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Sweet Or Dry, Red Blends Continue To Show Growth

January 13, 2015

A new breed of red blends have made major inroads in the U.S. market in recent years—many of them sweeter blends including Jam Jar, Barefoot Sweet Red, Yellow Tail Sweet Red Roo and others. Some brands simply hint at their sweeter side, such as Constellation’s Pop Crush, as well as the various Red Moscatos that have become popular.

Sweeter red wines have been transitioning younger consumers into the world of wine. “The goal is to provide a stepping into a more evolved profile and into much larger categories—younger consumers are getting into the wine category via sweet drinks,” says Peter Deutsch, CEO of Deutsch Family Wines & Spirits, which imports Yellow Tail.

“We see upside potential for the sweeter red blends, but the greater opportunity is in the red blend sector itself—a much bigger category,” adds Deutsch. “Red blends today are about 9% of total dollar share, while sweet reds are less than 1%. And the red blend category is growing at about 13%.” Deutsch adds that sweet reds are growing at about 4.5% overall and are “definitely a category we want to be in.”

“The broader red blend category is more dynamic than the sweet red segment,” agrees Dave Derby, vice president of marketing at Trinchero Family Estates, which pioneered the modern-day red blend category with Ménage à Trois and has since launched several other blended reds. Its latest addition to the Ménage à Trois line is Ménage à Trois Midnight Dark Red Blend. The company is also launching Sutter Home Red Blend, a stablemate to the more established Sutter Home Sweet Red.

Delicato Family Vineyards (DFV), meanwhile, has seven blends in its portfolio—at varying levels of sweetness—including three labels launched this year: Belle Ambiance Red Wine Blend, Gnarly Head Authentic Black and Juxtapoz Red Wine Blend. “We achieve differentiation in the market by aligning the style of our blends with each brand’s portfolio style, which can range from soft and delicate to bold and juicy,” says DFV president and CEO Chris Indelicato.

While “sweet” drinkers may be gravitating toward certain blends and varietals, and “dry” drinkers supporting others, consumers clearly are exploring a variety of options. “Ultimately, I think today’s consumer is most concerned with drinking what they like, and I don’t think it’s specific to any category,” Indelicato says. And E.&J. Gallo vice president of marketing Stephanie Gallo notes that “sweet red consumers also purchase lighter-style red varietals like Merlot, red blends and Pinot Noir.”

Dale Stratton, vice president of consumer insights for Constellation, observes that the stigma against sweeter wines seems to have gone away. “Historically, consumers talked dry and drank sweet,” Stratton says. “We see a shift in this behavior, with today’s consumer being very comfortable talking about their enjoyment of sweeter-style wines.”

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