PREMISE TRENDS END THE YEAR ON A LOW NOTE, CRAFT SPIRITS BIG WINNER IN 2015. Blog. Jan. 22, 2016. Available at:
  • Halstead, L. (2016). Industry of Tomorrow. Presentation at Unified Wine & Grape Symposium. Jan. 28, 2016. Sacramento, CA.
  • McMillan, R. (2016). 2016 SVB Wine Report. Silicon Valley Bank. Available at:
  • Nieslon Spectra (2015). The US Wine Consumer Report.
  • Quackenbush, J. (2016).  Wine sales growth slows to 2% as consumers upscale.  North Bay Business Journal. Available at:
  • Shanken Daily News. (2016). Wine Market Council Finds Generational and Involvement “Gaps” Increasingly Pivotal To Industry. Shanken Daily News. Jan. 27, 2016
  • ShipCompliant (2016). 2016 Direct to Consumer Report.
  • Wine Institute (2016). California Wine Exports Set Record in 2015: Worldwide Demand Grows, Despite Strong Dollar. Wine Institute Website. Feb. 25, 2016. Available at:
  • Wine Market Council (2015).  Research. Available at:

Photo Credits: L. Thach

Trends in the US Wine Industry for 2015 – Surging Forward with Renewed Optimism ($37.6 billion in 2014 revenues)

DSCF0893Even though wine consumption in the US has increased every year since 2000, some of those years were a bit bumpy due to the recession and a tendency for consumers to purchase value-priced wines. Now in 2015, the trend of buying more premium-priced wines has resurfaced, and there is a renewed optimism in the US, spurred on by the strengthening dollar and a more buoyant economy.

A review of the 2014 wine statistics and buying trends for 2015 are primarily positive. The only gray cloud on the US wine horizon may the growing popularity of craft beer and spirits. However if the wine industry continues to innovate and assists in promoting a larger market share for all adult beverages, then the positive growth trend can continue.

Sources for this posting are primarily from speakers at the 2015 Unified Wine Symposium as well as recent reports. See references at end for details.

Statistics for the US Wine Industry in 2014

  • Revenues for US Wine Sales = $37.6 billion (Wine Institute, 5/19/15); 1% increase from 2013
  • Total  cases shipped: 375 million (Frederickson,2015)
  • Percentage Imports = 31% (down from 34% in 2013; mainly from bulk)
  • Percentage from California = 60% ($24.6 billion in revenues, up 6.7% from 2013)
  • Percentage from Other States = 9%
  • US is the largest wine consuming nation since 2010 (Wine Institute, 2015)
  • 2014 is the 22nd consecutive year of grown for US wine sales

US Wineries & Consumption Rates

  • Number of US Wineries in 2014: 8287 (Gordon, 2015)
  • 5 Largest Wine Producing States: 1- California, 2- Washington, 3- Oregon, 4- New York, and 5- Virginia
  • Wine Consumption in the USUS Wine Consumption per Capita: 3.14 gallons (11.9 liters) in 2014 (Wine Market Council, 2015)
  • Percentage of US Adults who drink wine: 40%
  • Consumption Frequency: 33% drink wine several times per week and 67% drink wine occasionally

Channel Growth & Competition in 2014 

  • Off-Premise – more than 80% of wine in the US is still sold off-premise, with double digit growth in the $12-15; $15-20; $20 – 30; and over $30 categories (Brager, 2015). Still 75% of wine sold was under $9 per bottle (Frederickson, 2015)
  • Direct to Consumer Shipping (DTC/Ecommerce) – 3.95 million cases shipped at $1.82 billion in sales, a 15.5% increase from 2013 (ShipCompliant, 2015). Average bottle price $38. Wineries can now ship to 90% of US states.
  • On Premise Sales – slight increase in 2014 over previous years with wine value up 1.3%, but volume down 1.1% (Guest Metrics, Nov. 2014)
  • Competition – number of craft breweries and craft spirits have increased more than 50% since 2008 (Frederickson, 2015), creating intense competition for wine

