In January, we released the 2018 Direct-to-Consumer Wine Shipping Report, which offers an exclusive deep dive into the direct-to-consumer (DtC) wine shipping channel with our partners Wines & Vines. The report is produced using Wines & Vines’ algorithm, which extrapolates data from the extensive ShipCompliant by Sovos transaction library.
This article will focus on key trends we found in analyzing DtC wine shipping data by wine type, or varietal. We’ll run through the numbers for each of the following varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Red Blends, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Rosé, and Syrah.
Cabernet and Pinot remain the dominant forces
Cabernet Sauvignon has historically dominated the DtC wine shipping channel, and 2017 was no exception. Cabernets accounted for 29.3 percent of the value of all DtC wine shipments, despite only making up 16 percent of the off-premise retail market. However, the big news last year was that Pinot Noir overtook Red Blends as the second-most valuable wine in the DtC sector, at a healthy 16.2 percent. This is likely a result of the 15.6 percent growth in Pinot shipments, which, while healthy, is perhaps not as noteworthy as another rising varietal. But more on that later.
Cabernet was also saw growth last year, with a 17.9 percent increase in shipment volume. This is the second-largest increase of any varietal in 2017, and it only served to further distance this seemingly omni-popular wine from its already-trailing peers. There are three certainties in life: Death, taxes, and cabernet domination of the DtC wine shipping channel.
Zinfandel stole the show in 2017
Scratch that last statement in the previous paragraph. Cabernet has a new challenger for the DtC crown!
…well, maybe that’s a little premature. Zinfandel exploded in the DtC market last year, and while we don’t yet know if the growth is sustainable, we do know this: It’s downright impressive. Zinfandel shipments increased by 29.4 percent and now accounts for 6.3 percent of the total DtC market despite not making the top five in off-premise retail shipments. For some reason or another, Zinfandel producers have managed to effectively gain ground on the market via the DtC channel, and we applaud their efforts. Accordingly, the value of all Zinfandel shipments is up 34.5 percent year-over-year.
Zinfandels may not challenge Cabernet for the top spot in this category any time soon, but they certainly appear to be on the rise and ready to overtake some of the other more popular varietals, like Chardonnay.
Red Blends are seemingly losing some steam
On a slightly more dour note, ever-popular Red Blends may be losing some of their popularity. Remember when we said Pinot Noir had overtaken Red Blends in the DtC channel? That’s because Red Blends saw the least growth of any of the most popular wines, at 7.22 percent. Even modest growth can only be viewed as positive, but producers of Red Blends may find themselves discouraged that their products are not growing as quickly as others in the DtC space, like Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, and, of course, Cabernet.
With all that said, Red Blends still accounted for 14.4 percent of all shipments in the market, as well as 15.6 percent of the total value of the channel. These are by no means insignificant figures, and indicate that Red Blend producers have little to fear as far as overall stability is concerned. A strong rebound in 2018 would likely quell any remaining concerns.
Rosé has seen impressive organic growth
Everyone’s favorite pink drink is officially on the rise! Rosé shipments increased by an astounding 57.8 percent last year, but what’s possibly even more impressive is that there was no corresponding dip in value, as we often see when larger quantities of wine are shipped. Instead, Rosé’s value actually increased even more than its volume of shipments, at 58.9 percent. So, should we begin genuflecting before our new Rosé overlords?
The short answer: Probably not. Despite all this incredible growth, Rosé wines only account for 3.1 percent of all DtC shipments and a mere 1.5 percent of the total value. This is definitely a varietal to monitor in the coming years, but it is not likely to displace any of the firmly-entrenched market leaders in the foreseeable future.
Keep an eye on Syrah
Another historically overlooked wine quietly put together a very strong performance in 2017. Syrah shipments increased 18.7 percent, while the value grew a more modest but still respectable 11.7 percent. Like Rosé, this varietal accounts for a small portion of all shipments (3 percent) and overall value (2.5 percent) in the DtC wine shipping channel. However, Syrah is clearly growing in popularity and its producers deserve to have their efforts recognized. Well done, everyone!