Direct to consumer boom

The U.S. wine industry enjoyed its largest year-over-year increase in direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales in 2020. Much can be attributed to COVID-19, but even if you bought online because of pandemic fears, many will stay with DTC because of convenience and expanded choice.

In 2020, 8.39 million cases sold DTC in the U.S, a 27% increase over 2019. In the decade before, the annual increase was 10.5%. Furthermore, the increase was not led by hard-to-get premium wines as it was in the past. DTC average bottle cost in 2020 dropped from more than $40 a bottle to around $36 according to a report from 1,000 wineries. This is a game-changing, marketing tsunami.

While the pandemic clearly was one cause, so is demographics. Younger people are much more comfortable with online buying. Wineries saw they could keep profit margins the same while lowering their prices if they don’t sell through a middleman, or even if they sold through online retailers. Napa County is the kingdom of superluxury wines. Their average price in 2020 dropped from $68.50 to $63.44, an eight percent drop.

Yes, wine country fires and pandemic restrictions at tasting rooms played roles. Even if life returns to “normal”—and who knows what that means in the second decade of the 21st century—the wine industry does not believe DTC will retreat. Savvy players are knee-deep in online marketing, e-commerce, and data analytics right now. They have to be.

The future is you go online and experiment with a wine you will never be able to buy at your grocery store. A few days later, doorbell rings, and—voilà—wine is at your doorstep. Welcome to the future. BTW, all or almost all wines I put in tasting notes can be purchased online.

Tasting notes:

• Cantine-Feudi di San Marzano Primitivo di Manduria “Il Matané” DOC 2017 is Italian iteration of what Americans call zinfandel. Concentrated, ripe fruit. Very smooth, easy drinker. $15 Link to my review

• Decoy Merlot, Sonoma 2018 is lush, inviting, very approachable, easy introduction to red wines. $18-25 Link to my review

• Masciarelli Marina Cvetić Iskra Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane DOCG 2015 is elegant, impressively deep, well-structured. Delicious in bold montepulciano tradition, deftly avoids brutish elements. $33-40 Link to my review

• Broken Earth Winery Cabernet Franc Reserve 2018 is significantly rich, bold, impressive 100% cabernet franc effort. $51 Link to my review

Last round: What month is the shortest? May. It only has three letters. You may now pour your wine.