Hot Wine Trends Now and for 2015

  • Trading Up – wine sales have increased in the $12 – 30 range and are expected to continue with the strong dollar, lower oil prices, and desire for more premium products
  • Sparkling wine is “hot” – up 7% in 2014, and will continue to grow, especially Prosecco. There is opportunity for new brands in the sparkling market.
  • Red Blends are still very popular, with brands like Apothic and Menage a Trois Red performing well. Opportunity for higher-priced red blends.
  • Most popular varietals will continue to grow: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand
  • 428047_4187596921499_1003172458_n (1)Oregon & Washington coming on strong, with more interest in wine from these states
  • Rose over $12 performed well this past year, and is expected to continue into 2015
  • “Eco” Wines slowly gaining more attention with 16% of US wine consumers now looking for these labels. Potential increases for sustainable, organic, and biodynamic wine as consumers grow more concerned about environmental issues.
  • Tetra Pak and 3 L Boxes selling well with continued growth in this area.
  • Wine Kegs in restaurants selling both value-priced and premium wine by the glass are gaining positive attention from consumers, with expected growth here.
  • Wine Apps are growing in popularity with up to 36% of US consumers using them to check prices and reviews before purchase
  • Wine Cocktails are stirring positive reactions with Millennials (Franson, 2015). This could be an opportunity to create a new trend of “wine mixology.”


12 Best Practices in Global Wine Tourism

(NOTE: This article was originally published in Fine Wine & Liquor Magazine, Dec. 2012 and Jan. 2013 in both English and Chinese)

Chateau Changyu Moser XV in Ningxia China

Chateau Changyu Moser XV in Ningxia China

Wine tourism has been increasing steadily around the world for the past decade.  Tourists who are interested in visiting new wine regions are spending millions to taste different wines and enjoy a wine vacation experience.  For example, in California in 2012 more than 20 million tourists visited wineries and spent $2.1 billion on wine and related activities.

Defining Wine Tourism

But what is the definition of wine tourism?  According to Don Getz it is “travel related to the appeal of wineries and wine country.”  Today wine tourists can be found in most every major wine region including France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Australia, Hungary, Austria, Greece, Croatia, South Africa, Portugal, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, the USA, China, and Japan.

Motivations of Wine Tourists

Wine tourists around the world are motivated by several different factors, and some of these vary by country.  For example in parts of Europe and Asia, consumers will often visit a wine region not only to taste wine, but because of the health benefits of wine consumption in moderation.  Tourists in the US and Australia may go winetasting with a group of friends because it is a fun activity.

At the same time, there are smaller segments of wine consumers who are motivated to visit wine regions because of the architecture or art in the wineries, to see nature and participate in eco-tourism, for food and wine matching, or for cultural or romantic reasons.  A motivation that research shows is common to the majority of wine tourists, however, is the desire to taste new wines, learn about them, and see how the wine is made.

The 12 Best Practices of Global Wine Tourism

The most successful wine regions have adopted some best practices which enable them to provide tourists with memorable experiences that keep them coming back time after time – and bringing their friends and relatives.  So what are these best practices?

#1 – Wine Roads – Any wine region that wants to be taken seriously has taken the time to develop maps which list their wineries and provide information on hours of operation, website, phone numbers, and directions.  In addition, the wine maps may also include local restaurants, hotels, and other tourist sites.  The maps are provided free on the web and in brochure format, and are very helpful for tourists planning a trip.   

#2 – Wine Community Partnerships – Successful wine regions work in partnership with local hotels, restaurants, airports and transportation companies to make sure that tourists have a way to find them.  Often they hire an Executive Director of Wine Tourism and Marketing for the region that is responsible for developing these community partnerships and tours.  A good example is in the Hunter Valley of Australia where they pick-up visitors at the Sydney airport and transport them 2 hours to the valley where they spend 4 days visiting wineries, including hotel and meals.  The wineries of Hunter Valley work together with local tour operators to create this beneficial partnership. 

#3 – Special Wine Events and Festivals – Many wine regions host special events and festivals, but the most innovative regions think “out of the box” in developing unique events.  For example, in Lodi, California they have an annual “Wine and Crane Festival,” and at Melton Wine Estate in New Zealand they host a “Cabaret & Wine Show” with comedians and singers.

#4 – Experiential Wine Programs – Related to special events is the new practice of offering wine tourists unique experiential programs.  For example, in Napa and Sonoma valleys of California, it has become common for visitors to participate in wine blending seminars where they mix together different types of wine to create their own customized bottle – such as a Bordeaux blend with merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and malbec.  Next they design their own wine label and get to take the wine home with them.  Another example of an experiential program is “Dog Walks in the Vineyard,” like that offered by Martha Clare Winery in New York.

