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The Wine Group’s Cupcake Eyes Growth In Chardonnay, Sparkling Segments

May 25, 2018

Cupcake, the third-largest brand in The Wine Group portfolio and by far the company’s largest offering in the above-$10 segment, has seen overall volume slip slightly the past few years, but solid performances for its Chardonnay and sparkling portfolios are helping to bolster momentum.

Overall, Cupcake sold just over 2.8 million cases last year across its still and sparkling ranges, down from about 3 million cases in 2015. But while the still wine portfolio slipped 4% in total last year to 2.2 million cases, Cupcake’s sparkling wines rose 6% to 635,000 cases. Within the Sparkling line, Cupcake has high hopes for its Sparkling Rosé ($15), which was previously limited to a seasonal run but has now joined Prosecco, Moscato d’Asti, and Sparkling Red (all $15) in the permanent lineup.

Meanwhile, although the overall Chardonnay category was flat last year in Nielsen channels, Cupcake’s flagship Monterey, California-sourced Chardonnay (around $13 a 750-ml.) was up 5.4% in 2017. That performance inspired the launch of two additional Cupcake Chardonnay wines—the higher-end Chardonnay Winemaker’s Blend ($25) and Butterkissed Chardonnay ($13).

Grapes for the Chardonnay Winemakers Blend are sourced from a selection of Monterey vineyards selected by Cupcake winemaker Jessica Tomei. “With Winemaker’s Blend, we’re illustrating the quality of our vineyards, and showing we can make a play in the super-premium segment,” she says. Tomei believes the new wine, which features more subdued packaging than the brightly colored core Cupcake lineup, will serve as a launching point into more on-premise accounts. Around 3,000 cases of Winemaker’s Blend were produced for the inaugural run. While it’s currently a one-off release, Winemaker’s Blend may eventually become a permanent addition to the Cupcake portfolio.

Butterkissed Chardonnay ($13 a 750-ml.) is a heavily oaked, more buttery version of Cupcake’s flagship Chardonnay. While Winemaker’s Blend is aimed more at by-the-glass accounts, Butterkissed will be heavily promoted at retail through such campaigns as “Chardonnay Two Ways,” which juxtaposes the newer iteration with Cupcake’s core Monterey Chardonnay.

Elsewhere in the Cupcake portfolio, Sauvignon Blanc ($13 a 750-ml.)—the brand’s No.-1 expression by volume—continues to perform well, as does the Central Coast-sourced rosé ($13), which launched last year and is now the market’s No.-2 premium rosé, according to the winery. To encourage further growth, Cupcake is eyeing alternative packaging and more consumer-facing events like Coachella, where it has served as official wine sponsor since 2014.—Julia Higgins

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