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Wine Spectator’s “Trends In The U.S. Wine Market” Panel Kicks Off Vinexpo New York

March 5, 2019

Vinexpo New York kicked off yesterday at Manhattan’s Javits Center. The two-day event is jointly organized with global media group Diversified Communications, and highlights more than 470 producers from 23 countries, with importers, wholesalers, retailers, and other industry professionals in attendance.

Among the most anticipated events during the two-day showcase was yesterday’s panel on “Trends in the U.S. Wine Market,” hosted by Wine Spectator, which took on topics such as the impact of cannabis on the wine industry and the importance of having brands with authentic stories as a means of reaching American consumers. The panel was moderated by Wine Spectator executive editor Thomas Matthews and featured leaders from all three tiers of the U.S. wine business, including Jackson Family Wines president and CEO Rick Tigner; Terlato Wine Group CEO Bill Terlato; Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits executive vice president and general manager of the wine division Steve Slater; and Sherry-Lehmann Wine & Spirits CEO Chris Adams.

Over the course of the discussion, a common thread emerged: The importance of having a robust multi-channel approach to marketing in today’s technology-driven world. “E-commerce is a new sphere for all of us, as are the direct-to-consumer and tasting room businesses,” Jackson Family Wines’ Tigner said. “More often, people are going online and ordering bottles of wine. There’s less impulse purchasing in stores, so we have to invest in our digital marketing, and make sure we’re capturing consumer attention with authentic stories in that sphere.”

Slater also noted the move from in-store shopping to a reliance on online channels. “The consumer isn’t shopping in a grocery aisle anymore, and that’s going to change the face of things for sure,” he said. “DTC now accounts for about 10% of the U.S. wine business, with 6 million cases, $3 billion in sales, and growth of 15% last year.”

At Sherry-Lehmann, the shift toward online shopping has prompted adjustments in the New York-based retailer’s approach. “We’ve invested in an efficient e-commerce platform, an educational website, and we’re developing a mobile platform in the next few weeks,” Adams said.

The panel also touched on the meteoric rise of rosé and Prosecco in the U.S. market. Overall, the group agreed that both categories are moving toward even higher price points. “While the growth rates for rosé and Prosecco are slowing, both categories are still growing,” Terlato said. “What we’ve noticed is that the rate of ascent is usually matched by the rate of descent—when you become an overnight success, you go away pretty quickly. But these two categories, which have been built over a long period of time, are much more sustainable for the long run.” Slater added that New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc was another imported wine segment that continues to show strong upward momentum in the U.S.

The effect of cannabis on the wine industry was also discussed at length, with all participants noting that as marijuana legalization spreads across the U.S., stricter regulations—as there are in wine and spirits—will be necessary. The lack of a method to measure marijuana levels in drivers was also discussed, with Terlato and Slater both stating that they would be interested in investing in the development of that sort of technology in the future. The panel also voiced concern over just how much of a distraction cannabis would prove to be for the wine industry, in terms of both consumer share and sales. “Cannabis concerns me because it’s the shiny new thing that consumers are attracted to,” Slater said. “It’s too early in the game for us to measure the decrease in wine consumption in states where cannabis is legal, but we’re watching closely.”—Julia Higgins

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