#5 – Link Wine to Regional Tourism – Smart wine regions make sure to link to other local tourism sites.  This is a win-win strategy for everyone involved because the more activities that can be advertised, the more likely the region will attract greater numbers of tourists.  For example, tourists visiting Beijing for the first time always want to see the Great Wall and the Forbidden Palace, but now many also want to taste the local wine and visit famous wineries such as Chateau Changyu and Jinshanling.

#6 – Unique Partnerships – Linking up with different types of partners, rather than just the usual marriages of food, wine, music, and art, is another best practice of successful wine regions.  For example the wineries in Okanagan Valley of Canada have joined forces with the many golf courses in the area to provide experiences that include both golf and winetasting, such as their “Chip & Sip” experience.  Likewise, the Sonoma Mission Inn Spa in California has teamed up with local wineries to offer afternoon wine-tastings for visitors who have spent the day at the spa enjoying such wine-related treatment as a Chardonnay Scrub and massage.

#7 – Wine Villages – Some wine regions have committed the time and resources to create a “wine village.”  This is a town in the wine region that is designed specifically around the theme of wine.  There are generally multiple winetasting rooms within walking distance that tourists can visit.  Restaurants in the village cater to the wine tourist and provide food that matches local wines.  Hotels offer rooms and packages designed around a wine theme.  In some cases, these wine villages are quite old and have been known as a wine center for generations, such as Chateauneuf du Pape in the Rhone Valley of France or the mountaintop wine village of Montalcino in the Brunello region of Italy.

However, other regions have created their wine villages from scratch.  Examples include the town of Healdsburg, California in Sonoma County where they have expanded from 5 winery tasting rooms to over 20 in the past five years.  They also have many hotel and restaurants that cater to wine tourists.  Another example is the town of Grapevine, Texas outside of Dallas.  Not only does the name of the town proclaim their linkage to wine, but they have more than 12 wine tasting rooms and many wine-related tourist experiences, plus souvenirs advertising Texas Wine.

#8 – Focus on Art & Architecture – Some wineries attract visitors by adding art galleries, sculpture gardens or other unique art-related items.  For example, both Bodegas O Fournier Winery outside of Mendoza, Argentina and the Hess Collection Winery in Napa Valley, have famous art collections that visitors can see while tasting wine.  Other wineries use architecture to attract crowds, such as Vina Mar Winery in Casablanca Valley, Chile with its beautiful Moorish-influenced building, and the impressive Chateau Changyu Moser XV in the Ningxia wine region of China (featured photo above).

#9 – Food & Wine Matching – Another best practice is targeting tourists who enjoy the culinary aspects of wine tourism.  Generally this is implemented by a wine region organizing special food and wine tours or events.  A good example is the Wine & Paella Event held every spring in Baja, Mexico where the local wineries match their wines to many different types of paella rice dishes.  Another case is the Wine & Food Showcase celebrated every autumn in Sonoma County where the local restaurants pair up with wineries to showcase their food and wine pairings.  There are also many food and wine tours offered in the various wine regions of France and Italy throughout the year to attract tourists. 

#10 – “Green” or Ecotourism Focus – For wine tourists who seek organic and biodynamic wines, or those who enjoy begin around nature and in the outdoors, a newer best practice is an emphasis on “green” or ecotourism aspects of wine.  For example, some wineries offer special tours and educational programs on how they craft organic and biodynamic wines.  Parducci Winery in Mendocino County of California is the first carbon neutral winery in the US, and they provide special tours of the vineyards to describe their environmental practices.  Likewise, Banfi Winery, in Montalcino, Italy, that has the distinction of being the first winery in the world to achieve environmental certification in ISO14001 and SA8000, also offers tours and explanations of their special “green” practices.  Also, Saturna Island Winery in Canada responds to ecotourists by encouraging them to taste wine and then go boating around the island in search of whales.

#11 – Unique Wine Tours – Another cutting edge practice is offering very unique tours for winery visitors.  These are usually targeted at the more adventurous wine consumer or for those who have already visited a specific wine region and are looking for something different.  An example is “wine & kayaking” as offered by Chatham Winery in Virginia, or a “river-rafting and wine tasting” as offered by Southern Oregon Wineries working in partnership with a local tour company.  Other examples include 4-wheel jeep drives through Steinbeck Vineyards in Paso Robles, California, or wine and hiking tours.

