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Imported Wine Update, Part 1: Italy Leads The Way

May 26, 2021

The global pandemic, on-premise shutdowns, and tariffs hampered imported wine shipments to the U.S. last year, but the growth of depletions shows the category’s underlying staying power. According to Impact Databank, imported table wine shipments to the United States were down 8.7% to 70.14 million cases in 2020, but overall depletions were up 3% to 69.5 million cases.

France, Spain, and Germany saw the most drastic shipment drops last year, as those countries were all slapped with a 25% tariff on most wine imports in late 2019 (the tariffs are now suspended). Italy—which accounted for 38% of all bottled table wine imports to the U.S. by volume last year—grew shipments 0.4% to 26.69 million cases. The only other European country among the leaders to post growth was Portugal, which jumped 16% to 2.2 million cases.

Nearly half of the top 20 imported table wines in the U.S. are from Italy, including No. 2 brand Stella Rosa, which advanced a whopping 112% to 5.25 million cases last year, according to Impact Databank. “A lot of that growth was actually seeded in 2018 and 2019,” explains Steve Riboli, president of Stella Rosa importer Riboli Family Wine Estates. “And we’re looking forward to another really good year with a target growth of 30% for 2021.”

Another Italian brand that grew significantly last year is No. 8 imported table wine Roscato, which advanced 22.9% to 1.21 million cases in 2020. “The growth of the sweet wine category has rapidly brought in new consumers and demographics to the brand,” says Hal Cashman, director of brand development for importer Palm Bay International.

Despite France’s overall struggles, some individual brands continued to show marked growth: La Vieille Ferme is a key example. The brand increased 17.2% to 670,000 cases in 2020, making it the lone French offering in the top 20 imported table wines last year. Retailer relationships were key to the brand’s resilience, according to Greg Doody, president of importer Vineyard Brands. “In late 2019, when the tariffs were first imposed, we worked with our winery partners to do whatever we could to absorb the impact,” Doody explains. “We didn’t want to risk losing any of the placements that we’ve worked so hard over the years to secure.” In addition to La Vieille Ferme, France’s Gerard Bertrand earned an Impact “Hot Brand” award for its 2020 performance, climbing toward the 600,000-case mark on continuing double-digit growth.

From Spain, Pernod Ricard-owned Campo Viejo also earned Hot Brand honors, up 17% to 370,000 cases, even as overall shipments from the country tumbled under the effect of the tariffs. Neighboring Portugal, meanwhile, seems to be benefiting from the shake-up among European wines. Frederico Falcão, president of Wines of Portugal, points to a boost in tourism prior to the pandemic, as well as consumers’ desire for something different. “We don’t depend on Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay,” he explains. “We have more than 250 native varieties, and we work especially with blended wines.” He cites Alvarinho, Touriga Nacional, and Baga as Portuguese varietals that are becoming more popular in the United States. We’ll take a look at the market for Southern Hemisphere wine imports to the U.S. in an upcoming SND.—Amber Drea

U.S.—Top 10 Imported Wine Brands
(millions of 9-liter case depletions)
Rank Brand Importer 2019 2020 Percent
1 Yellow Tail2 Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits 6.60 7.04 6.7%
2 Stella Rosa Riboli Family Wine Estates 2.48 5.25 111.6%
3 Cavit Palm Bay International 3.55 3.98 12.0%
4 19 Crimes Treasury Wine Estates 1.63 2.18 33.8%
5 Concha y Toro Fetzer Vineyards 2.12 2.11 -0.5%
6 Kim Crawford Constellation Brands 1.37 1.62 18.2%
7 Riunite Frederick Wildman & Sons 1.36 1.40 3.0%
8 Roscato3 Palm Bay International 0.98 1.21 22.9%
9 Oyster Bay Delegat USA 0.97 1.11 15.3%
10 Mezzacorona Prestige Wine Imports 1.04 1.08 4.0%
Total Top 104 22.09 26.97 22.1%
1 Based on unrounded data.
2 Excludes Bubbles
3 Excludes Smooth & Dark
4 Addition of columns may not agree due to rounding.

Source: IMPACT DATABANK © 2021
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