This year, 2013, is shaping up to be a boon year for United States wine producers, perhaps a record year. More wine, more brands, more sales. In an industry subject to the vagaries of Mother Nature and the American consumer, any good year is a blessing. Of course the largest wine producers have had the greatest staying power over the past five years.
Have you ever considered who these large producers are and their influence over the wine industry? Here is the backdrop of the current state of wine sales in the United States by domestic wine companies, with a focus on one longstanding producer in particular.
Here are some factoids to impress your friends (and maybe even surprise yourself).
1. Which domestic wine companies dominate the industry? Fewer than 2 percent account for 84 percent of all wine production.
2. Which domestic wine companies sell the most wine? Over 50 percent of all wine sold in domestic wine shops and supermarkets is centered in three wine companies.
3. Is there a concentration of wine companies who sell the most labels? Of the Top 20 wines sold in 2012, over 50 percent were owned by two of the largest wine companies. Of the 25 wine brands that grew the most in revenue in 2012, two wine companies accounted for 14 of them.
Who are these behemoths that control the available choices in our local wine shops? And which are their top brands?
1. E & J Gallo Winery: Gallo Family, Carlo Rossi, Barefoot Cellars, Peter Vella, Turning Leaf, Livingston Cellars.
2. The Wine Group: Franzia Box, Almaden, Inglenook, Corbett Canyon, Cupcake, Glen Ellen, Rex Goliath.
3. Constellation Brands: Woodbridge, Arbor Mist, Robert Mondavi, Clos du Bois, Blackstone, Estancia, Vendange, Black Box.
Do you recognize any of these labels? Are you among the majority of wine consumers who have tasted any of these wines?
What’s that you say? You’re not like everybody else? You would never buy wines from a mega corporation. You support small business and endorse boutique wineries. You’re not swayed by mega marketing; you seek out under-the-radar wines whenever you can.
I’ll let you in on a little secret. The mega corporations marketing research and social media interactions already know who you are and how to appeal to you. That special find of yours that has become your favorite wine? It just may be a Gallo or Constellation brand.
I recently had lunch with Nick Paris, a local fellow whose mom lives in northern Westchester. He is the fine wine public relations manager for E & J Gallo Winery. The wine snobs among you might sarcastically comment that his title is oxymoronic given his employer, but you would be wrong, very wrong. He and I sampled a few wines from his portfolio.
Paris provided insight into Gallo’s marketing strategy. Certainly the baseline wines (as noted above) provide the lion’s share of Gallo’s revenue but, in an effort to appeal to a broader demographic, the Premium Division was created in 1993 to cater to consumers beyond the Gallo “value” wine devotees. While many of the offerings in this premium line of 61 labels are domestic wines, an increasing number (currently 31) are imports. Consumers benefit from Gallo’s massive research and purchasing clout, while Gallo avoids the nagging stigma of Ernest and Julio Gallo’s legacy wines.
I was pleasantly surprised that several of the wines Paris shared with me have been on my recommended wine list for several years. None of the labels bear the Gallo name.
Here are just a few examples in the Gallo premium line. I would be willing to venture that many of the wine aficionados among you (snob has such a negative connotation these days) have enjoyed a few of them.
Domestic: Apothic, Mirrasou, MacMurray Ranch, Louis M. Martini, Frei Brothers, Ghost Pines, Dancing Bull
Italy: DaVinci, Ecco Domani, Maso Canali, La Marca
Spain: Las Rocas. Martin Codax
Argentina: Alamos, Gascon
Australia: Clarendon Hills
When you’re selling over 70 million cases of wine a year, with sales totaling nearly $700 million, there’s a good chance that a Gallo wine is on quite a few dinner tables every night. How about yours?
Nick Antonaccio is a 35-year Pleasantville resident. For over 15 years he has conducted wine tastings and lectures. He also offers personalized wine tastings and wine travel services. Nick’s credo: continuous experimenting results in instinctive behavior. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @sharingwine.