The US might be the most desirable market for all international wine producers and the leading country for overall consumption, but when it comes down to it, year after year Americans drink California.
California wine shipments within the US hit an all-time high of 238 million cases in 2016. The estimated retail value of all of that wine is $34.1 billion, up 4.6% from the previous year according to the Wine Institute.
“Consumers worldwide recognize the high quality of California wines from diverse regions across the state,” says Robert Koch, Wine Institute president and CEO. “As consumers in the US and around the world continue to trade up to premium wines, California is ideally positioned.”
That’s a 45-million-plus case increase in 10 years, says Jon Moramarco, founder and managing partner of research firm BW 166. “The growth trend has been driven by population, which is up more than 12% over the last decade, and by the fact that Baby Boomers, traditionally the large population segment of frequent wine consumers, have been joined by Millennials aged 21-38 who are also driving the growth in wine consumption.”
According to Nielsen-measured US food store volume, the most reliable basis for varietal popularity, Chardonnay remains the largest varietal of all wine types, accounting for 20% share. Chardonnay is followed by Cabernet Sauvignon (15%), red and sweet red blends (12%), Pinot Grigio/Gris (9%), Merlot (7%), Pinot Noir (6%), White Zinfandel/blush (6%), Moscato/Muscat (5%) and Sauvignon Blanc (5%). The largest growth among whites is coming from Sauvignon Blanc; the largest growth for red wines comes from red blends, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. From a smaller base (about 1%), Rosé exploded, growing 35% in volume and more than 60% in value.
Total shipments of sparkling wine and Champagne into the US reached 25.6 million cases in 2016, up 14% from the previous year, with Prosecco a key growth driver. (Sparkling wines/Champagne accounted for 6% of the US wine market.)
A significant contributor to the trend is that California wines selling for $10 and above are showing growth, and now account for 19% volume and 40% value in food stores.
Americans’ access to wine continues to expand with over 550,000 locations that sell wine, according to Nielsen. The number of on- and off-premise locations is about 120,000 more than a decade ago.
“Consumers are finding more 'in store' restaurants and bars and also wine service in less traditional locations such as bookstores, nail salons, coffee shops and movie theaters, even car wash and car repair shops,” said Danny Brager, Senior Vice President of Nielsen’s Beverage Alcohol Practice Area. “Wine is a growing category, and it is being offered in new and different venues, as well as interesting, alternative packaging vehicles, such as cans, single-serve containers, premium boxes and wines on tap.”