Which of these statements about the wine industry is correct? Demand decreases, the industry faces rocky times. The industry is doing fine, even if volume is down, value is steady. The industry has a rosy future as drinkers switch to higher-priced wine.
Rob McMillan of Silicon Valley Bank—a go-to source—says “anyone who says they know what’s happening to total sales is fooling themselves.” There simply is no reliable source of wine sales statistics.
Wine sales data is a confusing mix of proprietary data, estimates, modeling, and retail sales numbers that do not include key statistics. Each of the most respected data sources report different and incomplete numbers. It all depends on what beans are counted.
• Gomberg Fredrikson may be the most comprehensive. It uses a variety of sales and and tax data and modeling. But counting everything is impossible, as they admit, and access to their report is expensive.
• Nielsen scans sales data from the country’s biggest national and regional retailers. But, whoops, they don’t count Trader Joe’s and Costco. Nielsen also doesn’t include independent groceries, small wine shops, direct-to-consumer (DTC), and on-premise sales. That is a Grand Canyon of missing data.
• SipSource gets its numbers from the country’s biggest wholesalers. It does not include DTC, smaller wholesalers and importers.
• Impact Databank includes modeling and estimates from the company that owns the Wine Spectator. It effectively tracks sales of the country’s biggest brands. Misses most of the rest.
• Ship Compliant delivers the best look at DTC sales, but that is only a slice of the pie.
• Federal and state agencies have some of the best information derived from tax collections. Trouble is, there is input overload. There are 50 states, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, and the Commerce Department. Good luck finding all that and excluding duplications.
So, is the U.S. wine industry doing good, treading water, slowly declining, or in trouble? It depends on who is counting and what they are counting. Wine is made by thousands upon thousands of people and sold in thousands and thousands of outlets. Bottom line: nobody really knows. It can drive someone to drink. Maybe wine.
• Mateus Dry Rosé 2021: classic beginner pour for Boomers; half century later remains quaffable. $10-11 Link to my review
• Cannonball Sauvignon Blanc, California 2020: excellent under-$20 Cali sauv blanc. Vivid citrus, Meyer lemon, lime flavors framed by tangy acidity. $14-15 Link to my review
Last round: I just ran over one of Snow White’s dwarfs. He wasn’t Happy. Wine time.