#12 – Social Media for Wine Tourism – Finally many wineries and regions are catching onto the benefits of using social media to attract wine tourists.  This includes making sure those tourists who use their mobile phones and the Internet to seek information on which winery to visit can easily locate the winery.  They do this by ensuring GPS directions are correct, that they are easily found in search engines, and that they have a website that is also designed for mobile phone users.  Several wine regions have gone so for as to develop “apps” that can be downloaded onto a mobile phone to provide winery information, maps, and even coupons and tasting fee discounts.  Finally, savvy wineries have set up Facebook fan pages and work with other sites, such as Trip Advisor, to make sure they can interact with wine tourists.

In conclusion, as wine tourism continues to increase about the world in popularity, and wine regions recognize the positive economic benefits derived from wine tourists, the adoption of these twelve best practices will spread to even more countries.

Statistics on the US Wine Industry – 2011

428047_4187596921499_1003172458_n (1)As the 4th largest wine producing country in the world, the US wine industry has steadily increased in size and revenue over the past decade.  In 2010 the US became the leading wine consuming nation at 330 million cases (Wine Institute, 2011).  This equates to Americans drinking 3.96 billion bottles of wine in comparison to France’s record of 3.85 billion bottles (Press Democrat, 2011).  According to the Impact Databank Report, Americans spent more than $40 billion on wine in 2010, and wine consumption recorded its 17th annual increase in the US.  California, the largest wine producing state in the nation, currently accounts for 61% volume share of the US market (Wine Institute, 2011).

Wine Production in the US

Wine is produced in all fifty US states.  According to Wine Business Monthly (2012), the total number of wineries in the US reached 7,116 in 2011 showing a 9% increase from the previous year.  Of these, 6,027 are bonded wineries with a physical location, whereas the other 1,089 are virtual wineries.   California is the largest wine producing state with a current count of 3,458 wineries.  The next largest wine producing states are Washington, Oregon, New York, Virginia and Texas, respectively.

According to the US International Trade Association (2011), in 2010 grape production in the US was 6.86 million tons with 944,800 bearing acres.  The top 5 wine grape varieties grown in the US are Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Merlot, and Pinot Noir.  The highest price per ton of wine grapes in the US is Napa County with an average of $3,389 per ton paid in 2011(USDA, 2012).

Wine Consumers in the US

Of the more than 313,000 million inhabitants in the US, approximately 35% drink wine at a per capita rate of 3.03 gallons or 11.5 liters (Wine Market Council, 2012).  In terms of demographics (SVB, 2012), 69% are white, 14% Hispanic, and 11% African American, with the remainder 9% from other races.  The average age of the American wine consumer is 49, with Millennials, or those who fall between the ages of 21 and 34 making up 26% of wine consumers,  ages 35-44 at 19%, ages 45 to 54 at 21%, and those over 55 at 34%.  College degrees are held by 24% of American wine consumers.  Consumption rates are growing amongst Millennials and men.

Preferred varietals of Americans in terms of sales are chardonnay, which holds first place in the US, at 21% market share and cabernet sauvignon in second place at 15% (Nielsen, 2012).  Though sales are decreasing, merlot still holds third place, with pinot gris and pinot noir as fourth and fifth favorites, respectively.  Fastest growing categories are Moscato, Malbec, Riesling and sweet red blends.  The most popular price point in 2011 was the $9 – $11.99 category.  Some of the best selling brands include Sutter Home Moscato, Cupcake Chardonnay, Barefoot Pinot Grigio, Gnarly Head Zinfandel, Menage a Trois Red, and Gallo’s Apothic Red.

Americans also enjoy drinking imported wine, with 1 out of every 4 bottles sold from a foreign country.  In 2010, the top imported wines countries were (ITA, 2011):  Italy (30%), France (24%), Australia (14%), Chile (7%), Argentina (6%), and Spain (6%).  These accounted for 87% of the total value of imported US wines.

Future Prospects

In general, the future prospects for continued wine growth in the US market are positive.  American consumers are adopting wine at a strong level with 17 years of continued growth (Wine Spectator, 2011) and prospects for this trend to continue.  On the negative side, the US wine industry has experienced two years of poor weather resulting in lower crop loads.  This indicates a looming shortage in US wine supply, which will require supplements from foreign sources