Red, White & New | Hot Varietals in the US

December 8, 2010 1:36 pm - Posted by Kevin in Learn

We’ve recently started a semi-regular series of stories on the biggest trends in wine as outlined in the recent Nielsen Table Wine Report. We think it is important to understand what consumers want and how they’re voting with their pocketbook because ultimately what sells will dictate what you get to drink. So grab a glass and follow along with these interesting trends.

First off, we wanted to know which varietals were growing in popularity and which ones were waning. After all we hear a lot these days how Malbec is kicking Cabernet Sauvignon’s butt and that Chardonnay is on the way out. Well think again. Malbec sales still pale in comparison to the mighty Cabernet Sauvignon and Cab sales still lag behind Chardonnay, America’s most popular varietal by far.

Top Varietals by Sales:

  • Chardonnay $1,996
  • Cabernet Sauvignon $1,347
  • Merlot $911
  • Pinot Gris/Grigio $734
  • Pinot Noir $526
  • White Zinfandel $427

Top Varietals by Growth:

  • Riesling 9.4%
  • Pinot Noir 8.9%
  • Sangiovese 8.7%
  • Sauvignon Blanc 8.5%

Our expert opinion on these trends (after a couple of bottles mind you) is that the US consumer remains pretty traditional. They know what they like (Chardonnay, Cabs) and they stick to it. They purchase more white wines than reds, although not by a lot. Perhaps this reflects the influence of new wine drinkers who tend to start with whites and then move to reds. If this is the case that’s great news for the industry because these wine drinkers will become wine lovers and begin to experiment even more.

And finally we think the list of hot varietals by growth vs hot varietals by sales reflects an interesting duality in American drinkers. Most of the top selling varietals are big wines, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir or even White Zin. These would typically be food pairing wines. Most people would drink a cab with a meal.

Whereas the top varietals by growth reflect more subtle or easy drinking wines such as Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc which are more conversation wines. We tend to like a Riesling or Sangiovese with friends and not necessarily over a meal. And so we think this reflects a very cool trend. Yes Americans like wines for dinner but they also are embracing varietals that they can drink just for the enjoyment. We think that’s a great trend.

In our humble (and wine-fuelled) opinion, anything that gets the consumer to try more varietals and sample a wider range of wines is a good thing. Whether you’re pairing a bottle with a steak or just a sunny day, it is nice to see wine trends reflect a maturing wine drinking culture.

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